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How an American Influence Is Rubbing Off On Manchester City

Manchester City’s match day experience is becoming more and more American with each new season. While Maine Road was what you could expect a typical British experience of what it was like to see an English football match in the 80s, the City of Manchester Stadium experience seems as American as apple pie.

In previous seasons, City have tried to focus on improving the match-day experience. They’ve added buskers, i.e. public performers, around the ground to add to the atmosphere. And recently they’ve adopted American entertainment methods such as turning down the house lights before kick-off and trying to get everyone excited for the big match. They’ve also been a pioneer in English football in their usage of American social media sites such as Facebook, Foursquare, Flickr and others to create a bond with supporters.

And now for their first home match in the league for the 2010-11 season, against Liverpool tonight, they’re set to unveil two new features. Both of them have a uniquely American feel about them. Plus the club has launched a new campaign across Manchester, which is revealed below:

The first is City Square, an outdoor entertainment zone and the first of its kind, according to Manchester City, at a Premier League club.

Located on Joe Mercer Way, near the stadium, the zone will feature:

  • Giant media screens streaming live and specially-edited content,
  • Summerbee and Star bar, featuring a dispenser that will pour multiple pints in seconds,
  • Blue Moon Cafe, which will serve up traditional northern favorites with a twist,
  • And it’s all underneath a waterproof canopy.

“The aim of City Square is to greatly enhance the match day experience of our supporters by providing them with exceptional food, drink and entertainment facilities within a family friendly environment,” said Manchester City Chief Executive Garry Cook. “It is the first facility of its kind within the Premier League and we’re really looking forward to our fans using it for the first time before the Liverpool game.”

In addition to the City Square entertainment zone, City has launched a new look family stand. According to City’s website, entertainment for kids will include free face painting, product “guns” firing goodies into the crowd, magicians, jugglers, interactive chalkboards, virtual dressing room, and height check chart for them to measure themselves against the City squad.

Also the food has been upgraded to include a choice of spaghetti, chicken goujons and smoothies. Plus the family stand area features lowered counters, lowered wash basins and toilets for the children.

City has also launched a new mural in Manchester today, which features a side of a building painted to feature City flags, players and Roberto Mancini. It’s near the City of Manchester Stadium. The mural promotes “Be Part Of It,” which is a social media website that Manchester City created to encourage supporters to show their support for the club.

All of these changes definitely have the earmark of Cook’s influence. Born in Birmingham, Cook moved to the United States in 1985 and later was an employee of Nike for 12 years. While working for the US company, he worked very closely with Michael Jordan and headed up the “Brand Jordan” project.

While City receives high marks with their marketing initiatives, they’ve been lacking on the pitch. Their US pre-season tour, which featured plenty of publicity off the pitch, was sadly lacking on the field with very weak performances from players who looked like they didn’t care. Now that the season is under away, hopefully City will impress where it’s most important and that’s on the pitch.

Coupled with Manchester City’s wealth and Cook’s bright ideas, Manchester City is paving a way as a football club of a new generation in England. This is not your dad’s football team. This is a club that understands marketing and is smartly trying to bring in a younger crowd to watch its football matches. As the average age of a supporter of a Premier League club increases, City is investing in the future by upgrading its family stand to ensure that they create loyal City supporters for generations. Family stands are not a new idea. Most Premier League clubs have them, but City is offering a different experience. Short-term, it’ll boost revenue. Long-term, it’ll create a new breed of City supporter. Hopefully the rest of the clubs in the Premier League will pay close attention.

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49 Comments

49 Comments

  1. Edward Sasam

    August 25, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    I hope all that spending was worth it for Man City. I hear Chelsea is also running for the title. Get my drift?

    • Huh

      August 25, 2010 at 2:57 pm

      Edward, sorry I don’t get your drift at all, maybe you could explain?

  2. americanizingsoccer.com

    August 24, 2010 at 10:07 pm

    Some of what you have written Gaffer is what I’ve been trying to say for a very long time. American sports fans have very much made sports fandom an art. Soccer is changing mostly due to the influence of American sports fandom. Now, more than ever, statistics matter. Sports statistics is an American sports fan obsession.

