Derby County Football Club Women

“Fans have a Right to Know a Club’s Plans” Gibbo’s Memoirs Part 6

Today sees Part Six 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 continues to reflect on why the club operates an ‘open book’ policy on its ambitions and targets each season, his work with other clubs and relationships within the game.

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You introduced a culture whereby the club will openly say what it is looking to do both on and off the pitch, and what will constitute success and failure.  It’s quite unique in football even within the women’s game, so what’s the thinking behind it?

I’m a football supporter first and foremost, albeit it one who now runs a club. In my view supporters are stakeholders within a club and key ones at that. As such they have a right to know what the plan is and what constitutes success.

If you look at the last six years, as a club we openly stated that our intention for the first four years was to put a number of things in place off the pitch, and that then and only then would focus shift towards matters on the pitch. We said what we wanted to do and within what time frame, and we then went and did it.

By informing them of our plan, expectations in terms of league success were tempered; however two years ago the emphasis changed to matters on the pitch. This in itself brought pressure, as it had done with the off field aspirations; however you can see in our results that we have achieved those targets as well.

Going forwards we are clear that off the field we want to secure a long term stake hold within our home match venue, contributing to its development. In addition to that we want to implement an educational/football dual pathway that is the envy of clubs operating at a much higher level than our own. On the field we want to secure promotion to the Women’s Championship.

Everyone associated with the club is aware of the vision, and when we say ‘everyone’ at Derby we include our supporters in that..

Away from the club you’ve developed some positive relationships with other clubs.

Yes, I think that’s a fair observation.

Whether it has been in my main job roles or in football, I’m a huge believer in benchmarking and have undertaking exercises of that nature on numerous occasions. You can have a view on something; however knowing what the rest of the street is doing can be hugely useful, and if somebody is doing something better than you, it’s sensible to take that learning on board.

As such I’ve touched base with my equivalents at every club from WSL down to Tier 4 on various projects where we have felt that having an understanding on the national picture will be useful. As a result of that I’ve managed to build some positive relationships along the way, and it didn’t take long to pick up on the fact that there is a real camaraderie between clubs within the female game.

Graham Abercrombie – Highly regarded by DCFCW CEO Duncan Gibb

Are there any people within the game that you get on particularly well with?

Of course there are some people that you immediately warm to and get to know quite well.  I’ve got a lot of time for Rachel Gay at Hull City, who has done a marvellous job in hugely challenging circumstances. Dave Mallin at Huddersfield Town is another that that I respect, and it’s been fascinating to watch how he has managed a situation where the main club once openly threatened to take the clubs name from them to where they are now.

Aside from them, I enjoy a strong and positive relationship with Graham Abercrombie the current manager of Sheffield FC and former manager at Nottingham Forest and West Brom. I’m quite old school in that I judge people of my own experiences rather than other people’s and in that regard I’ve found Graham to be top draw.

I can recall Sheila Rollinson being desperate to say that she had made a National League appearance a few seasons back, despite having retired from the game circa 15 years previously. Our final home game of the season was against West Brom who were due to be crowned league champions that day, and I went up to Graham after his team had arrived at the ground and basically told him that we’d registered Sheila and would like to bring her on for the last ten minutes, but recognised that we didn’t want to divert any attention away from Albion’s achievement, so were happy to leave it if he didn’t feel comfortable with the idea. He didn’t give it a seconds thought, before saying “After what Sheila Rollinson has done for women’s football and your club, absolutely yes, no problem.”

In addition to that when we won the ‘Club of the Year’ award for the second time at the FA Women’s Awards, Graham made a point of walking half way across the room to offer his personal congratulations. Quite a thing to do for the manager of Nottingham Forest as he was at the time!

 On the flip side have there been any negative experiences?

(Laughing). Well let’s just say that before those same awards, I made a point of personally seeking out and congratulating both the Chairman and the Manager of a club that had secured a Tier 2 licence the week before. On entry to the venue we found that they were located on the table next to us; however whilst Graham walked a good 50 yards to offer his congratulations when our award success was announced, the same two people didn’t even acknowledge it, despite being no more than three yards away!

I can also remember issuing out a quick survey to 48 other clubs as part of a benchmarking exercise. Some needed a reminder to come back to me; however in the end 47 of them did. I found the whole thing quite amusing in terms of the one that hadn’t and therefore cheekily issued a third and a fourth reminder to them, with neither securing any success. Let’s just say that I should have issued it to the manager of that club as opposed to the secretary!

Like I say the camaraderie within the female game is fantastic.

Join us tomorrow for the final part of Gibbo’s Memoirs as he talks about the open culture of our ambitions.