On the 12th of March 2014, Southampton made the surprising decision to appoint Canadian-born German Ralph Krueger as the Chairman of their football club. Krueger has forged a career in Ice Hockey up until now, but has decided to switch sports, and is taking on a crucial role at a club that not long back were languishing in League 1.
Ralph Krueger spent over a decade coaching the men’s Swiss national Ice Hockey team, and then went onto coach the Edmonton Oilers in 2012-2013. His success attracted the Canadian Hockey Association and he was added as a special adviser to the national team for the 2014 winter Olympics in Sochi, a competition in which they were victorious.
He is undoubtedly a winner and a successful sports coach and figure, but all sports bare contrasting styles, and football, is perhaps the most cut throat of the lot. He intends to capitalise on the Southampton Football Club brand by expanding their reputation on a global scale, Krueger had this to say “The Number one growing sport in America and Canada is football…Not American football. Soccer is booming and there is an opportunity there for us because the Premier League is by far the most respected league in the world, so we have an opportunity for growth so let’s find opportunities to expand.” He referred to the super bowl and its staging at Wembley and how successful that has proved to be. Until now European ties and pre-season friendlies are the only matches that are played outside of Great Britain, and the Premier League has proved an enormous success since its inception. Maybe his idea of modern football is a bit too ambitious, as always less is more, and he should focus on Southampton, as opposed to the set-up of the Premier League.
He is attempting to tap into locations that have served him so well over the years. I agree football has a lot more to offer to the big two on the other side of the Atlantic, and with the help of players like Beckham, Henry, Keane and now Defoe football is on the up, but Ralph Krueger needs to rein it in, and think about those possibilities, when the FA and the other 19 clubs are on board. I do agree that brand expansion abroad is a majorly beneficial. Lots of clubs now are exploiting the Asian market and attracting large fan bases, which inevitably increases profits, but to suggest that Premier League matches should be played abroad, is ludicrous.
Not all of his ideas are outlandish however. He intends to improve communications between the fans and the club, by creating new platforms and therefore more possibilities to engage, a point that got the seal of approval from Saints legend Matt Le Tissier. With the ferocious rise of social media, fans are becoming more and more involved with their teams, and I agree with Krueger that if it possible to interact with your fans, then it becomes beneficial for both parties.
However, let’s not forget that Southampton are only in their second year of Premier League football since gaining promotion back in the 2011-2012 campaign, in the years before they had had an astronomical fall which included relegation under Harry Redknapp back in 2005. Even with the instant success since regaining their place alongside the elite, they need stability, and appointing someone with no previous experience in a football, and to give him a role that holds so much responsibility, may prove to be costly.
Also, this is not the first time Southampton have made an suspect acquisition to their board. It is hard to forget the bemusing case of Sir Clive Woodward. In 2005 they appointed the former England World Cup winning Rugby coach as their performance director. He too held no training or experience, and he did not last very long!
Ralph Krueger’s biggest challenge will be holding onto star players Adam Lallana and Luke Shaw in the summer, as well as fixing the Osvaldo debacle, hopefully by just moving him on. Southampton have great quality and funding to match, and even with the recent Nicola Cortese fiasco, Krueger is walking into a massive club steeped in history, but the bigger the club, the more there is to lose. If he is to do one thing, it would be to ensure the success of the academy continues, the likes of Bale, Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain have risen through their infamous set up. Throughout the turbulence over the years it has remained an ever presence and Krueger should bare that in mind.
Maybe Southampton would have been better in ensuring stability, by appointing someone with more knowledge in the game, a safer bet perhaps. However, they have decided to take a chance, and only time will tell if the Ralph Krueger revolution will be viable. There needs to be no drastic changes, instead Krueger needs to learn about the game and the club, and tie down a young talented manager in Pochettino to a long term contract.
To hear more from Ralph follow this link to the BBC.