By Ed Attwood
Club officials say focus is now on youth squad, local regeneration and not acquisitions
Three years after the takeover by Sheikh Mansour’s Abu Dhabi United Group (ADUG), officials from Premiership football club Manchester City have said that they are embarking on a new phase of growth that will focus “far less” on the development of the team’s senior squad.
City, who currently lead the Premier League by five points and exited the Champions’ League last week, have spent the intervening period since the ADUG buy-out purchasing players.
In the year prior to the beginning of the season in August, the club bought 24 top-level players, which equates to roughly one every two weeks.
“The plan that we put forward in the first phase was one of ‘fix and build’,” Brian Marwood, the club’s chief football administrator, told Arabian Business during an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the club.
“Our initial focus was very much about creating a team that was capable of competing for domestic honours and, more importantly, for qualification into the European Champions’ League.
“Over time, the next phase is the next level down – so where is the next Lionel Messi, how old is he today,” Marwood added. “So our focus is far less on the senior squad, the finished product, and is more about developing asset strategy. When we look at the teenage kids we’re bringing in, they have the opportunity to go to Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea and Arsenal. We’re all looking at the same players.”
Off the pitch, the club is also focusing heavily on infrastructure build-out, which will include the development of the new Etihad Campus, built on essentially value-less post-industrial brownfield site next to the stadium.
Featuring 17 pitches and a 7,000 capacity stadium for youth team games, the campus will also host 400 youth team players, who will be schooled and housed on site. However, officials say that the final details of the campus are yet to be completed.
Club officials say that the campus - which will offer employment for around 250 people during its construction and during its operation – will also offer an opportunity to regenerate a particularly deprived part of East Manchester.
“We’ll develop a prospectus and there will be new partners that will come in and live in the place,” said Jon Stemp, the club’s chief infrastructure officer. “So it’s still in its formative stage; it’s still not completely defined, but that’s the way it should be.”
“There will be new tenants, and new people. And from that comes a sustainable proposition – that means we don’t just have people coming to our location for the 30 games of the year that take place in the stadium,” Stemp added.
“We want people to come here for the other 300 days as well, and we have to create a meaningful reason to come.”
In tandem with the regeneration of the area around the stadium, the club will also focus on its CSR programme, which is aiming to become completely self-funding. The programme has already helped over 200,000 through its City in the Community scheme.
Marwood also indicated his belief that City have been a “good addition” to the UK’s football industry.
“Sometimes you have to be thankful there’s economic growth, and you have to be thankful that, at any point in time, there’s an investor,” he said. “A few years ago it was Chelsea, and let’s not forget that Spurs and Manchester United have all played their part over the last few years.
“We just happened to do it in a very condensed period of time.”