Before the Swansea City match No Nay Never sat down with chief executive Lee Hoos and chief operating officer David Baldwin. The full interview is available on our podcast.
On the club shop
Baldwin: “I have a meeting with three ecommerce suppliers over the next month and I will be presenting at the next board meeting what my proposal is in terms of how to improve [the online shop]. As a measuring stick, we were operating at under 10% ecommerce sales in November, we achieved in December, 18% of sales through ecommerce. We’re still riding above 15%. The average is between 15% and 20%.
“Most people who are making transactional purchases now are moving to mobile from desktop. If you go on to the mobile version [of the online shop], it’s a cleaner thing. It’s got a similar look to Amazon. It’s still not what we’re looking for. The focus was, do we prettify the desktop, which is the dying part of ecommerce, or do we focus on actually having a mobile-optimised site?”
Baldwin admitted that the link between how categories are kept on the online shop and the physical store still needs to be improved.
“On the mobile-optimised site it’s just got a simple search button and it’s got four categories: leisure wear, replica, training wear and accessories.”
January was obviously a disappointing window for Burnley, so we asked how the process works at the club and what went wrong.
Hoos: “Process-wise, how it works is that the manager says ‘I’m looking for this position’, the recruitment department says ‘here are the players we have on the radar’, and then Dyche goes ‘like him, don’t like him, like him, don’t like him’. The manager then says, ‘let’s try to get these guys in’, then I try to get the deal over the line.
“The problem is it takes two, three people to make a deal happen: us, the selling club and the player. So three different deals have to come to light. Now, [January] was an extraordinary window this time.
“When I was at Fulham, there was a photo of Claudio Reyna holding a shirt with a big smile on his face. We had agreed a deal with Sunderland, we had agreed the personal terms with him, he had done his medical and we were just waiting for the scans to come back. Then I hear from his agent and he says ‘I’ve got to get back to you, Sunderland are playing silly games regarding the balance of the signing-on fee’. Ten minutes later I get a phone call from another agent – ‘Have you signed Reyna yet? He’s on his way to Man City.’ So until everything is signed off, it’s never done.
“Now on the other side of that, I’ve had it where Brian McBride was on his way to Blackburn until he landed in London and I gazumped the deal. So until the deal is actually done, and I can tell you now, we had two deals agreed [in January]. Personal terms and terms with the club as well. One of them was actually here to start the medical when the manager got a call and was told he had to send him back because there were problems at their end.
“So to make a deal happen, you’ve got to keep the player engaged and keep the agent engaged and let’s see if we can finagle this another way. Is it a cash issue, is it a financial issue? Do we need to rejig the deal with the club?
“At the end of the day, the club wouldn’t do it and after an hour I said, ‘Sean, this isn’t moving, what do we do’ and he said, ‘well, we’ve got to send him back’, because the player is under contract to that club and there’s nothing we can actually do.
“Second player as well – the deal was in place in the morning [of deadline day] but in the afternoon, then it was like, ‘sorry, we can’t do it’. What do you mean? You said this was the valuation of the player, we’ve met it. They said, ‘we’ve talked to the manager and he’s not happy and we have to back the manager so we won’t go through with the deal now’.
“There was one that actually came down to the wire but it was contingent on them bringing in another player, but they were clear on that one, and when their deal collapsed I knew there was no way that deal was going to happen.”
We asked who sets the valuation of the players and Hoos told us he has “parameters” to work with.
Hoos: “There’s two things. If we go out and we buy a £15m player and we bring him in, then the £15m player has a £15m players’ wage attached to him, and if someone is making triple the amount of everyone else…
“Sean is very sensible about things but he does not call the shots in terms of saying what number. If the board said, ‘if you want this player, you can have him’ then yeah, he would do it. Sean is consulted [about player valuations], but we have to work with the principles and the parameters of what we’re trying to do.
“When we go fishing for players, what we’re looking for is players who are going to fit in with those parameters.”
Baldwin: “You don’t have the board identifying players. You don’t have the chief executive identifying players. You’ve got the manager and his recruitment department deciding the type of player they want to bring in that fits in with the group. They do their homework on that, they know what he can play like, what his attributes are, what his development capability is within the group.
