THE BIG INTERVIEW: Collette Roche, Chief Operating Officer, Manchester United
Regarded as one of the most powerful women in football, Collette Roche joined Manchester United in May 2018. In the following interview by IQPC/World Stadium Congress, we hear insights from Roche on how the club uses its iconic Old Trafford stadium to enhance the fan experience and increase revenues.
How are you ensuring you provide your fans with the best possible experience and best value for their money? Can you tell us more about your strategies in place to ensure the fans come in every week?
We are extremely fortunate at Manchester United to have a fantastic and loyal supporter base, which helps us to sell out almost every match played at Old Trafford. However, that’s not to say we rest on our laurels, and we are continually striving to enhance their experience on a matchday.
In terms of value for money, we are proud to have frozen Season Ticket prices for our 53,000+ general admission supporters for the past eight seasons, at a time when others in the industry have seen regular increases. We also offer a range of concessions, including a £10 per game Season Ticket for Under 16s in dedicated ‘Family’ areas, and between 50-60% discounts for some Under 18s and supporters aged 65+.
We are also firmly committed to improving the experience of our fans, a key part of which is maintaining the great atmosphere at Old Trafford. Next season we will be creating a dedicated section in the Stretford End for supporters to sit with like-minded fans actively participating and creating a consistently vibrant atmosphere. This follows the introduction, at the start 2018/19, of a £15 ticket for fans aged 18-25 in the lower Stretford End, helping younger fans to watch live, affordable football.
Such initiatives have helped see demand grow year-on-year, with Season Tickets consistently selling out in record time, and we now have more than 100,000 supporters on our waiting list.
There is a similar picture of high demand for our hospitality products, both seasonal (Executive Club) and match-by-match (Matchday VIP Experience). We seek to continually evolve and enhance our hospitality facilities at Old Trafford, to ensure we provide the best possible experience for guests. This summer, for example, two suites will undergo major refurbishments, offering brand new dining concepts for guests to enjoy on matchdays, whilst four other suites will also be upgraded.
Finally, it is important that we listen to our fans to ensure the experience is right for them. To this end, we conduct regular surveys with match-going fans throughout the year, and our Fans’ Forum provides the opportunity for a number of fans to meet with, and give feedback to senior Club officials. Topics covered at such meetings can range from the F&B provided at our kiosks, to how the club is ensuring the effective delivery of security measures.
When it comes to year round revenue generation, how do you ensure your stadium generates sustainable revenues? Have you adapted to new and different sources of revenue generations?
Matchday revenues account for 18% of our total revenue. As mentioned earlier, we consistently sell out our stadium for matches which, when combined with our extremely successful commercial model, and income from broadcasting, ensures that we are one of the highest revenue generating sports clubs in the world.
However, we also recognise that we are a year-round, iconic destination, and Old Trafford provides a number of other sources of income beyond matchdays. For example, our Museum & Stadium Tour attracts approximately 330,000 visitors per year, making it the most visited football club museum in the United Kingdom.
We also operate a successful conferencing and events business, our Red Café restaurant is open every non-matchday, and we host a number of other events, including the annual Rugby Super League Grand Final.
We are also proud to be hosting the Rugby League World Cup Finals for both the men’s and women’s competitions in 2021.
Stadiums are adopting smart technologies for analytics, security, experiences, marketing and sustainability. Where are you in your ‘smart/future’ stadium journey?
We have a long term vision to be a smart stadium. While we currently use technology to manage parts of our infrastructure and to analyse flows to and from the stadium to ensure efficient staffing and security measures are in place, there is more to do in terms of ‘digitalising’ Old Trafford.
Our journey will be a gradual one, because like our fans, whilst we recognise the benefits of modernisation, we also want to ensure we retain the tradition, purity and authentic atmosphere that Old Trafford is famous for on a match day.
How do you continuously engage with your huge fan base worldwide and how important is the role of the Theatre of Dreams for the same?
Throughout our 141-year history we have developed, we believe, one of the world’s most recognisable brands and we enjoy the support of a global community of 659 million followers. Our focus is on driving deep and meaningful engagement with our fans through our wide range of owned and operated products, across multiple platforms.
Whether it’s entertaining our passionate international fans at our #ILOVEUNITED live fan park events overseas, or providing exclusively produced original productions and content for fans to enjoy on our MUTV channel, we strive to continuously deliver engaging content to fans wherever they are in the world.
Whilst we think globally, we also strongly believe in the importance of delivering what’s right for the local audience, always placing our world class football club’s history, brand and values at the heart of everything we do.
The rapid shift of media consumption towards internet, mobile and social media platforms presents us with multiple growth opportunities, and we continue to evolve and adapt our offerings to meet the needs of our fan base. Ahead of the 2018/19 season, we launched our first free global mobile app, allowing fans to consume our content ‘on the go’ and in real time on phones and mobile devices. The app allows us to have a closer relationship with our fans, and provides them with a one stop shop for all things Manchester United. Since launch, we reached number one in the App Store’s sports category download charts in 92 markets around the world, top ten within the sports category in an additional 54 markets and currently have active users in over 220 global markets.
Social media is another pivotal tool for our fan engagement strategy, and we have a huge social footprint, including over 73 million connections on Facebook, over 27million followers on Instagram, and over 19million followers on Twitter. Our official YouTube channel passed 1 million subscribers within 6 months of launch, making it the fastest sports channel to reach this milestone in YouTube’s history, and as well as these global platforms, we also have a number of Manchester United branded presences on regional and language-specific platforms too.
Old Trafford, of course, plays a crucial role in engaging both our local and global fan base. It is one of the world’s most iconic sports venues. Millions of fans travel to Old Trafford every year, both young and old, and from every corner of the globe. We want every single visit to be memorable, so we strive to continuously evolve and improve the fan experience.
Collette Roche was one of a host of leading industry experts that took part in the World Stadium Congress conference and exhibition, held at the iconic Johan Cruijff ArenA in Amsterdam earlier this week, for which Sports Venue Business (SVB) was proud to be an Official Media Partner. We will be bringing you written and video interviews with a number of speakers and delegates over the coming weeks.
Huge thanks to IQPC/World Stadium Congress for allowing us to publish this exclusive and extremely insightful interview.