Derby County Football Club Women

“A Club Worthy of Discussion” Gibbo’s Memoirs Part 3

Today sees Part Three of our seven part insightful and humorous look behind the scenes, in which CEO Duncan Gibb or ‘Gibbo’ as he is affectionately known to club personnel and supporters alike, shares memories of his time at the club.

Today he reflects on the clubs departure from Borrowash, the more amusing things that happened during the clubs time there and the final cornerstones that saw the clubs initial five-year plan delivered.

************

Within 18 months of the club investing heavily in the ground at Borrowash it had moved to Mickleover Sports. What happened?

In a nutshell, we were progressing on so many fronts that we’d gone from a bit part player to a club being ‘worthy of discussion’ in terms of promotion to Tier 2; however our home venue didn’t meet criteria and it was also impacting on our ability to attract players. 

As I’ve touched upon, we’d already invested a significant level of time and money into developing a ground that wasn’t even ours and we’d highlighted potential funding streams; however nothing else was happening. As such we had no option but to re-locate and align ourselves to a club that matched our own ambitions. That club was Mickleover Sports FC.

By all accounts the clubs departure from Borrowash was tinged with an element of disappointment?

I think that’s a fair comment to make, although I’m not keen to dwell on it. All I will say is that Mickloever were keen for us to commence midway through the 2016/17 season; however we said that we wanted to do right by Borrowash and would therefore be guided by them.

I personally met with the Borrowash’s chairman and offered him the choice of whether we moved at the mid way point or end of the season. He advised the former, informing me that they had another team keen to play their home matches there. We therefore discussed and agreed the finances, shook hands, and wished each other all the best. A number of weeks after we’d already moved, an invoice for the remainder of the season landed completely out of the blue.

That hurt, especially after all that we’d done in terms of investing in the ground and bringing some seriously high profile games to it; however we took the positive from it, in that it justified why we’d been right to align ourselves to Mickleover.

There are a few funny stories about the clubs time at Borrowash. Can you share a couple?

There’s a few that readily spring to mind!

The first time we played Arsenal the changing room works had yet to be done, and after the game their players are coming into the portable hut that is the club house and being swamped for autographs; however they were only coming in one at a time and at about five minute intervals. Somebody picked up on this, only to be told that only one of the showers was working in the away changing room! To be honest Arsenal saw the funny side, and were absolutely brilliant about things.

A year later and Arsenal came back, followed by Liverpool two weeks later. By this time the works to the home changing room had been done, so being mindful of the previous year and that both clubs had offered to come to Derby free of charge, I did the right thing and put them in the home changing room. Let’s just say that some of our players weren’t best pleased; however we ended up laughing about it with Arsenal in particular, and I still maintain it was the right thing to do.

“One of Our Own” The DCFCW Legend Nigel Wright

Isn’t there another Borrowash story about the clubs legendary match day announcer and club statistician, Nigel Wright?

I still chuckle at that one now! What you have to remember is that at Borrowash there isn’t a press or match day announcers box, so Nigel used to weave his magic from between the dugouts, which given his unique style, coupled with his decibel levels, led to a few interesting moments with opposing teams!

Anyway, our delegation of Sheila, our Operations Director Dave Marriott, then first team manager, Jenny Sugarman and myself are all sat alongside The Beatles at the annual Women’s FA Awards. Yes, you heard that right, as the awards that year were held in one of the main halls at Madame Tussauds in London and our table was wedged up that close to the wax models of the fab four, that I kept accidently kicking John Lennon’s Chelsea boots every time I turned to my right!

Anyway at these events you share your table with another club and all of a sudden a delegation of four strangers sit down and introduce themselves as Brighton & Hove Albion. Next to me is their first team manager who then asks who we are, to which I reply Derby County. 

Well I’ve never seen someone’s face contort so quickly both in colour and appearance, before he literally spits out “Derby!!….Iet me tell you this mate, it took three of my subs and the physio to stop me from laying out that lairy hairy weirdo with the mike, and we were winning 3-0 at the time!” He then reverts back to his normal appearance and colour as quickly as it had changed, picks up a glass of white wine and calmly asks “tell me, is he still with you?”!

Gibbo being presented with a Defibrillator by DCFCW GK Leah Kellogg & Family

Back to the final cornerstone of the clubs initial five year plan, and probably the most important one, namely building a relationship with the main club until the women’s team became part of it. Given that this has now been achieved, just how difficult a journey was it and how was it achieved?

Within a week of coming into Derby County Ladies a key figure within the main clubs structure said to me “you’ve got a lot of bridge building to do”. Luckily I’d come across similar situations within my main work career, and knew that achieving the desired outcome was based on three key principals, namely creating relationships, building mutual trust and providing value, with consistent delivery on what you promise at the heart of all of them.

As we’ve discussed already, we were making progress on a number of fronts and getting noticed, not just locally, but regionally and nationally. At all times we made a point of ensuring that we were highlighting and aligning the Derby County brand, as opposed to the Derby County Ladies brand to these successes. We always shared these with the main club, and in turn key people at the main club were becoming keener to assist us in our endeavours.

Like most of these things, there was never an exact date where things changed, more an evolution that eventually led to the formation of the Governance Board and the transfer of the clubs formative name and set up, to one that now sits within the main clubs structure.

Along the way we told Derby County that we’d raise a certain level of external sponsorship revenue ourselves and we did. We told them that we’d make savings on their yearly investment in the women’s arm of the club and we did. We told them that 2,000+ people would turn up to one of our games if they let us hold it at Pride Park and they did. These were huge statements and commitments to make; however in delivering on them we built trust.

I won’t say that along the way there haven’t been frustrations, because there have; however those are to be expected and our policy has always been to accept them and move on, or to wait until such time as their chances of success are more favourable, Derby County is a business, so it can’t say yes to everything and we fully get that.

Picking up the Club of the Year Award

Overseeing all of the developments that you’ve talked about is clubs Operational Board of Directors. When did it come into being, what is the thinking behind it and who else sits on it?

As I said at the outset of the interview, the club was run by a committee of parent volunteers; however I was keen that we move from that to a board of director model, with those directors all utilising their respective skill sets to oversee separate areas of our delivery.

As discussed we have Andy Moore overseeing the Media side of things, Dave Cholerton the Academy and Dave Marriott the operational side of things, such as kit and key club events such as the children’s hospital visit. On top of that we have Neil Jackson (Commercial), Richard Pope (Relationships), Stephen Joughin (Finance) and Alison Cope (Social).

The former two assist me in the securing of sponsors and then ensuring that they are looked after, whilst Stephen looks after the clubs finances, whilst working closely with myself and the Governance Board on the budget side of things. Alison has been a relatively new appointment and has already worked wonders in terms of delivering club events such as the academy end of season awards and club Xmas party.

A lot of clubs have one or two people doing just about everything; however our structure ensures that all bases are covered and have an easily identifiable lead, with each Director having an equal input on all club matters and vote where applicable.

It’s a model that has seen the club named ‘Club of the Year’ twice at national level and saw a representative from the FA visit us a few years ago as part of a club best practice paper that he was writing. I’d therefore suggest that it works.

************

Join us tomorrow for Part 3 of Gibbo’s Memoirs as we discuss the departure from Borrowash Victoria and an anecdote about our legendary Announcer!