Q&A: David Gill, CEO of Manchester United

The business brain behind one of the UK's most successful clubs, Manchester United, talks to MT about working with Alex Ferguson, staying focused, and going East, Far East.

by Rebecca Burn-Callander
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013

He's the foil to Ferguson's managerial brilliance, and one of the longest-standing CEOs in the business. Here, Manchester United boss David Gill takes time out to answer a few of MT's questions...

What’s the secret to your success?

In the mid nineties, the Club took the decision that in order to keep United ahead of the rest of the game on the pitch, similar efforts would have to be made off the pitch.  So we make a concerted effort to recruit the best candidates around for our back operations vacancies – whether they have a football background or not. I think you can see from the performance of the business, as well as that of the team, it has been very successful.

What challenges have you overcome as a business?

But I think that, as a club, we have been very good at focusing on our core business – football – and not being distracted by other opportunities that have arisen.  And we retain a very strong sense of our role to promote the wider interests of the game.

Which foreign markets were the most challenging to enter? And, which are the most straightforward?

All markets are difficult to enter if you don’t do your homework properly.  Top quality research has been the cornerstone of our recent worldwide commercial expansion. Clearly the Far East is a key market for us with such over half of our 333 million fans being based there.

But our supporters are important to us wherever they are based – from Stretford to Shanghai – even though the nature of the relationship we have with them differs greatly.

What advice would you give to those looking to expand into new international markets?

Do your homework and don’t underestimate the investment required if you are to sustain a relationship there.

Which territory has delivered the greatest success for Manchester United?

Old Trafford!

How have you transformed a local brand into a global powerhouse? 

I think it’s important to stress that the success of the Club is a team effort – by those on and off the pitch. Having a clear vision is essential. Success on the field and investment in the team and the stadium has been key of course.  As has the individual brilliance of the Manager, Sir Alex Ferguson and his ability to identify, develop and refresh talent.

Having seen great success in the Far East, what are the next markets that Manchester United is targeting?

As we like to stay one step ahead of our rivals, I’ll come back to that in two years, if I may!


David Gill is CEO of Manchester United. This interview appears courtesy of DHL Express, the official logistics partner of Manchester United

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