Rush ready to help Rams push on
QWhat is your role going to be?
AI have worked in the football business for more than 15 years advising players, sponsors and brands and doing TV deals.
I am aware of the requirements of the club and I am very excited about the opportunity.
I think the role of a chief executive is to ultimately set a strategy, to advise and add values, and to understand the community within which it is operating.
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For me, the community which Derby is operating in is absolutely fundamental.
One of the major things that appeals to me is how close this football club is to its community. How many other clubs throughout the country of this size are so central to their community? My answer is very, very few.
QWill you be going out and meeting the fans?
AI feel I am the representative both of the owners, absolutely, but also for the fans and the community and so I have to understand both sides.
I have had lots of discussions with the owners about their ambitions, their plans and what they want to do with the club.
I now need to speak to the fans and understand what they want and understand what is important to them about their club.
I want to be an advocate for them, a guardian of them, so it is critical in my first few months and beyond to hold fans' forums. There will be forums this month but they are not going to be occasional fans' forums, they are going to be regular.
On the subject of getting out into the community and understanding the community, I have asked Keith Loring, former chief executive of both the football club and cricket club, to work with us in the early weeks of my time here to see if there are any things we can drum up both on the hospitality and the attendance side.
Keith has got his own consultancy business. He is looking to work with a number of clients and I think he can work with us and help us. He has got a lot of experience.
QWhat is the club's thoughts about the drop in attendances this season?
AWe have a wonderful stadium here and it is important for us to get as many people as we possibly can into the stadium.
I am aware, and one of the things that is hugely appealing to me, is that this club is a club that can fill its stadium. It is a club that is absolutely important to the city and if there is a whiff of success I am certain fans will be coming here in huge numbers.
I am aware that attendances are lower than they have been in previous years. We are now in our fifth season in the Championship, so I think there are a variety of factors that mean attendances are down.
We have had big crowds in the last few weeks. Leeds was in excess of 25,000, Hull on a Friday night was a huge success when we had around 25,000.
In terms of attendances, it is something I take very seriously and is really important going forward.
One of the things I will be talking to the fans about is what can be done.
Is it purely about success? Is it only down to the fact we need to be permanently in that top six or is it other things we can look at to ensure the attendances improve?
QAre ticket prices a factor in some fans staying away?
ADerby's attendances are in the top two or three in the Championship.
Looking from the outside, it looks an extremely well-attended club by people who care passionately but I need to understand who is not here and why they are not here.
Are they not here because they are long-term disaffected? Are they not here because they have been priced out?
Prices to see Derby play are quite competitive among other sports and entertainment. Are the prices still too much?
We need to assess all these sorts of things. We have to get the balance right so it works for the club and the fans.
Ticket prices and the prices paid to come and watch the football is key to the long-term financial stability of the club.
We have to get the pricing right to ensure we can put out the appropriate product for everybody to see.
QDerby use a rolling price structure for tickets where if you buy early you get a cheaper price than if you buy closer to the match. Has this contributed to the dip in attendances?
AIt is exciting we have been pioneered for this new ticketing strategy.
It is a strategy that has worked predominantly overseas but hasn't been used so widely at sports facilities over here, though interestingly other clubs are looking closely and are going to be following.
Like anything new, I think there are those who are really pleased that they have been able to pay in advance and have got cheaper tickets than they otherwise would have done and there are those who want to pay late and it has not worked for them. We have to make sure we get that balance right.
If we have got huge swathes of supporters who feel the system isn't working and who are not coming for that particular reason, then that clearly means it is not working. Equally, if we have got large numbers who are, we need to work on the people who are not.
I am keen for Derby to be innovative and a ground-breaking club. We need to look at ways in which we can fill the stadium and generate revenue so we can continue to have a leading football club.
QIs the club still planning to move away fans from the South Stand to another part of the stadium?
AI am really keen to have Derby fans in as prominent positions as possible.
For Derby fans to be behind both goals and to create that fortress Pride Park is absolutely critical. I think it drives on the team.
