Arnold admires German fan approach
Manchester United commercial director Richard Arnold has admitted the Premier League champions can learn from their German counterparts about how they communicate with supporters.
Staggering Champions League victories for Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund in midweek and the prospect of an all-German final at Wembley on May 25 have shone a light on how differently the Bundesliga operates compared to England.
With cheaper ticket prices, safe standing, match tickets affording free rail travel, a 10 per cent allocation to visiting supporters and, crucially, a competition run at a profit, Germany is viewed as a utopia for football fans, and Arnold said: "I think some of the work they do on fan communication and fan consultation are areas that we can learn from."
There are issues Arnold takes exception to - but better fan consultation is not amongst them.
Arnold's words are important because once chief executive David Gill stands down at the end of June, he will take over responsibilities for running the day-to-day Old Trafford operation as group managing director, with London-based Ed Woodward dealing with team affairs.
It holds out hope for more interaction between the club and supporters, beyond the current Fans' Forum initiative, which some believe to be ineffective anyway.
Not that United are set to slash ticket prices to German levels any time soon given the vast scale of their support, although they have recently announced a price freeze on season tickets, a blow to revenues that will be cushioned somewhat by a massive new TV deal and the continuing expansion of their sponsorship portfolio.
Contracts with leading Japanese social gaming company gloops and Vietnamese bank BIDV have been announced in the last 48 hours. Yet United's status as football's number one commercial enterprise took a blow earlier this year, when Bayern released figures that showed the German champions' commercial income to be £160million, dwarfing the Red Devils' £117.6million.
"Bayern Munich are a very successful club and very well run," said Arnold. "But the way they reported their numbers meant their corporate hospitality sales are included in their commercial figures. It means on a like-for-like basis we are significantly larger on our commercial business."
Despite Gill's impending departure, United are set on a long-term course that will not alter and continued success on the pitch, whilst clearly desirable, has only minimal effect in the short-term. This will be seen when United eventually come to agreeing a new kit manufacturing deal given the present one, with Nike, which nets the club a basic £23.5million a year, runs out in 2015.