Dan Tilly joined the club in 2015 and advanced three years ago to become our Commercial Players Services Manager. He also recently directed our partnership project with Amazon for the All or Nothing series. Here he tells us about his role.
My job is primarily to bridge the relationship between our commercial requirements and the football department.
We have several days each month during which the players have to fulfill their contractual obligations, and I act as a mediator to ensure that each one works for the benefit of the club, the player and the partner, to the best of our ability.
For example, during the pre-season while you were on tour, the full team had to complete three afternoons for commercial and media access. These “club days” provide partners and media access to the men’s first team in an organized manner. So I make sure the players and staff know what’s going on, that they are made aware of any additional details they have to complete and that they are all in the right group, in the right places at the right time.
I’ll have spoken to them about this earlier, so I hope there will be no surprises that day. I do this with all commercial requirements throughout the season so every player knows what’s going on and is happy with it. This is 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 do more than their fair share of things apart from football. I’m also just trying to explain why we do what we do as a club, and the reasons behind their commercial backs.
It’s a relationship built on trust – it won’t work without it. We must respect their time because the players, like everyone else, want to go back to their homes and 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 candor and honesty.
And it works both ways. I’ve been doing this role for three years and it’s important to bring realism to it. If a player is behaving unreasonably, I will tell them that they are unreasonable. We have to accomplish certain things. We have to carry out our business commitments, we have to get our media work done – that’s part of being a professional.
All players know that deep down. It’s just about clarifying the details, explaining their purpose, so that the players fully understand the use of their time. I have to say that since I’ve been doing this work, this is the best group we’ve got to understand exactly why they’re required to use their time in this way.
It’s a young squad but they’re media savvy and they know that’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 think we have to expose them to difficult conversations sometimes. It’s easy to talk to the media after a good win, but when you lose, you still have to stand up. It’s about character building, too.
I work closely with the communications team on the media work the boys do, and we’re all working together to make sure every player is well represented. But every day is different, and I could handle absolutely anything from day to day.
“Having cameras in your personal space is different, and at first people were a bit nervous”
Every morning I’m on the training ground at the front desk, waiting for the boys to come in so I can talk to them about anything that might come up. For example, one day, new episodes of All Or Nothing were dropped on Amazon, so I was there to talk to them if they had any feedback on it, because I oversaw a lot of this project last season.
My role was to provide everything Amazon needed. Talks have linked Amazon to the football side. I’ve worked closely with Mikel, Edo and the football staff to deliver something we’ve all been proud of as a club and we’ve also worked with Amazon. There were some challenges of course, especially in the beginning, because we’ve always been special at Arsenal.
Nobody really knows what’s going on at a high-profile club. There are things in the media but a lot of it is just guesswork. Nobody really knows what’s going on behind closed doors, so having cameras come into your personal space is a different matter, and at first people were a little nervous. But two months later, they forgot the cameras were there, and the documentary tells the highs and lows of the season.
My role in the partnership was a kind of balance between protecting the players and also making sure that Amazon got the content they wanted.
We saw it as an opportunity to show off the work we do, and to highlight some of the wonderful individuals at the club. We are fortunate to work at such a wonderful club and had the opportunity to give an insight into what it is really like, and the pressures the players are going through. They should be on top of their game every weekend because if they aren’t, there are millions of people out there willing to tell you what went wrong!
The documentary shows the human side of it, and how cruel the season is, too. We hope that there is a good reaction to the series and that our fans can see its value, have a positive opinion of the program and understand more about what is going on inside the club.
We’ve seen supporters want access behind the scenes, so I think this aspect of our media work is only going to grow. It helps bring the club and the fans together, and it 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 cases of Covid and how our preparation was affected.
“When I pass the gates at Colney every morning I feel so privileged”
Aside from that, there are autograph sessions most days – we have requests for 3,500 signed shirts a year, so we have to keep up with that. Then I am available before training for any requirements the players may have. If they have a day off coming up, they might ask me to help spend days with their families – anything like that really.
A big part of my role is to make sure that in the lead up to match day, you don’t have to worry about anything but the game. They can just focus on football and other things are sorted.
My major this season also includes facing the women’s team, and given the summer women’s football I’ve enjoyed, it’s a really exciting place to be at the moment. It’s going to grow and grow, so I’m really looking forward to it. Ticket sales have been great this year, and of course the commercial side will grow a lot, with more partners joining, so the demands on players will only increase.
As a club, we need to give female players the same love and support we give male players. They have the same goals on the pitch that the men’s team does – winning titles – so our job is to help with that in any way we can.
I have spent seven years at the club, and when I pass through the gates of Colney every morning I feel very privileged. Wherever you are in the world you can always talk to people about Arsenal Football Club, which makes you very proud that it is your club.
So anything I can do to help, no matter how small, to try to make us successful on the pitch, I will, because it all comes back to the same thing. Every player, fan and employee wants the same thing – to see Arsenal succeed.
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