    Instant replay is as American as it gets. The EPL will have instant replay very soon.

    The experience at minor league Soccer venues in the U.S. completely lacks ambience and this is part of the problem with building a solid Division II in the U.S.

    Because pro Soccer is a shorter event (only a one hour 45-minute event compared to the other elongated team sporting events), Soccer must find a way to impact the sports fan in a way that will keep them coming back.

    • IanCransonsKnees

      August 25, 2010 at 1:47 am

      “Now, more than ever, statistics matter.”

      Believe me it’s something nobody in the UK gives more than a passing glance in relation to football.

      “American sports fans have very much made sports fandom an art.”

      It’s not a closed shop. Football culture and support around the globe generally pushes new trends and in terms of generating atmosphere and for inventiveness there is nobody better at it than football fans.

  3. MCityfan101

    August 24, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    Everyone loves city in Edmonton Alberta Canada!!!

    • Sir Guy

      August 24, 2010 at 7:17 pm

      Well, hell yeah. It’s warmer! 😀

  4. Huh

    August 24, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    Danny, while I agree with most of your above statements I can’t agree with:

    ‘other clubs like Liverpool and Newcastle attract vastly higher attendances simply by virtue of being passionate, family based and local.’

    Liverpool have a similar pedigree to that of Man U which attracts world wide fans or tourists as you call them. So I don’t know where the passion of these fans comes from because as with Utd many of the people inside Anfield/ Old Trafford don’t come from anywhere near Liverpool/Manchester. So being local I‘m not to sure about this.
    Newcastle’s support only becomes large (again) after Kegan and the millions pumped in by Sir John Hall (as it was very poor pre these events), with this money came a regular top 4 placing and all the trimmings that come with tit but I agree that the Newcastle fans cannot be called impassionate at all. I have been to Anfield many times in both ends also 3 times to the Toon and can say neither club seems more or less family based than any others I have been to in the division (which is most).

    • Danny

      August 24, 2010 at 5:00 pm

      Huh (Love the name), my point was about all the bells and whistles the article talks about in relation to those two clubs, and the fact that a beer tent and lighting doesn’t translate into more fans, but It was probably stupid to suggest that the fans or Liverpool or Newcastle were more passionate, so I hold my hands up. Perhaps equally passionate would have been a better statement.

      But hey, Newcastle had a higher attendance despite playing Championship football, and about the John Hall thing, St. James’ before was pretty small and run down (Like many others) and that I think ANY club would have a bit of a dip if it was threatened with relegation to the 3rd division! (Compare this to Wigan, who even in the premiership with their own shiny new stadium pull in terrible attendances. Sorry, I just had to have a dig at fellow relegation scrappers :P)

      • second division 1998/99

        August 24, 2010 at 6:30 pm

        not Man City ..gods own club

      • Huh

        August 24, 2010 at 7:28 pm

        I had you as a Liverpool fan not Newcastle. If it’s any consolation I don’t put Toon near relegation more lower mid table in my opinion, I do have Wigan as goners though.

        My team were in that 3rd division and set record attendances there not so long ago! We were watching the most depressing stuff I had ever seen but away trips were a good laugh (no point staying sober to watch the game as it was poor or poorer) as a plus we did get to see grounds unlikely to be visited by most in the Prem. We were still regularly getting 30k plus in a 32k seated stadium so I know when people talk about fan loyally that City are up their with the best. I personally think that Newcastle are as well, Liverpool I’m not so sure about.

  5. Sir Guy

    August 24, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    “British culture in general is becoming more and more American as each year passes.”

    Well, Gaffer, let’s hope that doesn’t go too far. I don’t travel to Scotland to have an American experience, god forbid.

  6. Danny

    August 24, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    I simply don’t understand this article. In what way are the items listed, many of which have been staples in the premier league for a good few years, my local stadium upgrading it’s ‘exclusive’ content on bigger screens seemingly every season and having buskers singing folk songs outside since time began, ‘American’? If City came out to an 80’s power ballad surrounded by over the top fireworks, Pom-pom waving cheerleaders, Diana Ross fluffing a penalty and the national anthem at every game, you would have a point, but I failed to notice any of these things at the City game. Maybe I’m being a tad facetious, but forgive me for being irked at the premise of your article.

