HAVE A WORD WITH… SIMON GREENBERG

By Toby Brown
Apr 4th, 2008

You only have to take a quick look into our forums to see the debate about Avram Grant raging like wildfire. It’s fair to say that his appointment has been the main talking point amongst Chelsea supporters for the majority of the season, and naturally many of the questions we were asked to put to Simon Greenberg – Chelsea’s communications and public affairs director, were about our new manager.

We put together ten questions gathered from our forum and from emails sent into us by readers and members of CFCnet, then presented them to Simon to try and get some answers to the questions you were asking. Again Simon answered every question we put to him, and nothing was off the agenda.

Simon, is there anything in the oft repeated stories that Avram and Roman are friends?

Certainly they got to know each other initially on a friendship basis and in a social football environment, but that will make no difference now that Avram is the manager. His appointment was based on football, not friendship grounds.

What did Roman think of Avram and the teams’ performances in the domestic cups recently? Does he really believe Avram can achieve the success, or even more success, than Jose did?

Clearly he was disappointed, as was the board, the players, the manager and the fans. No one can hide those two results were a blow. But there was no panic, no crisis meetings; it wasn’t the end of the season or the end of the world. Of course there were discussions about what happened and he took part in those, and why shouldn’t he as the owner?

It’s too simplistic just to see the situation in terms of achieving more success than Jose did. Avram was brought in to work towards the vision of the club for the future. That covers success, style of football, the development of the club on a whole host of levels. Peter has made it very clear that the board’s appointment of Avram was not contingent on winning the Premier League or the Champions League and that continues to be the position. He took the team at a very difficult time, and two or three results excepted, has done a great job overall, as have the players.

Now that Grant has assumed the Managerial mantle, who will replace him as the Director of Football at the Club?

I think that is an issue for the future, possibly this summer. The creation of the Director of Football role at Chelsea was a response to a whole host of issues during the time Jose was here, including personalities, and that was the appropriate thing to do at the time.

Since Jose’s departure we have been concentrating on trying to create the right on and off field environment for Avram in what has been a testing and difficult period as it was always going to be. In those circumstances the issue of Director of Football has taken a bit of a back seat but we will need to give it consideration again when we come to assess where we are after the season has finished.

So how are the responsibilities of ‘liaison on, and co-ordination of, football matters across the various areas of Chelsea’ distributed, or does Grant still retain the same responsibilities along with being the manager?

Avram does not retain those responsibilities at present; he is concentrating solely on managing the team. I would say in the time since Avram has taken over, Peter Kenyon has taken up some of the matters referred to above purely on a “needs must” basis. Clearly this does not mean he will be the Director of Football.

Also as there is now a Football Club board, which compromises all the senior figures related to the football side, these matters are discussed at that monthly meeting. As I said in answer to Q3 – the creation of the Director of Football was something that was needed at a particular time, whether those circumstances are still relevant when we come to assess everything and how to move forward we will have to wait and see.

Was Grant placed at Portsmouth by Roman before coming to Chelsea?

No.

What do you think about the increased ‘leaks’ in recent weeks to journalists that are widely known as being close to senior players?

Leaks are always a concern. There are always different agendas at play and that is just a fact of life we have to deal with. As you may have noticed recently we are taking more legal actions against newspapers or other media to correct serious wrongs, and there are at least four or five of these related to a lot of the nonsense that cropped up around the Carling Cup.

Now that the bond has been paid off, does Chelsea intend to continue to publish full financial results for future periods?

Yes. It is still a legal requirement under the Companies Act to submit full accounts to Companies House for Chelsea FC plc and the parent company Chelsea Limited and these are public documents once submitted. Whether we have media briefings as we have done in the past is judged on an annual basis.

Has there been any movement on the decision about a new stadium?

No there hasn’t been. We continue to revisit and work on all the options for Stamford Bridge. There has been no real progress on this as many of the issues involved seem unresolvable, but we haven’t given up. As we have said consistently for the last couple of years, only if we have to finally admit defeat on Stamford Bridge will we actively consider other options. We have not reached that stage yet.

Is Mike Forde employed at Chelsea and what is his role at the club if so?

Mike Forde is employed as Performance Director. Mike is an extremely smart guy, and the role of Performance Director is to try and identify areas where we can get that extra one or two per cent out of ALL our teams, from Academy upwards, which makes all the difference at Chelsea’s level.

That could be sports science related, what is best practice for the industry, statistical analysis, how to ensure the players we are signing have the right background and so forth. On the surface one of these in isolation may not make a difference but together they could make the difference between a successful transfer and so forth. The top performing teams in American sport have very successfully applied this to their ethos, as have the All Blacks.

Do you feel that you’re doing well in attempting to present the club in a more media friendly light, and generally helping at all with polishing up the clubs PR and reputation?

I don’t think I am the right person to judge whether I am doing well or not. I am doing my job to the utmost of my professional ability. What I can say is that we have cut out a lot of the non-football/off pitch related issues that caused many problems in the past and therefore impacted on our reputation greatly and I hope that continues.

I think for the last few months we have been judged mostly on football issues or results and I can have little or no effect over what happens on the pitch, the Ashley Cole issue at Spurs apart, which Ashley rightly saw the need to address and we assisted him with that.

I can tell you that media access has increased, which I think the media generally is appreciative of, and that our standing in places like UEFA and amongst key decision makers and abroad amongst global media is extremely high.

I think there is a tendency to get hung up on what the British written press and Sky Sports News portray and I would ask the fans not to pay so much attention to that. PR is not just about what appears in the papers.

Increasingly both these media treat the smallest issue in terms that border on hysteria, there is little perspective anymore, the Ashley Cole situation at Spurs being a great example. This is not a Chelsea phenomena, all the big clubs feel this. One day Chelsea is in crisis, the next day Liverpool, the next day Arsenal. Crisis is a serious word and I can assure you that we are not in crisis.

The treatment of Ashley by the media as a whole over the Spurs incident was ridden with double standards and hypocrisy, which is not a surprise. If we have an issue with a particular media and we take action, we do so on the basis that once we receive an apology the matter has a line drawn under it. The media want that type of relationship and that’s fair enough. But the same standards do not apply to Ashley or any footballer who realizes he is wrong and apologises for his actions very quickly, there is no line drawn.

I do think the fans have a role to play in this also. The media feed off what you write on chat sites, chant as a crowd and so forth. Even if it is a minority opinion this is presented as representative of all Chelsea fans. Generally the clubs relationship with the fans is also improving, there is a good dialogue and decisions such as freezing of ticket prices for the 3rd year running, subsidized travel to matches and so forth show that we do listen.

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