Dubai will become the centre of world football on January 2 and 3 as some of the leading players, coaches, agents and business brains in the sport come to town for the 10th Globe Soccer Awards and its attendant Dubai International Sports Conference.
Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo and Didier Deschamps, who coached France to glory at this year’s FIFA World Cup, will head an all-star line-up of nominees for the Globe soccer awards at the Madinat Jumeirah on January 3 while FIFA president Gianni Infantino, Bayern Munich president Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Ferran Soriano, chief executive of City Football Group, are among the football administration and business A-listers who will light up the conference.
The day-long conference aims to go beneath the surface of the economics of the world’s favourite sport and will focus on rights and the digital economy, the economic impact of the sport, future developments and opportunities for football in Asia.
Guy-Laurent Epstein of UEFA, Liverpool chief executive Peter Moore and Facebook’s Peter Hutton will bring their world-leading expertise to bear on issues around the game’s digital economy during a must-see opening session while Soriano will be joined by European Club Association general secretary Michele Centenaro and Miguel Ángel Gil Marín of Atlético Madrid to discuss the business and development strategies of European football clubs.
At a time when the relationship between the sport’s governing bodies and leading clubs is once again in the spotlight, one of the undoubted highlights of the programme is a 90-minute discussion with President Infantino and Rummenigge, the legendary former Germany striker.
Opportunities for the economic development of football in Asia will be discussed by representatives of the Asian Football Confederation, the Saudi Professional League and the UAE Pro League Committee, which works under the umbrella of the UAE Football Association and organises and is commercial rights-holder for the Arabian Gulf League, Arabian Gulf Cup, Arabian Gulf Super Cup and U21 Arabian Gulf League.
France coach Deschamps, Brazilian legends Ronaldo and superstar-turned-businessman Ronaldinho – plus Claudio Ranieri, the coach behind Leicester City’s near-incredible English Premier league triumph and now manager of Fulham – will reflect on the issues and opportunities facing the game worldwide, a discussion which will bring the conference programme to a close.
Q&A WITH GLOBE SOCCER CHIEF EXECUTIVE TOMMASO BENDONI
How has Globe Soccer evolved over the years?
Since we first initiated the awards, the event has grown hand-in-hand with the associated Dubai International Sports Conference, which has been organised by the Dubai Sports Council for the past 12 years. The conference was created to bring together the great and the good of world football with club chairmen, directors and shareholders, players and former players, referees, agents and coaches gathering to discuss global football issue and share their collective knowledge.
As an intelligence-sharing forum, the conference is second to none and our aim was to give the event an awards evening worthy of the occasion.
The Globe Soccer Awards have evolved to become part of what we like to call the ‘Grand Slam’ of awards alongside the Ballon d’Or and The Best FIFA Football Awards. This is reflected in the quality of the award winners and nominees with star names such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Franck Ribery, Frank Lampard, Fabio Capello, Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho all having attended over the years and we fully expect to develop that progression in the years to come.
What’s new to look forward to at Globe Soccer 2019.
For the tenth anniversary, we are delighted to welcome a new star signing to the Globe Soccer team, namely our title sponsor Dubai Holding and Meraas. Having the support of a partner like Dubai Holding is a massive endorsement for the Globe Soccer Awards project and reflects the steps we have taken. Having the support of the Dubai community and the Dubai Sports Council is very important to us as we focus on building on our previous successes and work towards gaining a broader engagement with the football world.
Who will be there?
Only one man has won all three of the major football awards and we look forward to welcoming CR7 himself, Cristiano Ronaldo – a record four-time winner and eight-time nominee – who will also be hoping to win the Globe Soccer Best Player Award for the third year in a row, while we are delighted that Didier Deschamps will join us just a few months after coaching his magnificent French national team to victory at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Of course, we will have other big names from both on and off the pitch and these will be revealed as we count down to the big night.
What makes Dubai such a good host for the event?
Dubai is without doubt an iconic city known around the globe for its five-star infrastructure, world-class sporting occasions and unrivalled hospitality. It has been firmly established as the home of the Globe Soccer Awards for ten years now thanks to the support of the Dubai Sports Council, which plays a role in every major sports events staged in the city. In addition, the UAE is taking an increasing role in the staging of major footballing occasions with the Globe Soccer Awards being staged shortly after the Emirates hosts the 2018 FIFA Club World Cup and just before the country hosts the AFC Asian Cup. When you bring together the biggest names in football, you want them to be showcased in a setting that reflects their standing in the sporting world. Dubai is that setting.
Ahead of his appearance at the Dubai International Sports Conference and Globe Soccer Awards, SportBusiness caught up with Liverpool chief executive Peter Moore (above).
It’s around 18 months since your appointment, so is being Liverpool chief executive still a dream job and how do you assess your progress to date?
