Chief executive Ron Gourlay was with the squad for its tour of America over the past fortnight. At the conclusion of the trip, he looked back with the official Chelsea website…
How do you reflect on a hectic couple of weeks?
Overall I think everything came together well. It is always difficult when you are planning four different cities in two weeks, but everything came together and while one or two people felt the performances weren’t great it’s more about getting the team together and the fitness levels up. I am sure the results will follow, so overall, a very, very good trip.
Once again there has been a lot of involvement and activity around supporters and the local communities…
One of the key things for Chelsea Football Club now is the interaction with our fan base around the world. CSR is important to us and every market we go into, we ensure we are working with the local community.
In America this is done at grass roots levels through coaching and with the Super Club network, and also at the stadiums with fan areas which went down exceptionally well, most notably in New York and Miami, where there was a fantastic turnout. From that point of view we hit all our objectives. What was an eye-opener was seeing our fans fill Yankee Stadium and really turn out for us in Miami. It shows how far the club has come in the last few years.
What is next in America for Chelsea?
In America we have to continue our work. It is an important market for us and we need to keep building awareness of the club. The US and South America are huge for us, and you may see us venture into Canada next time we visit. It’s a market we need to get the team into, and we’d like to get Canada and perhaps a South American leg on our next visit, so we could be looking at three countries rather than four cities next time around.
Is the plan still to visit Asia in 2013?
That’s the plan. We are still working on it at this time. It’s likely to be a three-country tour and I’m looking to announce it in September this year to give us time to work on our Blue Pitch projects which will continue as part of our Here To Play, Here To Stay campaign. The youth team is currently in Asia as part of that commitment, and drew 7,500 to their first game in Bangkok. Next year we will be looking at China, Thailand and maybe one other country.
Just how impressed were you by the facilities in America this summer?
The one thing about the States is that you are guaranteed first-class facilities wherever you go. They are all superb, and every bit as good as each other. That is key in preparing ourselves for next season.
The NFL facilities are superb, and it’s something Asia is working towards and improving year on year. It’s critical to get the facilities, the opposition, and the stadium right for the matches. Once we have done that we can think about building awareness further.
You mentioned the team’s performances earlier. Where is improvement needed before we kick off the campaign?
It’s a question better aimed at Robbie, but we need to understand that this is pre-season training and we have been getting ourselves ready against teams who are midway through their seasons in Seattle Sounders and the MLS All-Stars, whereas we are just getting there.
We’ve had players filtering back into the team, some guys have been with the squad a few days, others only just over a week, so it is very difficult to get things right immediately. People expect us to win every game we play, but it can’t always be like that, and in pre-season we have other measures, such as the intensity of training which has been very, very good.
Results will come, of course the fans always like to see us win, even in pre-season, but more important is that we are ready for the Community Shield and the start of the Barclays Premier League a week later when we play Wigan.
And finally, what is the latest news on the transfer front?
The situation is that we are still looking to potentially strengthen the side. The manager feels there are maybe one or two areas where we may need to strengthen but that will only happen if we find the right personnel to bring in.
We are already very strong and have a big squad, but if we feel there are players out there who can strengthen the side in the right position, we will continue to do so but it has to be the right player at the right cost, because both these things are very important. However, if we have to go with the pool we have now then we are in a very strong position going into the season.