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Bristol City CEO Richard Gould on his goal, the Lansdowns and swapping sports

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New CEO Richard Gould attended Bristol Grammar School, lives in the South West and his brother even played in goal at Ashton Gate. Having also worked at the club before, he should have a good grasp on what makes a City supporter tick.

The former Surrey Cricket Club CEO started work at Ashton Gate recently and no doubt it has been a whirlwind time as he meets new staff, completes media duties, speaks to the fans and juggles all of the Robins’ transfer business too.

But we managed to grab some time with him as the club reflected on the new season fixtures released on Thursday, with Blackpool at home to kick the 2021/22 campaign off on May 7.

Here’s how Gould tackled our first questions on improving on last year, the injury problems, club strategy and recruitment and making it to the Promised Land. Good luck to him.

Welcome to Bristol City. How are you finding life here?

It’s a privilege to come back to the club and see the level of progression that has occurred. It’s a really well run organisation, very professional. Clearly we’ve had challenges last year and we haven’t been able to meet our own or our fans’ levels of expectation but there’s a lot of hard work going in there to correct that for next season.

Were you the perfect candidate to come in as CEO, in some respects, because your brother was a former goalkeeper here, your dad played here too and you’ve worked as commercial director here? A good grounding…

We moved to Bristol when I was three, when dad moved to Bristol City in 1973, and since then we’ve been West Country-based as a family.

I don’t know if I’m the perfect candidate; you’ll have to ask the chairman on that. He might have seen some better ones. Hopefully not. For me it’s a real challenge and a really exciting role. I just want to work hard and make the most of it.

Have you identified areas where the club can improve or you can offer a little bit more?

Without oversimplifying things, we need to win more games. We need to be challenging for promotion to the Premier League and that’s what we’re about. It’s not all that we’re about but it’s the main thing that we’re about.

There’s different areas that I can hopefully contribute towards but our main issue is always going to be on winning games, assembling a strong squad and developing good young players and merging them into a force that can compete in the Championship and can get us promoted into the Premier League. That’s our ultimate aim.

Recruitment is so key, and you’re confident in getting the five men in that you want. Is anything close to happening after Matty James?

There’s always stuff bubbling under. It’s fascinating to see it from the other side when there are discussions going on. And you see stuff that might be reported in the media. Some of it is wholly accurate and other things are perhaps less so. But then there are always motivations why stuff is in the media.

But hey look, it’s part of the business. As fans we all want to know what the options are, it’s exciting, it’s interesting, and when you’re working in it it’s also exciting and interesting because we want to make sure we can bring in the very best players we can and also retain our best players.

Recruitment is widely regarded as so critical in football. How are you finding that and have you got much experience in the football side before coming here? Is there much difference with the cricket industry?

Genuinely I’m enjoying working with the intermediaries and agents that we work with.

There are always constructive discussions because everyone’s trying to find a way through to a deal, we won’t always be successful because there will be other variables in play, whether the agent’s wishes, the player’s wishes, the budget or other competing clubs. But it’s an important part of what we do.

And although I worked at City some time ago, I’ve lived as a footballer’s son and a footballer manager’s son so it’s not exactly an alien environment.

Have you been astounded by some of the fees in football? It’s an expensive game as people have said before?

Not astounded by the numbers involved. Clearly in the Premier League I’m astounded by some of the sums there. When I look at the amount of investment going in, we’re not at sustainable levels in terms of what we invest.

And therefore at the moment we’re always reliant on investment from the Lansdown family, the owner and the chairman, and it’s important to understand that because every pound that we spend we have to spend really well.

But that’s not to decry the significant support we get from our fans. We have a significant advantage that we have a big ground with a big supporter base and that allows us to monetise our efforts as a club collectively.

But at some stage we want to get ourselves into the Premier League and become a sustainable club where, although we’re hugely grateful for the support we have got, that we don’t have to rely on it.

That’s what Steve wants too. He always talk about investment in communities and then to make it a sustainable investment in the community.

How much do you know about the injury problems of last year? Did you do an audit into that? Are you confident that the same problems won’t arise again and if so, why?

The club has clearly looked into those elements. It’s not something that is done retrospectively when you have got players who are off the pitch. It’s a daily case of looking at what’s the matter, how do we get them back on the pitch earlier. Was there more that can be done? That is rarely the case.

Often there are circumstances where you get a bout of injuries within a club. But with regards to us moving forward, we’ve got Dave Rennie who has come in as senior head of medicine and you’ll have seen the amount of time and care that is going into medicals for recruitment – they’re being done very comprehensively.



New Bristol City CEO Richard Gould is interviewed at the Robins High Performance Centre.
New Bristol City CEO Richard Gould is interviewed at the Robins High Performance Centre.

I think that sets the tone going forward. We have a duty of care to look after our players. There’s nobody more frustrated than the player themselves.

In terms of general strategy at the club, we saw last season Brentford get promoted as a side without parachute payments. You said the other day that more often than not you’re really only competing for one promotion slot, are the Bees in some respect the club to follow as they’ve had so much success on the recruitment front?

Brentford have had incredible success but I think that we know with their own ownership model there’s a lot of focus on data and that has clearly worked. But there has also got to be subjective thoughts that go into this as well.

We will always be really inquisitive to see who’s doing what well. And it doesn’t matter if it’s in the Premier League or anywhere, we will seek out best practice and implement it wherever it comes from. We will be doing whatever we can to get every advantage we need.

The key element when we’re dealing with clubs relegated from the Premier League and who have significant financial advantages is being able to work as a cohesive club, whether that’s the backroom staff, players, fans… The more we’re marching in step, the better we’ll be able to make the most of our resource.

And that’s what I’m hoping we can work together with. To make sure that the instability at the club over the last five or six months, which is bound to happen when there are so many changes, we can get rid of those bruises, get people back together, yes, get the right players and have a good start to the season.

Does the club use data behind the scenes much, as referenced there?

Yes, huge amounts of data. We’ve got a very good data recruitment team, that provide really impressive, objective analysis on every player that we’re looking at, or any player that the manager’s looking at. They work very hard.

We have a daily report issued at 6am every morning that looks at all the various transactions that happen and that are going on there and we are certainly very advanced there.

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