Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The East Midlands Lesson on Engaging Your Customers After a Takeover

Time will tell if deeds match words, but the new owners of the Derby County Football (soccer) Club are saying the right things.

The new American owners of Derby County have vowed to follow Randy Lerner’s lead at Aston Villa and ensure that they do not alienate supporters....

The 45-year-old chairman of General Sports and Entertainment (GSE), whose sports management company has bought a 93 per cent share of Derby, is acquainted with Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr, who have borrowed against Liverpool’s future success and attempted to line up Jürgen Klinsmann as a replacement for Rafael BenÍtez, the manager.

“We’ve got some lessons to learn - to be more in touch with the fan base – and I think we’ll be very good at that,” Appleby, who offered total support to Paul Jewell, the manager, said.

“We believe there’s no reason why we can’t make Derby County an iconic worldwide brand and if we do that, we should be able to generate increased revenue streams, which will enable us to put more resources into Paul and his team. We are absolutely in it for the long term. We will leave English football to the experts.”

Minority owner Adam Pearson compared Liverpool and Aston Villa:

“You’ve got a situation at Liverpool and you’ve got a situation at Aston Villa. One is remarkably successful, the other is going down a different route. When you’re injecting debt into an institution that is Liverpool Football Club, you’re going to have problems. We’re looking at a completely contrary route to that.”

Of course, the new owners have challenges in engaging the fan base, since Derby County isn't doing too well.

Paul Jewell felt the fans were fully justified in venting their anger during Derby County's embarrassing FA Cup display against Championship strugglers Preston North End.

Sections of the crowd booed the team and chants of "what a load of rubbish" rang out as the visitors sailed into a three-goal lead before running out 4-1 winners in the fourth round tie at Pride Park Stadium.

"If I had been paying money to watch that, I would have done exactly the same - I don't think I'd have been as patient as these people have been," said the Rams boss, who has been impressed by the fans' loyalty.

QUESTION: How does Derby County engage their fans to ensure that this loyalty will continue, even when (as expected) Derby County exits the Premier League at the end of this season?

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