On March 30-31, for the second year running Manchester played host to the Soccerex European Forum. Opened by the legendary Denis Law – one of the few players to don the blue and red of Manchester during his playing days – football clubs from around Europe came together to listen to insightful talk, debates and generally catch up with their peers and friends.
Of course with the clubs, come the hangers on and a multitude of peripheral support services were also in attendance, including kit manufacturers, turf suppliers, recruiters, medical supplies (and not just for the hangovers) and construction companies.
Birmingham City proudly paraded their Carling Cup trophy, although the site layout guys must have been having a bit of a joke when they put them next to a trophy manufacturing company that demonstrated its products by displaying the Premier League trophy in all its glory. The gaming industry was well represented with major betting & gaming brands such as Bodog & Paddy Power in attendance.
Talks included preparations for Euro 2012 and with that competition being the third consecutive Euros to have dual hosting; the feeling was that UEFA really are gluttons for punishment. Following that was an interesting panel debate, about the financial regulation of football clubs. Andrea Traverso, head of club licensing at UEFA led the debate with useful views contributed by Ian Ayre. Ayre is the newly appointed Managing Director of Liverpool FC. It seemed the Sky reporter in the audience wasn’t listening to the debate though, as his Q&A input directed to Ayre, asked whether King Kenny Dalglish was to receive a full contract. Needless to say, Ayre was not forthcoming with insight.
Across the two days, there were other interesting discussions about digital media, the relationship between club and sponsor, stadia projects with Peter Ridsdale wrapping it up talking about the thin line between success and failure. Whoever talked Mr Ridsdale into standing up talking about this topic, given his trials at Leeds United, should receive a medal.
As always, the best chat and insight came from the bar and networking parties. It started with Happy hour in the Network cafe, followed by the SportFive party where the beer was freely flowing thanks to the funky self-pouring taps on all the tables. After that, people moved on to Cloud 23 at the top of the Hilton with clubs like Arsenal, Liverpool, Spurs, Leeds, Leicester and Birmingham showing they had stamina for many a long season.