    It appears you are claiming that simply improving the already average entertainment facilities that have served clubs like City so well for decades was somehow influenced by American sports, that these basic concepts are American alone, and all of a sudden the people of Britain have discovered this. I find this slightly condescending, given that the football league has grown and flourished for over 150 years it’s own way.

    To suggest that improving basic amenities at Eastlands makes a premier league game as ‘American as Apple Pie’ is quite frankly wrong and insulting to the generations of fans who don’t know what a Super Bowl is and would rather bring tuna sandwiches than fork out for an overpriced Hot Dog, yet continue to come in their tens of thousands each week.

    • The Gaffer

      August 24, 2010 at 1:19 pm

      Hi Danny, British culture in general is becoming more and more American as each year passes. More American TV shows, kids wearing American clothes, watching American films, eating American fast food, etc. So to see a club such as Manchester City starting to adopt ideas that make the football matchday more of an experience such as turning down the lights before a game and building the fans up to a crescendo, like they do in a NBA game, as well as making it more kid-friendly, adding beer tents, etc, are attributes that can already be found in many American stadiums.

      It’s obvious that Cook and others at City are learning from some of the best attributes of the American gameday experience and applying it to City. There’s nothing wrong with that. It is what it is – ways to improve the experience and, hopefully, generate more revenue.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • Huh

        August 24, 2010 at 2:40 pm

        Gaffer, I think that it’s not quite the way you see it here. At the start of the premier league this definitely was the case it was not good at all fireworks, singers and dancing girls on the pitch before and at half time in the game, It was truly awful and I don’t think anyone liked it one bit, needless to say it didn’t last long. American’s in general seem to like somebody telling them to ‘have a nice day’ in a shop or coming up to them and asking ‘can I help’ Britt’s in general cannot stand this and see it as fake or annoying, in the UK this tends to only happen with American companies such as Subway or McDonalds and even then not much as I don’t think the workers can stand saying this either.
        I think they have taken some marketing ideas from the USA’s sports because now like there it’s becoming more family orientated and big business when it never was before the Prem. Not that much though. I don’t see any more of the music, clothes or fast food than there was 20 years ago (except for Subway’s seem to be every where now, how do they get the veg/salad to taste so clinical like it’s been wash in bleach? Anyone work for them here I‘m dying to know LOL)

      • IanCransonsKnees

        August 24, 2010 at 2:48 pm

        Having never experienced an American sporting event I cannot comment on the US game day experience, but similarly neither can many others who use this site comment on the English match day experience. Americanisation isn’t necessarily a bad thing but surely those of you who use the site as and don’t live in the UK would want an ‘English’ experience, not a regurgitation or homage to what Gary Cook has seen in the States?

        It seems in the modern sporting environment clubs will have to consider their position in the marketplace and who they market themselves to. However I believe that they shouldn’t have to change for the sake of change or sell their soul (although a different debate could argue that it’s already happened with SKY).

        The comment about building up the atmosphere to a crescendo I find incredibly naive and it smacks of whooping and cheering just for the sake of it. Take a look on youtube and search for your clubs chants, there’ll be plenty on there. Even look for the Accrington Stanley Ultras and you’ll see that many crowds in this country don’t need priming to react and become part of the game.

        Child friendly – most clubs are they realise that they need to catch them young and bleed their parents dry. Beer tents, do me a favour. We get moaned at for being drunken thugs half the time and are not trusted to take alcohol in the stands yet all clubs sell it at exorbitant prices on the concourse pre, mid and post match.

        In my opinion you’ve been away far too long and need an extended holiday in the Valleys. Trouble is if you want to sample the Premier League experience down there the stadiums and Craig Bellamy will have to do!

      • Danny

        August 24, 2010 at 3:18 pm

        To answer some of your points, Child friendliness was at the core foundation of the Premier league, with most if not all major stadia having dedicated family areas, as well as child themed fan clubs resplendent with competitions, mascots and other kid friendly activities. Looking at each player holding a kids hand as they walk on to the pitch exemplifies that. Most modern stadiums have sports bars already, and are usually surrounded by pubs that cater for the fans. It’s how things are done here, in the EPL at least, and was why the Premier league was founded, to counteract the terminal problems of the decidedly unfriendly hooligans.

