Dan Tilley joined the club in 2015 and three years ago progressed to become our commercial player services manager. He also recently project-managed our partnership with Amazon for the All or Nothing series. Here he tells us about his role.
Essentially my job is to bridge the relationship between our commercial requirements and the football department.
We have several days each month on which players have to fulfil contractual obligations, and I act as a go-between to ensure each one works to benefit the club, the player and the partner, as best as we can.
For example, during pre-season while away on tour the full squad had to complete three commercial and media access afternoons. These “club days” provide partners and media access to the men’s first team in a structured way. So I make sure the players and staff know what’s going on, that they are briefed about any extra details they have to complete and that they are all in the right kit, in the right places at the right time.
I will have spoken to them about it beforehand, so hopefully there are no surprises on the day. I do that with all commercial requirements throughout the season so that each player knows what’s going on and is happy with it. That’s the point at which we can discuss any questions they might have about things.
A big part of the job is also managing the workload so that none of our players are doing more than their fair share of stuff away from the football. Also I just try to explain why we’re doing what we’re doing as a club, and the reasoning behind their commercial appearances.
It’s a relationship built on trust – it wouldn’t work without that. We have to be respectful of their time because, like anyone, players want to get home to their families. If we need 60 minutes of their time, that’s what we tell them. If we need 62 minutes, we’ll tell them it’s 62. It’s about being upfront and honest.
And it works both ways. I’ve been doing this role for three years and it’s important to bring realism to it. If the player is being unreasonable, I’ll tell them they are being unreasonable. We have to get certain things done. We have to get our commercial obligations done, we have to get our media work done – it’s part of being a professional.
Deep down the players all know that. It’s just about articulating the details, explaining the purpose of it, so that the players fully understand the use of their time. I have to say that since I’ve been doing this job, this is the best group we’ve had for understanding exactly why we ask them to use their time in this way.
It’s a young squad but they are media savvy and they know it’s part of the job too, to help promote the club and to have great relationships with our partners.
As a club we have a responsibility to protect the player from certain situations, but at the same time I believe we should be exposing them to difficult conversations sometimes. It’s easy to speak to the media after a good win, but when you’ve lost you still need to stand up. It’s about building character too.
I work closely with the communications team on the media work the lads do, and we all work together to make sure that each player is well represented. But every day is different, and I could be dealing with absolutely anything from one day to another.
"Having the cameras come into your personal space is different, and at the start people were a bit nervous"
Each morning I’m at the training ground in reception, waiting for the boys to come in so I can speak to them about anything that might have cropped up. For example, the other day the new episodes of All Or Nothing dropped on Amazon, so I was there to speak to them if they had any comments on it, because I oversaw much of that project last season.
My role was to deliver everything that Amazon needed. I bridged the conversations between Amazon and the football side. I worked closely with Mikel, Edu and the football staff to deliver something we were all proud of as a club and that worked for Amazon too. There were a few challenges of course, especially at the beginning, because we’ve always been pretty private at Arsenal.
Nobody really knows what happens at a top-level club. There’s stuff in the media but a lot of that is guesswork. Nobody really knows what happens behind closed doors, so having the cameras come into your personal space is different, and at the start people were a bit nervous. But after a couple of months they forgot the cameras were there, and the documentary tells of the highs and the lows of a season.
My role in the partnership was a bit of a balancing act between protecting the players but also making sure Amazon got the content they wanted.
We saw it as an opportunity to show the work we do, and highlight some of the fantastic individuals at the club. We’re lucky to work at such an amazing club and we had a chance to give an insight as to what it’s actually like, and the stresses that the players go through. They have to be at the top of their game every single weekend because, if they’re not, there are millions of people ready to tell you what went wrong!
The documentary shows the human side of it, and how relentless the season is as well. Hopefully the reaction to the series is good and our supporters can see the value of it, and have a positive opinion of the programme, and understand more about what goes on inside the club.
We’ve seen that supporters want behind-the-scenes access, so I think that side of our media work is only going to grow. It helps bring the club and supporters together, and also gives some context to things that happen during the season – for example the Brentford game at the start of last season, when we had positive Covid cases and how our preparation was affected.
"When I come through the gates at Colney each morning I feel so privileged"
Apart from that, most days there are signing sessions – we have requests for 3,500 signed shirts a year, so we have to keep on top of that. Then I’m around before training for any requirements the players might have. If they’ve got a day off coming up, they might ask me to help out with days out with their families – anything like that really.
Basically a lot of my role is making sure that in the run-up to matchday the players don’t have to worry about anything but the game. They can just focus on the football and other things are sorted.
This season my remit also includes taking on the women’s team, and given the summer women’s football enjoyed it’s a really exciting place to be at the moment. It’s just going to grow and grow, so I’m really looking forward to that. The ticket sales have been fantastic this year, and of course the commercial side will grow a lot, with more partners coming on board, so demands on the players will only increase.
As a club we need to give the women players the same love and support that we give the men’s players. They have the same aims on the pitch that the men’s team do – to win silverware – so it’s our job to help that in whatever way we can.
I’ve been at the club for seven years, and when I come through the gates at Colney each morning I feel so privileged. Wherever you go in the world, you can always talk to people about Arsenal Football Club, and it takes you so proud that it’s your club.
So anything I can do to help, however small it be, to try to get us to be successful on the pitch then I will do it, because it all comes down to same thing. Every player, fan, employee all wants the same thing – to see Arsenal be successful.
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