Saturday, March 10, 2007

City Left Behind When Developing Strategic Partnerships

Those of you who are regular readers of this blog or attended the Public Open Meeting will know that we feel that our Club is missing out on golden opportunities that lie outside of the UK, in particular the development of strategic partnerships with non-UK football clubs.

This week Bolton Wanderers announced that they were expanding their international interests by entering into a five year agreement with Mandela Bay Football Academy, based in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. The agreement will see Bolton helping develop their football academy which currently focuses on seventy five 16 - 19 year olds however, it is anticipated that this will be expanded. The agreement will see the sharing of information on pitch preparation and coaching methods as well as see local coaches trained to Premiership standards.

Bolton also hopes to develop links with an African Premier League team which will be located in Port Elizabeth after the World Cup is held in South Africa in 2010. The new team would utilise the 50,000 seater stadium being built there and no doubt Bolton would be able to lend their expertise in running such a stadium and the commercial opportunities that exist.

Bolton have been quick in developing strategic partnerships which we have previously reported on and this latest one comes on the back of partnerships with top Chinese side Wuhan Huangelou FC and Spanish Segunda League Side Elche CF. Bolton have also reportedly entered into an agreement in Iceland and have also targeted India, the United States, Norway, Egypt and France as other areas in which to develop partnerships.

Bolton's latest partnership follows an already successfully tried and tested route by non other than Ajax. Ajax are proven producers of talented players via their academy and have done so consistently over many many years. They have an extensive scouting network mainly concentrated on Africa and use Ajax Cape Town (which they 51% own) as part of their breeding ground for young talent.

Ajax do not hide what they are about. In their 2004-2005 annual accounts they make their position clear, when they cannot produce their own talent they buy in players to fill the spots their academy cannot. City are way off of this but perhaps with a little bit more effort in the right areas, spreading our model, strengthening the scouting network, working with other clubs around the world this could be achievable. Not only could a constant production line of quality players be achieved cost effectively but large sums of money could be saved on having to buy in players or pay large salaries to Bosman players to strengthen the squad.

This week also saw Charlton Athletic signing Martin Christensen, a 19 year old current Danish Under 21 International, and for good measure Charlton entered into a three year partnership with his Danish Divison One club Herfolge Boldklub which takes their non-UK football club partnerships to two. Blackburn Rovers, Sheffield United, Bolton Wanderers, Arsenal, Chelsea and Charlton have all developed strategic partnerships (there are possibly more) and it is almost a certainty that there are many more set to follow.

What must be remembered is that there is much more to football club partnerships then exchanging ideas, exchanging players and hopefully picking up a talented player or two. There can be huge advantages from a commercial aspect to be gained by developing brands, attracting wider support and additional sponsorship etc. There is also much to be gained from the communities and wider areas in which the Clubs concerned are located/ serve. These additional areas are often overlooked but could be just as important to a Club like ours going forward.

Other Premiership clubs are developing relationships in Europe, the United States and further afield but our Club does not appear to be looking at this important area. We strongly believe that this is a missed opportunity.

As mentioned in previous articles, when the trust is formed and raises funds perhaps the trust could finance or part-finance the development of these types of strategic partnerships which would be beneficial to our Club in so many positive ways and on so many levels.

To read our previous articles, please take a look at these:-

How Can City Produce More Young Talent? (20.12.06)

Other Northern Clubs Are Doing It So Why Aren't We? (21.12.06)

Is City Missing Out On Golden US Opportunities (10.2.07)

Another US Opportunity Bites The Dust? (12.2.07)

As is normal, if you have any input, feedback or queries please e-mail us on


At 9:14 pm, Blogger St Petersburg Blue said...

Interesting article, but one that makes me feel slightly uneasy. On the one hand, interesting what you say about Bolton's links with Wuhan Huangelou FC. Wuhan is officially twinned with Manchester!! Another twin is St Petersburg, Russia. Have we missed the boat? I'm not so sure.

On the other side of the same coin, this trend worries me, it reinforces the greedy global hegemony of the Premiership, and will ultimately deprive local clubs and indigenous leagues of their best talent. That doesn't sit well with me if I am honest. Our own academy proves that quality players can be sourced locally (Micah, Barton, SWP, Sturridge et al)

At 9:27 pm, Blogger Ollie said...

St Petersburg Blue, some good points made. Of course we all know deep down that all the Premierships forging partnerships are after young talent but there are other reasons like increasing the fan base, exchange of technology/ experience, additional commercial revenue etc.

The Premiership is always going to attract the best players in the world so to a certain degree local clubs etc will always lose their talent to the Premiership or other major European leagues. I guess what is happening is that Premiership clubs are helping local clubs develop their infrastructure so that they can compete more in their own environment but the downside is thaty they will lose talent to those Clubs...what the Clubs are getting is first choice.

Our academy is excellent of that there is no doubt but all four players you have listed came from other clubs. SWP & Barton didn't make it at their clubs, Richards was bought from Oldham and Sturridge was bought from Coventry so in a way City have already been nicking players.

The big driver for this article (indeed the series of articles) is that by working in partnership with other clubs, City could benefit in many many ways and not just in picking up the occasional talent. I think we all agree that City needs to increase it's income as much as possible and if that is by attracting a major sponsor from far away or increasing the fanbase outside of the UK etc then these avenues need to be investigated.

At 10:08 pm, Blogger St Petersburg Blue said...

..and I guess our young players gain experience by going out to the other clubs. My main worry, though, is that eventually, all the best [youth] providers will become attached to the usual suspects. If managed properly, it could work, but having said that, our custodians haven't exactly got a good track record. Good post.

At 10:16 pm, Blogger Ollie said...

St Petersburg Blue, yep good point that I missed...if we had a connection to a club in Belgium or Holland the likes of Sturridge could have been loaned out, got a bit of experience etc and come back a better player. At the moment Sturridge is too good for the Reserves but Pearce won't give him the minutes required in the first team. Yep, you're right there is a chance the usual suspects will get the best picks etc and that's where we need our club to be proactive. Chelsea are looking at DC United and Arsenal have joined up with Colorado Rapids...there is bags of potential on many levels in the USA and there is every chance such a partnership for instance would bear fruit for both parties.


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