        Take a look at the world cup, stadiums provide large screens, gazebos and beer tents even when the action is thousands of miles away, and the mascots and music are all about family entertainment. This, coming without the influence of any US sport. It is clear to me that City wants globalization, and as the richest club in the world is entitled to it, but it risks becoming the next Man United by selling it’s soul to the tourists and fair weather fans that demand these frills. But other clubs like Liverpool and Newcastle attract vastly higher attendances simply by virtue of being passionate, family based and local.

        US Sports are unique, because they cater to Americans and no one else, just like the majority of premier league clubs are unique in that they cater to Britons and no one else. Americans enjoy Nachos, marching bands and cheerleaders because it’s the American character, just like we enjoy mince pies, pints and scarf waving. We might wear Levis and eat Subways, but we all cringe at the embarrassment of cheerleaders at footie games because that’s what we do. If you say clubs like City take the best of American sports, then you might as give equal credit to Australian, Brazilian and Indian ones as well.

        • Sir Guy

          August 24, 2010 at 4:39 pm

          “Looking at each player holding a kids hand as they walk on to the pitch …”

          One of the greatest things about football. Some of those kids’ eyes are about to pop out and the smiles are just fantastic! I don’t understand why American sports can’t be…..well, more British.

          btw….I LOVE pints! 🙂

          • Danny

            August 24, 2010 at 4:52 pm

            Yea, just check out the video on youtube of a Chelsea mascot pulling a face at Gerrard, priceless!

    • catch my drift

      August 24, 2010 at 7:33 pm

      free blowjobs at halftime would be morale boosting for fans

  7. Anyone know anything about football?

    August 23, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    this must be a joke? read slowly…i know its unbelievable but there are some things that have absolutley nothing to do with america or americans….why must ppl like the guy who wrote this vomit and most americans in general insist upon being the stuck up bitch of the world who thinks everything is about her…this “city Square” is built around the interests of a traditional BRITISH Football fan…beer on tap,interviews on tv’s traditional northern food(uk) etc ,family stand is just for kids and grannies anyway so who cares and the posters..well thats just our spare cash lol

    • The Gaffer

      August 23, 2010 at 9:47 pm

      Have you been to a sporting event in America?

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • get over it

        August 23, 2010 at 9:57 pm

        yes i have and there was no trace of northern english food nor any decent beer yet i found this in manchester …probably because it has nothing to do with american culture …stop trying to claim some sort of importance to epl just watch it

  8. Matthew Reed

    August 23, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    one improvement was the condition of the pitch. Didnt that field look EXCELLENT on HD? In fact, it may have been the greenest grass that Milner has ever played on.

    How was your weekend, Superman?

    CTID

  9. Huh

    August 23, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    Decent article Gaffer, I was there tonight and the family area is great! as is the square. By the way the new Muriel is no where near Old Trafford (don’t know which fool told you this or why) it is a few 100 metres from Eastlands behind Piccadilly station in city centre Manchester.

    • The Gaffer

      August 24, 2010 at 11:40 am

      Huh, I should have known better. The Daily Mirror said the mural was near Old Trafford. I’ve corrected the article, thanks.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  10. Ethan

    August 23, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    I understand that all of this is for and about money, but it’s a shame to hear, as an American EPL fan. I gravitate toward the Premier League because it’s fueled by sheer fandom, not electronic scoreboards and loud, blaring music. Take the NBA, it’s hard for me to go to a game at this point, nothing is remotely organic about it, the fan experience has been deteriorating, and I hope that this doesn’t spread throughout the EPL (it won’t because, not all Clubs have Man City type money), further dampening the electricity of the game.

  11. [OPTI]Madschester United

    August 23, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    Actually, I was witness to most of those tactics and worse at F.C. Copenhagen (København) in the late 90’s. Besides Family Zones, half-time entertainment, and FCKLive Bar that showed matches live right outside the stadium, we had cheerleaders by the hard-core fan section… dear God, they were ugly and extremely slutty (hindsight is 20/20 🙂 ). They danced like strippers and for a 14-15 year old that was awesome.