“That department, whether that is the recruitment department or the manager, will then come to the board, including the chief executive, and say, ‘This is the candidate that we have identified, that we want in our building’. The process is that the financials then start, generally with the chief executive and the player’s agent and the other club if it involves a player who is under contract. All that dialogue comes together to determine how much does it cost to buy the player, how much does he cost to pay, what are his demands in terms of term. At that point, the chief executive has got it teed up in a domino effect and right, bang bang bang, it’s all ready, and then you’ll go back and have a dialogue with the manager and say, ‘this is where we’re at now’.
“What you’ve then got to do is to re-engage with the football department and the medical provision, they want to make sure that he meets the criteria. Now, if the manager has got an issue with anything that’s happened in phase two, that’s the fiscal side of it, then he will voice that. If he hasn’t got an issue, then you’ve got it. That’s where open dialogue happens. There’s not any miscommunication.
“What then happens is that the player will have a medical and the football department will make an assessment and depending on the information that comes out of that, the determination will be, do you then progress to the next stage.”
We then talked about a couple of notable deals that fell through, for instance Charlie Austin to Hull because of his knee and George Boyd’s move to Forest because of his eyes.
Hoos: “George Boyd is a great example because we heard he was available then moved very quickly.”
Next up was a question about overseas scouting. It’s clear developments are happening in this area at Turf Moor as since we spoke to Hoos and Baldwin, Burnley have completed the signing of Norwegian midfielder Fredrik Ulvestad.
We pointed out that our record with overseas signings has not been the best over the last few years.
Hoos: “The reason for that is foreign players are treated like domestic players – like, ‘here you go, sign the contract, congratulations, welcome to Burnley, good luck with everything’.
“Foreign players need a lot more TLC. They need to be integrated, they need to be told what they’re doing, you know, how things work, all the things they don’t understand.
“I think we’ve now got an infrastructure set up where we can do that. But the biggest thing is, scouting is about time. That’s what it’s about, because you’re not going to go out and sign somebody on the basis of just one performance and Sean is great because he wants to know chapter and verse about players he is signing.
“Now that’s come about as like, well he doesn’t like foreign players. No no no. It means that getting the intel about foreign players is helluva lot more difficult than with domestic players. It takes more time to do it.”
We pointed out that you hear stories about players being signed off the back of YouTube clips.
Hoos: “That is not how our recruitment department works. We do something called technical scouting, which is very statistical but that is only used as a tool to identify the players we are going to look at.”
Hoos explained that there are currently 24 scouts working with the club and they will often try to watch multiple games a day, especially if they are working abroad.
We asked what the club has learned from the last couple of transfer windows in the Premier League.
Hoos: “Now that’s a funny one, because the media crack me up in this country. Some of the headlines – Manchester United batter Burnley 3-1 – and you wonder if they were at the same game.”
Hoos said one newspaper had quoted him as saying the transfer window had been “a real eye-opener”.
“I sat down and I thought, well actually this was my 29th transfer window actively dealing with players and transfers and ins and outs and I thought, do they think that for the previous 28 transfer windows I’ve just been sitting there and then BAM, what’s happening here?
“So I knew what to expect. There’s certain principles that you abide by and everyone always says the same thing – well, why don’t you start earlier? Well, actually we did. We went out and we signed Michael Keane as soon as we were able to do that.”
Keane’s move was confirmed January 8th – a week after the transfer window opened.
Hoos: “A lot of the other ones, you can’t get it done until somebody else moves. The manager and I grabbed a bite last night and I asked him if there was anybody else who moved in the transfer window who we missed out on, that you think we should have had. And he said no, so that’s kind of a tell-tale sign.
“It normally takes a move somewhere to make something else happen. So somebody moves and then somebody else suddenly becomes available and then somebody else becomes available and it becomes that domino effect. But that window never really got rolling this year.”
We asked Hoos what his immediate thoughts were when Dean Marney got injured days after the club had failed to sign a central midfielder as cover during the January transfer window.
“Well I was disappointed, as anyone would be. Nobody would have been more disappointed than the people in here and the manager and Dean himself because he had been doing very well.
“But it’s the same thing the manager always says, ‘Look, this is an opportunity for somebody else’. And so Scotty Arfield has moved in and boom, he’s done really, really well.”
Part three of this interview will be published in the coming days, or you can listen to it all now on our podcast. You can read the first part here.