I think being the chief executive of your boyhood football club is always a dream job. Having left Liverpool 55 years ago and in more recent times to return is a dream and always will be. I think it’s too early to assess the progress over my time here but we’re making incredible strides in areas like the digital transformation of the club. The fan engagement that the club desperately needs given its massive global fanbase, but also focusing on how we can make the football going experience even better for the fans who visit Anfield, is really important. I think what we’ve done well here in the last 18 months is to structure a club that is pulling as a man and woman all in the same direction. We know our vision, we know our mission, we live to our values and we get up every morning and work hard as per our manifesto. I think that the success on the pitch which is obvious to everybody is now being reflected by the success off the pitch, which may not be as obvious to everybody out there.
What are the key ways in which digital is used to build the Liverpool brand?
Well, we have a phrase here ‘local heart, global pulse’ and what we mean by that is an incredibly proud city that football means to so much to, whether people are red or blue. Also, when you look at this football club and its success in the 70s and 80s, it has spawned this massive global fanbase. Our ability to interact with this fanbase is still a little limited, we don’t have the technology. Speaking from experience and from my background in interactive entertainment, we had a similar issue at EA where we had hundreds of millions of customers who were more connected to us because we could connect with them via the actual product. But we still didn’t know who they were, where they lived and how we could serve them better. So we invested massively in back-end infrastructure, databases, customer relationship tools and as a result, both the company and the gamers benefited enormously. It’s the same thing here at Liverpool: we have hundreds of millions of fans, we think we know where they are, we don’t know much about them and we want to make their support of Liverpool, whether it’s in Bangkok or Barcelona, that much better. Technology is the tool that will do that.
Is there a different strategy for fans close to home and those in the US or South East Asia?
I don’t differentiate between a football fan that lives on the doorstep of Anfield and one that lives 10,000 miles away. I lived 5,500 miles away and my passion for the club, as is often the case with people who live that far away, is as deep if not deeper. Having said that, the needs of the match-going fan are different from somebody who will, as I did, wake up at 4am and eagerly await the game on television. We take great pride in our match going experience. We’re the Visit Football winners three years in a row, which I think demonstrates our focus on making the match going experience the best in the Premier League. Back to the digital transformation point, we’re trying to use technology, whether it’s virtual reality, artificial intelligence, blockchain, things that we’re seeing that can bring you closer to Anfield, even if you’re thousands of miles away. From my perspective, a Liverpool fan is a Liverpool fan and that fandom is deep, its passionate, its emotional and we need to serve them it any way we can.
How does digital connectivity help in the identification and acquisition of sponsors?
Well I’ve been in the business of sponsorship in sport for a long time and the requirements of the sponsors have changed. No longer do they just want to put their name on your shirt or your sleeve or on the boards around the pitch, they want to engage. For you to truly engage, you need technology. If you’re Standard Chartered or Western Union or New Balance, you need to know as much as you possibly can about the people who are consuming your brand. We’re very proud of the partnership group we now have and our job when working with our partners is to provide them with as much information as we possibly can to give them as much benefit as possible out of their sponsorship. Modern technology needs to be the backbone of providing this data and the ability to engage.
How has digital affected Liverpool’s retail and merchandising operations?
With such a global fanbase, it’s a small portion of our sales that come physically. Like a lot of retailers, much of our business has moved online. Again, I’m exhibit A: I would sit in San Francisco and order the latest hoody or shirt and it was always a pretty good experience. I remember I’d place an order on a Monday and it would arrive in San Francisco on the Thursday. More and more we need to streamline that experience. We’re in the process of upgrading websites, apps, our commerce platform, managing inventory levels and truly acting like a global retailer, because that’s what we are.
How do you envisage your digital strategy developing in the years ahead?
I think the shrinking of the globe through technology continues at pace, and you would like to think that going forward, your ability to interact with your football club should not be impacted by geography. We all buy online, we all engage online, we all consume content online and one of the things we’re really focused on is bringing what’s going on at Liverpool to life 24/7. As a fan who lived distantly, I had a thirst for that information and we need to be able to satiate that demand for knowledge, for entertainment, for latest updates and really bridge the miles through technology. We will continue to invest in that technology and I’d like to think that two or three years from now we’d be one of the leaders of digital infrastructure to continue to grow our fanbase and enhance the experience for the fans we already have.
How are you looking forward to being in Dubai to take part in Globe Soccer?
I’m looking forward to visiting Dubai for the first time. I’ve flown through like a lot of people, but I’ve never ventured outside of the airport. I’m well aware of the event and the quality of the attendees and speakers which is world class. I’m very honoured to be part of that elite group and I also like to think I have a little bit to offer. I’m a little different, I come from a digital background, a Silicon Valley residence; I’m a Silicon Valley executive that brings perhaps a slightly different look to football and hopefully I can impart a few pearls of wisdom while I’m there. So, yes, I’m really looking forward to it.