Former director wanted to squeeze fans even more

Former Coventry City director Leonard Brody, who quit as a director earlier this week, has revealed that he proposed fund raising ideas to the club when he first joined the board.

Brody, who is still a shareholder in the club wanted to give the fans the chance to have their say on match day substitutions by getting them to text their opinions to the manager, who would then have to abide by the fans majority verdict.

His idea was that fans would be charged at a premium rate to send their texts to the club much the same way as some clubs do now when selecting the man of the match.

Fans would be asked to text who should be taken off and which player should replace him, but the chairman at the time  the proposal was made, Ray Ranson and his vice chairman Gary Hoffman dismissed the idea out of hand saying it would undermine the authority of the manager, the integrity of the competition and would be open to abuse from from opposition fans.

Brody however was unrepentant and continues to defend and advocate his money raising scheme.

Speaking to the Coventry Telegraph, Brody said, “When I first came to this club, if I had a white sheet and green field to start afresh I would have said let’s be the most progressive club in the country in connecting its fans to the game, meaning direct input in a controlled way with a representative on the board and an impact on in-game decisions, and there were many examples of things I had talked about and wanted to do.

“One of the issues was that you are effectively in the Championship because your television income is so low and the only source of revenue other than sponsors is your fan base  and so the question is how do you make a more exciting experience for your fan base so they are willing to do more than just show up at a game.

“How do you engage them more in the game and get their input in the process, and at the same time derive revenue in a way we were never able to before.

“Those plans to do that are still very much in play and it starts, first and foremost, by having some fan representation on the board which I think is critical, and it works from there to looking at how you connect the fans to the game but at the same time not cheapening the game and making it some sort of three-ringed circus.

"It is a really delicate balancing act between figuring out how to do that and doing stuff that fans actually care about and are willing to pay for, and would gladly pay for because it is an amazing experience. Those are things I am still focused on as a shareholder. We have not done them yet for a couple of reasons.

"One, we have been so distracted in the last year with the nonsense of the Gary Hoffman bid and trying to ensure that the club remained financially around, because in March we came within hours of not being around so there was so much ground work to do before we could get to do the stuff that sat on top of it,  but the hope is we will be able to start working on much more interesting stuff.”

He continued, “Often when I talk about bigger ideas that is not stuff that is typically done today, it gets very much taken out of proportion so I am always hesitant to talk about bigger picture ideas because they can be misinterpreted.

“I believe in the sport and entertainment world; period, not just football, that what you are going to see is that broadcast revenue is going to continue to decline even in the larger leagues.

“We saw the Football League’s contract was down significantly last year and because of the dis-intermediation of the web you are going to see the big broadcast contracts start to decline and the only way to replace that revenue is to do interesting things by getting fans more engaged directly, going direct to the consumer.

“Part of that can be by running your own broadcast mechanisms, part of that can be doing things to bridge the gap between sitting in the stands and decisions made on the field.

"So if it doesn’t cheapen the game, if it’s done in a tasteful way that fans like, then I think it is very much worth testing all kinds of things that will allow, at certain key moments in time – not throughout the game because you can’t run this like a Monopoly board – fan input and a direct relationship with the manager to make certain decisions at isolated moments in time.

“That is well worth testing and well worth looking at if it doesn’t cheapen the game and fans like it and it comes out with a better experience for the fans and I think we will see that happening in a lot of sports, not just football.”

The manager of the club at the time of Brody's proposal was Aidy Boothroyd and he said, “It is an unusual way to conduct business. What’s the point of having a manager? but in defence of that idea at least it is an idea that’s brought to the table and discussed, and I’d rather have that than people being surreptitious behind the scenes and not being up front about things.

"I’m not saying that’s what happened when I was there but that’s just a general view from a manager who has been at a few clubs.”