Old Trafford is already a different place since Richard Arnold was named as Ed Woodward’s successor one month ago.
When Richard Arnold took over as Manchester United’s CEO, the first investors’ call should have started like your typical self-help group. “Now that we have your attention, John, would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself and your purpose for being here?”
It was a marked shift in policy from the days of Ed Woodward, with a cast of new voices on the line. Arnold’s college approach may seem inconsequential, but it gives a strong indication of how he plans to operate the Manchester United Football Club.
Prior to this, only Woodward and Arnold and CFO Cliff Baty would take calls, but now a half-dozen executives discussed their respective tasks with investors on the other end of the line.
Get a look at John Murtough’s take on the current management search market here.
It used to be common for Woodward to touch on football, but it was usually just a couple of paragraphs long. The club’s main element, which is football after all, rather than the cash cow, was in attendance this time, and John Murtough was on hand to provide a more comprehensive picture of affairs to the football-centric audience.
Arnold and Baty joined Collette Roche (chief operational officer) and Victoria Timpson (CEO of alliances and partnerships) in addition to Phil Lynch (CEO of digital goods and experiences) and Arnold.
“In addition to our regular lineup, we’ve introduced a few new speakers. We established a new leadership structure earlier this month, and some of our executive leadership team will speak directly to you now “he informed those listening in.
“Along with myself, this group of expert empowered leaders is tasked with assisting the club in its evolution, with a shared objective to aid our football teams in attaining the titles and trophies that we know Man United should be fighting for.”
Even if there’s a lot of business jargon in there, the main point is to delegate authority and foster a sense of teamwork.
His expertise is in commercial and business matters rather than football, and he has never shied away from admitting it. The fact that he brought up the business before the club isn’t a problem because he did so well in the question and answer session. It’s pointless to pretend otherwise when the club is, in fact, a business.
The most successful clubs are those that are able to distinguish between the two aspects, and that is exactly what United must accomplish today under Arnold. Just one month into his new role, Woodward’s successor has already begun to show signs of a new approach to management.
In the same way that Woodward couldn’t resist the football side of the club, Arnold is pleased to strengthen Murtough and give him more power than he had before his membership in the executive group. For better or worse, Murtough, who was appointed football director in March, is now the man in command of all things football-related, as evidenced by his briefing on such topics the day before yesterday.
For United supporters who had grown dissatisfied with Woodward’s role and believed that the former executive vice-chairman was holding the club back, or at the very least clouding the organization’s structure, this should come as a relief. People with a sports background and a contacts book full of names have been given more authority in recent years.
It’s rare for investors’ conversations to be newsworthy, but Woodward’s optimism on September’s call undoubtedly highlighted the foolishness of executives getting involved in football matters once and for all.
It was until a few months later, under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, that he declared, “We are more sure than ever that we are on the correct course.”
“Phenomenal success” was the remark made by Arnold in an interview in March of last year, a statement that seemed a little over the top then and now.
Murtough will now be the one to hear when it comes to discussing football issues more than anyone else. A evidence of Arnold’s growing influence within the organization, but also a warning that things are already shifting under his leadership.