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Grounds for optimism in the story of sold Trafford

These days he is in charge of an organisation that employs James Anderson, one of the world's greatest wicket-takers, but it all started for Daniel Gidney among some very different types of bowlers a couple of hundred miles north in Scotland's central belt.

Daniel Gidney, who cut his teeth at the Hollywood Bowl in Cumbernauld, has built a model for sports administrators to follow with the rebranding of Emirates Old Trafford. Picture: Simon Pendrigh
Daniel Gidney, who cut his teeth at the Hollywood Bowl in Cumbernauld, has built a model for sports administrators to follow with the rebranding of Emirates Old Trafford. Picture: Simon Pendrigh

Among his first jobs after leaving university in the 90s was as area manager for Hollywood Bowl, looking after ten-pin alleys in Cumbernauld, Finnieston and Stirling, and he looks back on that time with considerable fondness.

"Some of my favourite days were at the Hollywood Bowl in Cumbernauld which at that time was the nicest bar in the town to drink in on a Saturday night, so we had more people drinking there than going ten-pin bowling," he says, grinning broadly at the memory.

"I loved my time in Scotland."

A switch from what was then a small private company to the corporate world of the group that has now morphed into Live Nation, the world's biggest concert promoter, before a spell with Sodexo preceded a first move into stadium management.

Six years as chief executive at Coventry's Ricoh Arena - during which he oversaw the creation of a £10m conference and events centre - established the reputation that resulted in his appointment last year as chief executive of Lancashire County Cricket Club.

He took over an organisation that was trying to rebuild an image that had been badly damaged by the shock announcement that it had lost what was previously considered an automatic right to stage Ashes Tests in 2009, and did so at a key moment.

The club had taken on board the message received when the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) had effectively rebuked Lancashire for its complacency in failing to invest properly in its ground while other ambitious counties had done so.

A £45m redevelopment that has transformed its look was completed with the re-opening of the pavilion - classical Victorian facade retained but completely overhauled internally - last June, just weeks ahead of the Ashes return, which was deemed a success. The club had meanwhile recruited a board packed with people who are passionate about Lancashire and including great former players, but also boasting vast business knowhow.

Partnerships had meanwhile been cultivated with the public and private sectors, as well as the local community, in order to ensure that all energies were being directed towards the cause. Gidney, originally from Birmingham, was then brought in to help maximise their capacity to capitalise fully on that.

"When I first came in a couple of people said I seemed to be focusing on the conferencing and event side rather than the cricket. I told them I was focusing on that because I needed to be able to pay for the cricket," he explained.

"There is a buzz around the place the whole time now. The Ashes was a real profit generator for us. We delivered on our plan and maximised the profit available from the Ashes."

Yet, he knows that they cannot live off occasional big events. "We've recognised that the earliest we've got another Ashes is 2019, so we've got to get our business to a point where aspirationally we cover our fixed costs through our non-cricket revenues," Gidney pointed out.

"Sports clubs traditionally might have 30 or 40 days of revenue but 365 days of costs, so we've got the elite sports, we've got the community angle to manage, but we've also got to run a business that can pay for it all."

The completion of a deal to rename the 150-year-old stadium - which significantly pre-dates Manchester United's neighbouring home ground - to Emirates Old Trafford the month after Gidney took on his new post was, he believes, a key moment in the transformation of the venue into a multi-purpose hub.

Thereafter the completion of the rebuild of the pavilion - one of the sport's most famous landmarks - and then the staging of a first Ashes Test for eight years, bolstered both pride and confidence.

"In the last 12 months our conferencing and events have grown by 25% and at the end of last year Marketing Manchester gave us their award for the best business tourism venture in the city. We're also up against Manchester City, Manchester United and Manchester Central, some big names, so winning that here was tough," said Gidney.

Indeed, such is their growing confidence in their brand that rather than merely be among the attractions in their city, the club is now ready to take a lead in promoting the area as a whole.

"Our team's going to an international trade show with Visit England in Frankfurt next week. We've never done that type of thing as a club before and we're selling Trafford and Manchester by selling Emirates Old Trafford," he said.

As Gidney acknowledges it is a hugely competitive sporting era on and off the field of play, but as an example of learning how to sweat assets it seems the lessons learned from his days of helping turn a bowling alley into Cumbernauld's liveliest night-spot have been put to exemplary use.

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