STRAIGHT FROM THE CEO
If you missed them on Saturday, read CEO Jez George's programme notes as he gives an in-depth insight into his role at the Club and the varying partners and businesses that Cambridge United now work alongside.
When there are a number of consecutive home games, it makes it hard to know what to write about. I thought about writing about something that I know about but Tom insisted on at least 700 words! So, I thought that I would give you an insight into the diversity of my job and, in doing so, highlight the fantastic contribution made by so many people involved with the club. It will also show you how much the club has grown and the scope of our outreach and therefore my role. As you will see, it is not just football!
The easiest way of describing the range of our activities is to open my diary for this week. On Monday, we always start the week with a Business Innovation Meeting, when I am joined by Henry Comfort, James Cutting and Danny Kerrigan, to discuss new ideas, long term projects and imminent decisions. All three staff are fantastic. Henry has revolutionised our business operation, adding structure and process to the huge amount of industry and endeavour from all our staff in retail, commercial, hospitality, conferencing, events, media, communications, youth development, school sport and our community sport programmes. He has a huge workload and an incredible drive and energy to match his ability which enables him to positively affect every aspect of our business. Some achievement in his first six months!
James Cutting is a brilliant entrepreneur, with a gift for thinking of new commercial opportunities, innovative ways of developing the business and the marketing of our services and products to maximise revenue and sales. His contribution to the club over his nine years in a number of roles has been immeasurable. He is now in a senior management position where he can positively affect more of the business than ever before and he matches Henry's drive, energy and work ethic. They are two outstanding members of staff.
I am not ignoring Danny Kerrigan, but I will speak more about him later in the article.
On Monday lunchtime, I met the new Principal/CEO of CRC, Mark Robertson, for the first time with Kate Da Costa and Rob Metcalfe. We have a fantastic partnership with CRC, built over a number of years, working with them at three levels of our Youth Development Scheme – our Scholars within the Academy, our Shadow Scholars within the Shadow Academy and our Futsal Scholars. We now have plans to develop the educational opportunities that we can provide beyond 18 year olds, with plans to launch a Level 4 Course in September 2017, combining classroom work and coaching experience within our School Sport & Community Sport programmes. Kate and Rob are superb at their jobs and we hugely value our relationship. It is one that has not just help to produce Josh Coulson and Luke Berry as first team players, but Jordan Collins, Daz Coakley and Joe Bennett, who now all have roles with our Academy, and Charlie Brown, Rogan McGeorge, Charlie Woolf, David Ramjee and Charlie Rome, who all coach at various levels of our Youth Development Scheme in full-time roles. Creating outcomes that are not just limited to becoming a professional footballer is paramount to continually strengthening the club's philosophy and culture.
Straight off to see Shaun Grady and Jenny Horsfield at AstraZeneca, with Danny Kerrigan. We are reviewing a project that Danny and I have been developing that could become a major revenue stream for the club in the future. We are always looking at ways to develop and grow the club, the business, the financial base. If we can do that with activities that are not related to the fortune of the first team, it makes budgeting easier as it does not have to revolve around the imponderable equation: investment v return in the playing squad, i.e. how much dare you gamble in order to create success? We are working hard to reduce the reliance on direct performance related football revenue so that our strategy never requires the word "gamble" but equally never lacks ambition. We have reduced gate receipts to less than 20% of our total revenue, whilst increasing the amount of revenue actually derived from gate receipts.
We've done that by diversifying the business and actually creating a number of businesses within the business. This is another new one… Summer Schools. We have to be capable of grabbing every opportunity and when you think about Cambridge, we have a unique opportunity to engage with a world-famous brand in Cambridge University and, in this project, match it to a country with links to Cambridge through a famous poet, an aspirational society, a huge market and a population with an ever-increasing interest in football. Danny has produced a top-class product, and a trip to Beijing allowed us to create some contacts to test the market and create distribution networks. We have also taken advantage of links within the club and trust boards, Shaun is a Director and Jenny a Trustee, to hook up with their contacts in Shanghai. Their influence has not stopped there. Shaun and Jenny also introduced us to a potential sponsor, who has since agreed to support the project, and we are now looking at different projects that go beyond this idea.
In addition, Christoph Loch, a Director and Trustee, who we met on Thursday morning at 7am before he starts his day as Dean of the Judge Business School, has been pivotal in helping us to develop the product. One way in which that has been achieved was through a project with four JBS MBA students, who sense checked, reviewed and recommended distribution channels for our product. This has led to a route into the market across secondary schools in the whole of China, as well as individual agents that we have brokered.
Monday finished with a meeting at the club with Robert Osborn and Dave Matthew-Jones, which we do monthly, to discuss supporter related issues, discuss ways in which we can improve fan experiences, readily take feedback/criticism and answer any questions. It's good additional governance, in addition to be answerable to the Board, and an opportunity to gain a different perspective from the most important view of all; you!
I'm now already over my 700 words limit and I am only on Monday! I split my one to one meetings up between two mornings, when I meet the aforementioned senior staff (who report directly into me), plus Academy Manager, Mark Bonner, Head of Football Operations, Ben Strang, and Community Trust CEO, Ben Szreter. My other once a week meetings are later in the week with Steven Kennedy, our Finance Manager, and Shaun Derry. At the moment, in the January Transfer Window, dialogue between Shaun, Ben and myself is daily, if not hourly. Things change that fast. On Tuesday afternoon, the three of us we spent two hours together, as we do weekly, to discuss the current situation regarding targets, squad issues, budget, injuries etc., with our ever-evolving plan of action. Everyone knows their role, everyone has their say (including other staff) and the debate is healthy because it is ensuring the best outcome for the club. It is cause first.
We are delighted to have secured two long-term signings in Jake Carroll and Paul Lewis, especially as they are targets that have been on our radar for some time. Just as Henry has created structure and process in our business operation, that is Ben's role within the football operation. Shaun, in his position, has to live for the next game. Football management is so hard for that very reason. Life becomes a three or seven day cycle. Our job is to help him, so that we can always look at the long-term, even when the short-term is so important. More about that when the window closes.
I am not going to get to Friday, but I wanted to highlight three of my meetings on Wednesday. One with a huge local company that we wish to engage as a partner, where Sam Jeffery (Commercial Manager) and I were accompanied by Steve Chamberlain, our Finance Director, who helped us to secure the meeting. Then, early that evening, we had an excellent meeting with four representatives from our Women's team. They are doing a great job and we discussed in depth our joint vision for female football at Cambridge United. That will be a whole article.
And finally, we met a potential candidate for a job that we are advertising that includes the development of cricket, rugby and other sports within an expanded open-access school holiday provision. More about that another time as well, but in addition to our relationship with Cambridge Granta Cricket Club, we are also exploring avenues across all sports and our new Sport in the Community Awards, in partnership with Cambridge Independent, have been created to add profile to worthy organisations and individuals across the full sporting spectrum.