Moving the away fans has not happened this season but it is something we are looking at and looking to make a decision on early in the new year.
QDerby are on a list of clubs interested in having a pilot scheme for safe standing. What are your thoughts?
AIt is something that is quite innovative and ground-breaking. Anything that is new and fresh is good to look at. I would want to understand a little bit more about the fans' views.
If it is something we believe can add to the enjoyment of the match at Derby, then I think it is something we should support.
If people are ambivalent or think it is going to be a big negative, then I don't think it is something we will proceed with.
It is good that Derby is known as a club that looks at things in a different way, and a new way. It is important we are constantly assessing whether the experience of fans and supporters, and the community at large can be improved.
QPride Park Stadium has been used for international matches, concerts, even monster trucks. Are the owners still keen to use the stadium for events other than football?
AThe main use is for playing football, of course, but given some of the chats I have had I think people in Derby and the wider community would like to see more things at Pride Park.
They certainly wouldn't like monster trucks digging up the pitch the day before a major game but events during the summer months or during gaps in the fixture list, I think they would like to see that.
It is something I have taken on board in an informal fashion and we have talked about what we can do.
QWill there be investment in Nigel Clough's squad in January?
AI think the squad is really exciting, I think we have got a fantastic team. It would be wrong for me to comment too much on team matters.
The manager's had a very good start to the season. He is an experienced, established man. He has picked the players and he had a very good summer. I think the signings he made in the summer were extremely good and they are all working well.
The dialogue with Nigel will continue. We will talk about the squad and assess it on a regular basis.
There is January but let's not get too caught up in that because you have got loan windows and other things as well.
In the Championship, we have pretty much constant opportunity to review the squad and see whether it needs to be changed at all.
I recognise January is a major trading opportunity but frankly we have most of the season up towards the latter part of it to make any changes, if necessary. I am expecting constant dialogue in relation to that.
QHow ambitious are the club's owners?
AI speak to the board regularly and they take a significant interest. There is usually a board member at home games and they attend very regularly.
The owners have put in a large amount of money. I don't know whether it is widely known but I am very comfortable putting on the record that the amount is in excess of £50 million. They have not taken anything out of it, so there is no question of making huge returns on their investment.
What they want to do and what they believe they are going to do is build a club that can sustain and develop for the long term and that is what I want to help them do.
QWhy the change in direction in your career from president of the Wasserman Media Group's football division, based in London, to Derby County's chief executive?
AI was 15 years in the same business and pretty much throughout that time I worked very closely with clubs.
I got to know a lot of clubs but it is not the same as being the representative of a club working on behalf of it.
Over the years, some opportunities have emerged but for me to join a club that has all the things that Derby County has going for it, all the potential, all the success, and to be able to contribute to drive the club on is a fantastic opportunity.
I would put the question the other way round. Why wouldn't you come to a club like Derby County?
This is a great football club. It is a club with great heritage and fantastic fans and a club that ought to be right at the top of its current league and working its way towards the Premier League.
QWhat expertise gained in the past 15 years do you think you will bring to the Derby County?
AUltimately you cannot get away from the fact that people will judge my success, and the success of everybody within the club by how the football team performs.
And that comes down to how we are going to buy players, develop players, sell players. You can make a significant difference in relation to that.
Hopefully, my experience can help in terms of making sure we purchase players at the most reasonable efficient cost and if we are ever in a position where we need to sell, we sell at the time and at the point that works best for the club.
If you look at seven-figure transactions – and Derby is historically a club that hasn't always got the best in terms of those sort of transactions – but if you can make a 10, 15 or 20 per cent difference it is a huge amount of money and that can go to really strengthening the club.
There are other ways in which my experience can help, hopefully.
I have done a lot of work on corporate sponsorship, with shirts and stadia, and a lot of work representing brands, bringing brands into the sport and working on the TV side as well.
I believe all of that will help to contribute to the club and add value.
QHow are Derby County viewing Financial Fair Play and how well placed is the club to deal with the new regulations?
AI think Financial Fair Play is currently an unknown.
