For the next week, FC Cincinnati GM and President Jeff Berding will share his thoughts, activities and photos from his trip to Europe through a daily blog. Check back daily for new blog posts.
My business trip to England took me out of London on Tuesday. I took a train to Chelsea where I was met by our FCC friend, Mark Gibbon. Mark was the agent we worked with to develop the deal to bring Palace to Cincinnati last July, and he has taken the lead in arranging my visits. He met me at the train station and we made the short drive to Chelsea Football Club.
At Chelsea, we were first welcomed by David Barnard, Club Secretary. He sat with us in the team cafeteria and talked with us over tea. Then we were hosted by Linda Edstrom, the club’s operations manager. Linda has been with the club since prior to building their new HQ, and she provided a detailed and full four-hour tour of every aspect of the Chelsea facilities.
We had the opportunity to learn about their staffing structure and see each function area of the technical staff. It was no surprise given they are one of the very top clubs in the world, but Chelsea's training facility is first-class and very well planned. We saw the work areas and offices for scouting and analytics, coaching, medical, performance training, kit/equipment and laundry (including an elevator connecting team space to the laundry), video and press rooms, as well as the first-team locker room. We walked their training grounds, including their indoor facility (very open). And we spent time in their Academy building, where photos of players celebrating their championships lined the hallways. Every small detail had been thought through – first-team entrances, Academy layout, press working area, access to kit room, use of natural light, degree of comfort in trainer's room, etc. Linda was extremely gracious and shared that she and Chelsea wanted to help us build the game in the U.S. As a result, I gained a great deal of knowledge and understanding for FCC due to her generous time and brilliant tour.
After Mark and I left Chelsea, we hurried to Manchester City for the UEFA Champions League match versus Barcelona. We made the long drive and Mark got us there a bit after kickoff but in plenty of time to enjoy an exciting match. Man City had never beaten Barcelona in a competitive match and was quickly down 1-0. But a quick counter tied the game and a great second half led to a 3-1 victory. Etihad Stadium was electric and the supporters were crazy in their exhilaration for their club, pushing them to get the historic win. I enjoyed the songs and cheers - and of course the home victory. Post-match, we walked out onto the plaza to enjoy a live local band perform, then hear immediate analysis by Man City broadcast personnel.
At the match, we were joined and hosted by Mark's friend Danny Paiser, a commercial director for Man City. Danny helps build and manage revenue and brand opportunities for this rapidly growing club. It was clear from our discussion that they have a comprehensive strategic plan and the staff to execute that plan with excellence. It is no wonder that Man City has made such an enormous leap in their brand and first team.
Before our departure we toured their team merchandise store, which is a large two-story building full of every kind of Man City clothing and accessories. And 45-minutes post-match, the store was still packed. It was amazing to see the club’s large store footprint on site at stadium.
After saying goodbye to Danny, Mark and I headed to the hotel about a 30-minute drive away. The hotel was a large historic English property and now sits on a Classic golf course. Too bad it was a late arrival, so it was straight to bed for an early start to a full Wednesday.
Aston Villa and St. George's Park, home of English National Team, are on the docket for tomorrow. Thanks for reading!