BCFC: Open House Reflections Pt 2

It’s been a few days since I published the first part of my reflections of the Blues Open House event held on November 27. Since then, Blues have gone on to lose to Blackburn Rovers away and draw with Rotherham at home.

We are Birmingham

The continued poor run of form has only succeeded in boosting the discord felt amongst the fanbase and making the job of Tom Wagner, Garry Cook and Knighthead that much harder.

You can read the first part of my reflections at this link, and you can watch the podcast I recorded with Mark Watson and Chris Pugh of Fat Lads Go in Goal here.

The Brady Bunch

Former NFL quarterback Tom Brady had his second taste of life at St Andrew’s on Saturday, watching the dour draw with Rotherham with Blues Chairman Tom Wagner in the Director’s Area.

His time in Birmingham was full-on; with visits to the Elite Performance and Innovation Centre in Henley in Arden to talk to players and staff, as well as meetings with potential partners alongside Wagner.

The arrival of Brady wasn’t as much a PR stunt as before; no pints in the Roost or the George this time and only limited interaction with fans.

This is probably a good thing for the club in proving that Brady’s involvement is more than generating another billion social media impressions.

Brady’s arrival was also interestingly timely considering his name came up at the Blues Open House.

I’m going to claim at least partial credit for that, as my pre-submitted question for the event focused on understanding more about Brady’s role at the club, particularly as Chairman of the Advisory Board.

While the part of the question regarding Brady’s role with the advisory board was neatly ignored, there was an answer with regards to what Brady exactly brings to the table at the club.

Birmingham Mail journalist Alex Dicken filed a report on Tuesday afternoon, quoting Blues CEO Garry Cook’s answer:

“Craig (Gardner) has embraced that. He’s brought some body coaches over from America and they are now working with the physios and sports science team. There’s a new way of thinking. It doesn’t mean to say it works, or it’s wrong, or it’s right. What it is, is change. If you’re willing to change it might work, it might make us better.”

The two coaches who have been deployed to Birmingham as part of Tom Brady’s involvement were named as Peter Cummings and Rob Brennan.

Cummings’ Instagram profile has shown images from his time at the club including a trip to the Blackburn Rovers game on November 29.

His LinkedIn profile confirms that he’s a neuroscientist who is co-founder of coaching company TBRx along with Alex Guerrero, the latter of whom joined Brady on his recent trip to Birmingham.

Guerrero is the more challenging member of the group. This recent Guardian article makes a point of noting that Guerrero cannot legally call himself a doctor and that Boston Magazine referred to Guerrero as “a glorified snake-oil salesman”.

As much as I want any edge Blues can possibly get to improve on the recent wretched record in the league, I’m not particularly won over by Cook’s statement on what TBRx bring to the party.

There’s a new way of thinking. It doesn’t mean to say it works, or it’s wrong, or it’s right. What it is, is change. If you’re willing to change it might work, it might make us better.”

Right now, Blues need something a bit more definitive – and one would hope that Tom Brady’s involvement with the club is more than a few coaches whose positive impact may be negligible.

Raising Revenue

The commercial presentation at the Open House was another confirmation that revenue is king right now at St Andrew’s.

Blues MD Ian Dutton was joined by CFO Mark Smith to talk about how the club were looking to improve their commercial performance to help take the club to the next level financially.

There was the expected talk of setting up partnerships with “Global Partners”; complete with stories of how these companies were looking to partner Blues not just for the exposure but for the journey along the way.

No names were given – as to be expected considering how commercially sensitive that information would be – but both Dutton and Smith were keen to stress that any company getting involved wanted to give back to the fans.

It might seem small, but one of the things that did impress me with this chat was that Dutton was quick to stress that regardless of these new partnerships, the club was not going to forget those businesses that stood by the club in rough times.

I think this is important to help keep the club rooted in the local community.

I get that firms like Snatchpac or HJ Wealth Planning aren’t the sexy banks or airlines that Cook might want as partners, but their loyalty to the club should not count for nought.

I think it’s important that the club continues to work with local businesses and industry as the success of local businesses is good for the area as a whole.

It was also good to see that Blues have brought in expert help to improve the retail offering.

I don’t want to pull punches here; I believe outsourcing of the retail department to Just Sports has been nothing short of disastrous and I think it’s vital Blues bring that back in house.

This is especially true if Blues are to widen their reach across the globe. As important as having a nice brick-and-mortar shop offering is, the world of online retail has exploded in recent years and Blues need to take advantage of that.

The retail business has doubled in size from £1M to £2M in recent months but that still is only a small chunk of the money the club brings in.

If Blues can capitalise on partnerships like the one with Undefeated to create high quality, high value merchandise, well the sky’s the limit.

As painful as the of dropping a hundred quid on a hoodie might be for some people, the more of this sort of stuff we can do the more the club can maybe bring things like ticket prices down.

The other interesting thing to note was what finance chief Mark Smith said about profit and sustainability rules.

I’ve talked a lot on here about how the club are close to the line this year due to the losses of the last couple of years and the club have been quick to confirm this.

Smith talked about how the club were in constant dialogue with the EFL about where they were in position to the threshold, which is comforting especially when one considers the cavalier attitude people like former CEO Ren Xuandong had towards the rules.

However, as reassuring that is that Blues are going to stay within limits, it also gives me the impression that we are flying close to the line; the implication of which is that Blues will need to wheeler-deal in the coming transfer window if they want to bring many new players in.

Rather than reflect on the presentation offered by the Blues in the Community department as a section in one of these articles, I’m aiming to write a full article on what they do and what they’ve achieved.

In all of this Blues Open House stuff, this was what I felt was most important – even though seemingly it has nothing to do with the commercial or footballing success of the club.