    Not sure if City is borrowing from the American entertainment book as much as the corporate maximize-profits book that most sports companies employ.

  12. Vious

    August 23, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    Until they win some trophies, they won’t really catch on

    • Tom Hingley

      August 23, 2010 at 5:34 pm

      Is that an admission that many supporters will merely pick Man City because they won some trophies? Exactly the sort of supporter football can do without – thanks.

      • Huh

        August 23, 2010 at 7:43 pm

        So by this reckoning Tom exactly the kind that already follow Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool. Which is by the way what the Premier League has spent the last 20 years trying to attract, we call them plastic fans.

        • IanCransonsKnees

          August 24, 2010 at 1:40 am

          Exactly. The poll that was held not long ago showed that roughly two thirds of the users follow those four teams Huh, I wonder why.

          • Huh

            August 24, 2010 at 5:33 am

            Plastic fans Ian simple. Don’t get me wrong these clubs have genuine supporters as well but they have many, many more that change with the winds of success, this is the game we now follow.

  13. MartinAtl

    August 23, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    Gaffer,

    Not really DirecTV, and sorry for the thread-hike – but any chance you can check with your contacts at Fox to see if they are in any real discussions with Comcast over FSC HD and FSC+? Comcast are providing canned responses, thought it might be worth checking with Fox if you have any contacts. And now back to scheduled programming . .

    • The Gaffer

      August 23, 2010 at 2:49 pm

      Martin, I would but it’s a non-story. Fox will say that they’re always in talks with Comcast to get HD on those channels, but they’re not going to say anything specific until a deal is done. Sorry, I wish I had better news, but I’m a Comcast customer too so I’m in the same boat.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  14. Duke

    August 23, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    Nothing wrong with trying to get younger fans to start spending their money on your product. However, I think it’s important to consider that the average age of your fan-base is increasing because because life expectancy is increasing.

    Maybe things are different in the North of England, but here in the States the “senior citizen” population is skyrocketing. Part baby boom, part longer life spans.

    Just sayin’. That’s a big – and well-heeled – demographic to ignore.

    • IanCransonsKnees

      August 23, 2010 at 2:26 pm

      It’s exactly the same over here Duke. They’re the one’s with teh wedge to burn, no ridiculous mortgage and decent pensions or jobs. Youngsters over here cannot afford to regularly attend Premier League matches without sacrificing other things.

      • Huh

        August 23, 2010 at 7:38 pm

        That why kids get season tickets for £99 at City.

        • IanCransonsKnees

          August 24, 2010 at 1:37 am

          I’m talking young adults Huh, 18-25ish, not those whose parents pay.

          • Huh

            August 24, 2010 at 5:25 am

            IanCransonsKnees,

            The ages to 17-21 are also heavily subsidized, aged between16-17 £198 per season ticket, 18-21 £302 compared to adults tickets priced at £445 all in the same area (South stand) and all these prices were lower to start with! The prices shown are not even family area ones! You could get a Adult and under 16 for under £500 but they have sold out while other clubs continue to struggle to sell theirs at hyper inflated prices Utd being one of these. Surely ’25ish’ is a grown man or woman?

            Here are your own teams cheapest prices (family area) under 11’s £149, under 14’s £199, under 17’s £269, under 21’s £349 and then adults at £459. Makes you wonder which team spent the supposed £126m in the summer doesn’t it!

          • IanCransonsKnees

            August 24, 2010 at 8:48 am

            Huh I’m not aiming the original comment at Man City, it’s at Premier League clubs in general mine included. I paid £349 for mine this season, the cheapest adult season ticket we sell.

            The Premier League is a very middle class environment now because of this. Not necessarily a bad thing but a world away from how it started.

