“WE COULDN’T EVEN AFFORD INK OR PAPER!” FORMER FOXES CEO MARKS 30-YEAR ANNIVERSARY
A Leicestershire businessman is marking 30 years since the revival in fortunes of Leicester City FC.
And the commercial and on-field strategies would set the foundations for The Foxes success today.
Barrie Pierpoint was Leicester City’s infamous CEO and first director of marketing, undertaking a nine-year tenure that saw the club’s turnover rise from £2m to £24m from April 1991 to January 2000.
In that time, events on the field, coinciding with the appointment of two of The Foxes most successful managers, Brian Little and Martin O’Neill, would see club reach the heady heights of the Premier League alongside two Football League Cup victories.
But it was matters off the pitch that nearly threatened to destabilise the football club from even existing.
“This was a miraculous time to be part of Leicester City’s history,” said Pierpoint.
“Of course everybody remembers the successful times, but what they may forget or not know is that the club was on the brink of financial disaster when I arrived.
“It was stuck in a perpetual cycle. Leicester had consistently made a loss on operations, so it was simply balancing the books each year by selling its best players like (Gary) Lineker and (Gary) McCallister to just about survive.
“It’s this mentality that had led to us nearly being relegated to the old division three, which would have spelt big, big trouble from an operational point of view.”
The inside story of Leicester’s rise to 90s glory is detailed in Pierpoint’s latest book, Minding My Own Football Business, in which he gives fans a fascinating glimpse into what life was really like behind the scenes.
“It was clear that, business wise, little had changed since the club’s inception in 1884 when the aim was purely to make enough money to field a team,” said Pierpoint.
“Catering was practically non-existent, except on match days, facilities, if you could call them that, were small, out-dated and under-utilised, while the poor quality merchandise was not popular with the fans or making any money.
“Things were so bad, that I had sneak in early one Saturday morning to print off some marketing flyers, as I was told I couldn’t use the photocopier because of the cost of ink, electricity and paper!
“It wasn’t all bad though, I could see that the club, as a business, was a real sleeping giant, and I was determined to bring it into the 21st century.”
In the book, Pierpoint goes on to discuss some of his most successful business ventures, including Family Night Football, an American-sports style approach to reserve team games that would draw the marketing attention of Premier League teams such as Liverpool and Manchester United.
He was also behind the introduction of Fox Leisure, the club’s leisurewear brand, which would deliver an annual turnover of almost £2m by the turn of the millennium.
And although Leicester City would later go on to receive a huge cash injection from the beloved Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, that would help catapult the club into even further stratospheric heights, Pierpoint believes the 90s remains a pivotal turning point in the club’s history.
“Vichai did some fabulous things for this club as well as the wider Leicester community,” added Pierpoint.
“He did things the right way, put the club and its fans first and get a manager on board who knows what he’s doing.
“I’d like to think that such a philosophy was fuelled in Leicester’s history and inspired by some truly excellent colleagues, players and managers that I worked with in my time at the club.”
Fans interested in hearing more about Leicester’s on and off the field success in the 90s can do so by picking up a copy of Minding My Own Football Business, which includes contributions from Leicester legends including Steve Walsh, Emile Heskey and Brian Little.
It currently has a 30% online-only offer, making the book just £10.50 for the entirety of April.
Proceeds from each book sale will go to raising vital funds for Rainbows Children’s Hospice in Loughborough.