Ridley keen to forge links with local businesses

Plus chairman’s views on FC Gabala friendly

NEW St Albans City chairman Ian Ridley says he is keen to work with local businesses to build a relationship with them that is fruitful for both parties.

One of the biggest successes Ridley had whilst chairman at Weymouth was to increase commercial activity at the Dorset club and the new City chief believes that can be replicated at Clarence Park.

“Absolutely there are things that work well at any non-league football club,” Ridley told the Herts Advertiser.

“Certainly commercial activities and sponsorship matters we’re going to try and implement some of the things we did at Weymouth. My first year at Weymouth I had a very good commercial manager there who bought into the whole plan and we got lots of new sponsorship from local companies.”

Ridley believes one of the mistakes football clubs make when looking for sponsorship is going begging for money and not discussing how the club can make it worthwhile for the businesses prepared to put money in. In his role as chairman at Clarence Park Ridley will have responsibility for the club’s commercial activity and he says he will be talking with businesses to see how the partnership can be beneficial to both parties.

“Too many football clubs go to local businesses and say ‘we need your money, please give us your money’,” he said.

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“Now we’re not going to do that. What we’re going to do is try and work with local companies to see how the football club can benefit their company. They can get some kudos from it, they can get some business from it which is the most important thing and find out how St Albans City can help them through our fanbase develop their company and in return they become part of the family at St Albans City Football Club.

“That was very much what I tried to do at Weymouth and it worked very well. I’ll try and repeat that here.”

Ridley and new owners Lawrence Levy and John McGowan met with the club’s supporters for the first time at last Friday’s fans forum in a packed clubhouse and Ridley says the event proved that there are people in the city willing to support the new regime at Clarence Park.

“It was all very positive and it shows that people are waiting for something to take off,” he said. “We’ve got a great reservoir of support and it shows they are willing to get behind us but talk is cheap and we’ve got to give them something to get excited about.”

* City have announced that they have provisionally agreed for Azerbaijan Unibank Premier League side FC Gabala to play a pre-season friendly at Clarence Park.

The Azerbaijani side are managed by former Arsenal and England captain Tony Adams and are pencilled in for a visit to the Park on Sunday, July 24.

Adams is bringing his side to England for a pre-season tour in late July and has agreed to field a strong side for the game with the Saints. Familiar faces in the FC Gabala squad include former Manchester United youngster Terry Cooke and ex-Derby County striker Deon Burton.

“I’ve known Tony for a long time and I’ve written his book (Addicted),” explained Ridley.

“We met for coffee a few weeks ago and he mentioned he was bringing the team over for a 10-day tour of England so I said why not come along for a friendly and he agreed.

“Tony has been out there for a year and he’s been handed a project to build the side up. They are a small provincial side battling against the big clubs from the capital, Baku, and they’ve had a good season; I think they’ve kept a record number of clean sheets.”

Ridley hopes the fixture will prove attractive to not only Saints fan but also Arsenal fans and the Saints chairman believes the visitors will prove a challenging test for City.

“They’ll be a good side; they’re about Championship level and I know Tony’s been recruiting around Europe this summer,” added Ridley.

“Everyone knows Tony Adams and we hope his presence alone will bring a few people along, hopefully some Gooners as well as City fans.”