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Last Updated: Monday, 10 April 2006, 21:15 GMT 22:15 UK
Gill looks to keep United ball rolling
By Bill Wilson
BBC News business reporter

David Gill (left) with Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson
Gill (left) hopes to strengthen off-field to help fund Ferguson's team

In the past week Manchester United has been grabbing headlines on and off the pitch, as the team continues to chase Chelsea, and the club has announced two major ways to rake in further income.

After last week revealing it had secured a huge shirt sponsorship deal with US insurer AIG, it has now said that season ticket prices at Old Trafford will rise substantially for next season.

The Old Trafford outfit has confirmed increases ranging from 8.3% to 16.7%, with those in executive areas of the ground hardest hit.

Top price ticket at Old Trafford for season ticket holders will now cost 39, up 3, and the cheapest cost of entry increases to 23, up 2.

Meanwhile, the agreement with insurer American International Group (AIG) is worth 56.5m over four years.

However, chief executive David Gill has shown no signs of sitting back, as the club, which lost out on lucrative Champions League TV revenues this season, seeks to maximise its income streams.

Secondary rights

As well as needing cash to compete with the likes of Chelsea on the field of play, the club also has large debts as part of its legacy from the takeover by the Glazer family last year.

And Mr Gill revealed at the recent Soccerex conference in London that there were a number of areas where he believed the club can increase the profitability of its business.

His strategy includes utilising the sale of the club's Premier League highlights, which are available to buy for downloading on mobile from midnight the day after a game, and are also available for sale on the club's website.

We want to create a situation where a player will do an interview and all our platforms will use it
David Gill, Manchester United chief executive

"The appropriate live television rights will continue to be held by the FA and UEFA," says Mr Gill.

"But we seek to use the secondary rights we get back in the most appropriate way. They are put onto our MUTV station, and onto our mobile service.

"When we set up MUTV, that was set up in a very demarcated way. Now we have various platforms and have to look at ways of marketing what is compelling viewing."

He said that as well as the match highlights available through TV, phone and internet, the club was looking to produce more "unique content" that fans could see first on its website and TV station, including interviews with the managers and players.

Players with AIG boss
The club has signed lucrative new shirt sponsorship with AIG

"We want to give our fans around the world access to our unique assets, products and services," says Mr Gill.

He said the club's traditional media outlets, including magazines and match programmes, remained "very important", and that the club was trying to harmonise all its media outlets so that they shared content.

"We want to create a situation where a player will do an interview and all our platforms will use it," he says.

"We want to keep fans around the world, so we have to make sure the Manchester United message is there whenever, and however, they want it."

'Huge aspirations'

Despite United's experiences in Asia in 2005 and the US in 2004, when tours could only at best be called qualified successes, the club still feels it can still grow its fan base, and thus its revenues, around the world.

Mr Gill says the club is looking closely again at the US, particularly in the light of Chelsea signing a major link-up with AEG, the group that owns or operates the franchise for four clubs in the USA's Major League Soccer (MLS).

The talent coming out of Asia and Africa is only going to get greater, and we have got to get at it as soon as possible
David Gill

"Our business is a world-wide one, and of the US is an interesting market place," says Mr Gill.

"We went there in 2003 and were very successful, but less so in 2004 which may have been down to the timing being so close to Euro 2004.

"We have got American owners now... they have got huge aspirations in the US market.

"The question is how do we get in there? We have held meetings with MLS to see how they can get into market.

"You can't just go in and play the odd exhibition game, you have got to make a major impact."

Performance-linked contracts

Another way the club has tried to ensure financial stability has been in the balance between player wages and income, as United, like many clubs, try to reduce the amount of its revenues spent on superstar pay packets.

"It is getting the balance in terms of income, how much we can allocate to the assets - the players," says Mr Gill.

"It is not necessarily that their incomes are too high. Players wages are too fixed.

"Remuneration should be more linked to success."

He said at the club there was now a drive to get players onto more performance-linked deals.

"We are geared towards getting into the Champions League. A large part of all the contracts we have in place takes that into account."

'Overseas talent'

He said as the amount of money coming into the Premier League increased over the course of the first three Sky TV deals, then players and agents were aware of this and started asking for wage increases.

"However the last TV deal was down and we saw a lot more sense," says Mr Gill. "It was then about length of contract and security of contract."

Meanwhile, the club looks to go down the Arsene Wenger route and search worldwide for new young players that may not cost as much as European counterparts, and which can be developed over the years.

"The talent coming out of Asia and Africa is only going to get greater, and we have got to get at it as soon as possible," he says.

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