          • Huh

            August 24, 2010 at 1:53 pm

            I have not really noticed any change in the class of people at my Club and to my knowledge I’m not sat near any Doctors, Barristers or the like just the same working class (if u can still call them this) folk as 10 years ago (I dont think there is a big class gap any longer), definitely more minorities, female supporters and kids than 20 years ago for sure but middle classes can’t say I have noticed this.
            You say you feel the premier league is a very middle class environment so I’ll take this to mean a lot more expensive, starting to price some out I agree with this, which you say is a ‘World away from how it started’ but this was always the way the premier league heading and everyone knew it. You have to admit the football, the superstars, the stadiums and just about everything about it are a million times better than the 70’s 80’s, Only money and investment has done this making it the best league in the world. It‘s a shame high tax rates are to threaten this.

  15. IanCransonsKnees

    August 23, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    Hopefully Gary Cook will be able to pull off a globetrotting European Super League with no relegation and a vacuous following who fall for ‘marketing’, piss off and let us get on with it. I’ve already bought the domain name ESLTalk (European Superleague Talk).

    Just after the arabs took over Cook and Crown Prince Billy Big Bollocks came to Stoke for their first away game in the Premier League, it ended 1-0 to Stoke and walking out after the match Cook and the Prince were walking towards the big Mercedes limo taking them to their helicopter. I told them at the time they could buy all the players they want but they couldn’t buy a team and the spirit that goes with it (obviously not that politely). As ever they gave me that shit on their shoe look but I’d say the same thing again and take the same please (okay maybe not as much as beating them 1-0 with 10 men vs 12, but it’d still feel good).

    • Paul Bestall

      August 23, 2010 at 6:26 pm

      It’s true thought Ian. As the Galatico situation at Madrid showed, until the final season, you can have all the attacking flair in the world, but if half the dressing room hate each other, you will win nothing.

      City haven’t learned anything from that at all.

      • Huh

        August 23, 2010 at 7:33 pm

        Oh dear, Paul the numpty got a new mate eh?

        What ‘Galatico situation’ City do not have one fool! remember this ‘None of the players that City have signed would get into the top 4 teams’ how can they be Galaticos then? This was from the most idiotic blog that I ever had the misfortune to read, well done Paul Bestal. You are a bitter little nugget who just loves attacking City, Why? What’s up with you did you take a kicking off a City fan in the past?

        When are you morons going to realise that this ‘attacking flair’ is backed up by a very good defence, yes it was shit under Hughes 28 in 17 games but the exact same defence under Mancini conceded 17 in 21 this compares very well to others. Now bitter little Spuds fan add to these stats Yaya Toure, Boatang, Kolarov and even Milner and what do you have? Just wait and see all these idiot pundits (you cling to) start changing their minds as the season go’s on.

        When you look at this website there are loads sados giving it out on every post regarding City mostly non-factual crap though, but rarely do you see City fans giving it out on Chelsea, Utd, Arsenal, Pool or even Spuds blogs, where’s the class here?
        After the 0-0 at the Lane you can tell by the press reaction to this (Spuds beat Chelsea, Arsenal and most other teams to little of what came at city for a draw in the first game of the season!!!) that they can’t wait for City to lose which they will ,they re going to go crazy with excitement, how sad is that? You sad cases can join them solely through envy ‘City are buying this City are buying that they’re killing the football, they have no soul because they have lots of money’ what would your club do? (clue the ‘no class’ retards).

        It’s getting boring, change the record FFS.

  16. efrain

    August 23, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Hey Gaffer,

    Off topic, but curious as to the Directv interview you had mentioned a little while ago. Any word on that?

    Thanks

    • The Gaffer

      August 23, 2010 at 2:34 pm

      efrain, I didn’t receive as many questions I would like from the readers to make it worthwhile doing the interview. But if you and the readers have DirecTV-specific questions, please post them and I’ll try and get the answers for you.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • efrain

        August 23, 2010 at 4:35 pm

        Ah, thanks Gaffer……. wish I/we had more Directv questions to make it worth while. Mine was only about paying $15 for FSPlus and its part time HD status.

  17. citytillidie123

    August 23, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    Its all about the money and putting City on a global scale. All we need now is some trophies. We wont be waiting too long I feel

  18. TheEPLKid

    August 23, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    Don’t know if this is the American way but definitely a great way to build the brand and increase ancillary income

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