#We March On

We march on

Promoting the brand of the city is playing a key part in Southampton Football Club's global vision - and Chairman Ralph Krueger is leading the conversation.

"Every time I speak about the club outside of Southampton, I am trying to build the brand - and those conversations are going on in North America and Europe on a regular basis.

"Its not just about Southampton Football Club - its about Southampton - we are Southampton. It's a powerful association with the city - and it is a brand we are committed to," stressed Ralph Krueger.

He is speaking from the £33m training ground that is the nerve centre for the football club.

If St Mary's Stadium is the stage where the drama on the pitch unfolds for the entertainment of fans, then the state-of-the art training facilities at Marchwood are where the hard work, sweat and tears of Premier League football is played out daily by the top flight players, the youth team starlets and the highly skilled staff.

A man with a presence that instantly puts you at ease, while at the same time keeping you on the edge of your seat, Mr Krueger has led from the front when it comes to defining what the cub stands for and the potential to grow the Southampton brand.

In years gone by it was the cruise ships registered in Southampton that took the name of the city across the globe - now that name is being transmitted throughout the world thanks to Southampton Football Club.

The club, owned by Katharina Leibherr and led by Ralph Krueger, has developed and distilled the essence of Southampton Football Club to form their manifesto - a key document born out of listening and brainstorming with those closest to the club, including its staff, and it is this document that clearly defines who they area.

"We are working in North America on new sponsorship opportunities and every time I sit down with a top executive, I begin with the manifesto.

"People can feel the passion - we are living it," said Ralph, whose eyes fix you with an intensity that reveals real warmth, with a steely resolve.

"There is huge international interest in the club - we have a province of Switzerland that wants to partner with us to improve tourist links and recently the German equivalent of BBC1 screened a special feature about our club."

Krueger is the man who guided Canada to ice hockey gold at the Winter Olympics. Born in Canada, he represented Germany at ice hockey and was head coach of Switzerland. He has a strong background in sports leadership and major league sports at all levels. He has used the skills of leadership, motivation and team-building to great effect in the world of business - advising senior management in large international corporations.

An active member of the World Economic Forum since 2009, it is his combined understanding of sport and business that made Ralph Krueger the right man to lead Southampton Football Club.

The North American market is one Mr Krueger is keen to develop. A recent NBC Sports documentary tells the story of The Southampton Way in a compelling narrative that reveals the core values of developing talent from within (and often with local lads) with a talented staff whose aim is to make Southampton Football Club a top flight player on a global stage.

"In American people think we are as big as Manchester United. They have no history of following English clubs and so have no preconceived ideas.

"North America is a logical link for us. I understand the market and it is the fastest growing and most valuable.

"Football is the fastest growing sport in the world and it is about exploring the intellectual brand and intellectual capital.

"The NBC Sports documentary could have been a Hollywood film plot - it talks about this 'small' club with a big heart and even bigger ambitions.

"We have invested in developing our players - Rickie Lambert was a great example of this, taking him from a League One player to an international playing for England.

"The documentary was an opportunity to tell American about the Southampton Way - our history, the challenges and triumphs - and our aspirations," he said.

One of the stars of the NBC film was undoubtedly Staplewood, the training facilities the club has investe in, on the outskirts of Southampton.

A great deal of thought and planning has also gone into the Markus Liebherr Pavilion to ensure the best possible results.

It is clear nothing has been left to chance. The psychology behind the corridor that contains the Under-18s facilities at one end and first team changing room at the other illustrates the attention to detail. They want the young talent coming through the club to set their sites on the first team door along the corridor.

At the heart of the building is the intriguing 'Black Box'- a room where matches and prospective players are analysed using the latest gadgetry and a giant video screen that wouldn't look our of place in a James Bond film.

As a fundamental part of the city, Southampton Football Club is also backing plans that will help to create better links between the stadium and the rest of the city.

A new Master Plan for the Itchen Riverside VIP project is set to transform the environment surrounding the St Mary's Stadium in the coming years to make it a destination in its own right.

"Itchen Riverside VIP is a critical development area for the city and we are wholeheartedly supportive of this Master Plan initiative.

"Anything that improves access to the waterfront has to be welcomed - and this is a major opportunity to reconnect the riverside to the rest of the city centre," enthused Ralph.

"We want to actively support ideas that can bring this area around the stadium to life.

"When I go running along the riverside across the Itchen Bridge to Weston shore, I find it fascinating and there really is so much untapped potential here."

Over the past year the club has been working tirelessly with other businesses to develop new partnerships and to steer the city into a strong position which can be a hotbed of activity for its residents and tourists. Ralph added: "We're all playing a part in this. Just like the football club, there is a lot of potential in Southampton that can be turned into excellence.

"We are proud to be carrying the flag for Southampton as a city out into the world and we feel the responsibility of that," he said.

MANIFESTO

Thousands of pieces of information were gathered from insiders and staff at the club through brainstorming sessions as well as fans, in a bid to capture what the club stood for and define how it should present itself to a wider world.

"All that information has been transformed into 'the Southampton Way' and that's the way we want to operate. We have identified our values and what's important to us and that has made it easier for us to translate that message outside the club.

"The process, which included working with fans, has helped us reconnect with them and the city - you could say we had drifted away from both, to a certain extent.

"But the manifesto has focused us and made us feel part of Southampton," explained Ralph.

MOVING ON UP

In recent times, the fortunes of Southampton have seen the team evolve through League One, the Championship and into the Premier League to a position where they qualified for the Europa league.

Endearingly - or infuriatingly depending on your viewpoint - the path for Southampton Football Club has never been straightforward. Indeed when former manager Mauricio Pochettino went to Tottenham and five star players were sold before the start of the last season, there were some who questioned how the club could stay on course, but the management team stayed calm under pressure.

When Southampton City Council's Chief Executive, Dawn Baxendale, speaks on a national stage, she loves to use this example of how the club has turned its fortunes around as a metaphor for the character and resilience of the city as a whole.

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