I think it is a question of taking internally sensible business practices and running a football club that can operate sensibly.
If you do that, once FFP kicks in, in whatever form it does, I am pretty confident that Derby County will be able to thrive within that set of regulations.
As far as attracting players, we are a really attractive club for players to come to. Who wouldn't want to come and play at Pride Park? Who wouldn't want to train at our facilities at Moor Farm? Who wouldn't want to work with our set of players?
Therefore, you can purchase players at the right price.
Secondly, players can come to us and improve. The evidence is there and then, if we need to and if we chose to, we will sell players at the top possible market price to reinvest in the club.
It is actually really quite a simple method and there are quite a few clubs who have done this who are sitting in the Premier League (Southampton, Reading, West Bromwich Albion).
QDoes the club's wage bill need to be trimmed further this month and what can you tell us about reports that £1.8m needs to be raised in the current January transfer window?
AFrom my point of view there is no pressure to do anything at all with the wage bill in January, absolutely not.
We continue to review the business and the running of the club, and that is something we do on a regular basis.
Where some of these sums come from is extraordinary, frankly extraordinary.
Are we going to run our business in a sensible fashion? Absolutely.
Are we going to continue to review it? Absolutely.
QDo you feel the size of Derby County's wage bill is big enough to allow the club to establish itself in the top six of the Championship?
AI think the division is split into four sections.
You have got a number of clubs frankly grateful to be in the Championship. They will be in the division one year, they will have a stab at it and be back in League One and knock about between the two.
The next section is the clubs who have come down from the Premier League with parachute money.
The interesting thing about those clubs is that if you look at the table this season – Bolton, Blackburn and Wolves – none of them are thriving because when you come down from the Premier League you come down in a state of panic, disorganisation, disharmony and that is not where Derby is now.
It is not right to say those clubs with parachute money have an automatic right to get back to the Premier League. History will tell us that one if not two of them tend not to make it and then a further one tends to go into all sorts of free-fall.
The third section is made up of clubs that tend to have short-term goals whereby owners come in and put a huge amount of money on the table. In lots of ways it is a gamble. A number of clubs who appear to have great riches one season can be in serious trouble the next. If, in those one or two seasons when the gamble is made, you crack it there could be great riches but the alternative to the case is one of great concern.
Then there is the fourth section of clubs and the one I think Derby are in.
The section is made up of well-run, serious, sizeable clubs that have a serious chance of getting into the Premier League but are run in a way whereby should they make that leap they will stay in the Premier League and will develop as a club.
Do I believe the fourth section of clubs will produce a team to go up? Absolutely.
Show me a league table now, show me one from last season and before and there will be clubs from that section in the top six.
QWhat about Will Hughes' future at the club because fans fear the young midfielder could be sold this month or in the summer?
AThe first thing to say about Will Hughes is what a player! He is a fantastic young talent.
We are really pleased he has signed a new long-term contract only a few weeks ago. That shows his commitment to the club and our commitment to him.
I think the club is in a slightly different position to where it has been for a while in that we have got players who are suddenly exciting and perhaps being noticed by other clubs.
We have got players who are making a serious impact and clearly Will is one of those. That is a positive.
People are looking at Derby County, looking at our players and thinking they are top quality players.
That must mean they are performing well for us, which is what we want.
In terms of Will, he is 17, he is in his first full season in professional football and he's doing great.
I think he has got to carry on doing that and showing what a player he is.
We are thrilled for Will, thrilled to see his progress and we are looking forward to him playing for Derby County.
QWhere do you expect the club to be in five years – on and off the field?
AA football club can be judged in a number of ways. It can be judged on how it builds and how it looks but I don't think you can get away from how a football club is really judged – it is judged on its performance on the field and where it sits in the football hierarchy.
This is Derby's fifth year in the second tier of football.
I am acutely aware that the fans want us to be moving up to the Premier League and so we need to put in place as best we possibly can the opportunity to take this club into as high a level of football as is possible.
One of the benefits we have with our ownership structure is that we have serious owners who have long-term experience of working in sport.