CASH-STRAPPED Wrexham Football Club must find new ways to market itself if it is to escape its financial difficulties and transform itself into a successful business, says a leading figure from the Premiership.
Birmingham City FC managing director Karren Brady said the Welsh club - which has suffered from low home attendances and cashflow problems - needed new marketing initiatives to attract people through the turnstiles and increase its customer base.
She suggested direct mail, use of local newspapers, getting the community involved and getting the players out into the local community might all play a part in getting more paying customers to the Racecourse.
"It takes a lot of sheer, hard work. The glamorous part of football is the buying and selling of players, but the important part is running it as a business and that is much less glamorous," she said.
She said one thing that successful clubs had in common was that the players, the management and the shareholders were all pulling in the same direction.
Manchester United's poor season, she suggested, was due in part to Sir Alex Ferguson allowing problems with a major shareholder to spill out of the boardroom and affect the team's performance on the field.
Dubbed the First Lady of Football, Ms Brady was top speaker at the Wrexham Business Forum event held at Bangor-on-Dee Racecourse as part of the town's Science Festival.
When asked how the enormous salaries of top players could be justified she replied they were dictated by "market forces".
She said: "There are lots of football clubs in this country which have wage bills greater than their turnover."
Ms Brady took over as MD at Birmingham in 1993 at a time when the club was close to liquidation. She turned the business around, made it profitable and saw it float on the Alternative Investment Market.
The club's commercial activities have diversified into merchandising, financial services and media alongside its core sporting activities.
"It is a well run club with a £36m turnover and a profit of nearly £4m, surprisingly good for a small business," she told the Business Forum.
"Our philosophy is that everyone has to do everything to make the club successful. Over the years we have been building a brand name for Birmingham
"Our job as a management team is to convert people who say they are supporters into customers."
The club now attracts 30,000 to home games - as opposed to just a fifth of that when she took over - and the club makes the most of the marketing opportunities at each match.
She said leadership, ambition, determination, attitude, direction, courage and a positive outlook were all key ingredients of her - and the club's - success.
Points from the forum
* MANAGING director of Tywyn-based nutritional snack bar manufacturer Halo Foods Peter Saunders paid tribute to the workforce's contribution to the creation of one of the most successful businesses in North West Wales.
He said the workers had shown faith in him when a decade ago he broke the news that former owner Nestle had proposed selling or closing the factory. Mr Saunders said he harnessed that spirit to buy back the business and turn it into a successful operation.
* FIRMS shouldn't use lack of public sector support or a shortage of suitable training as excuses for failing to boost the capabilities of their managers. Wales Management Council chief executive Christopher Ward said they should put pressure on the public sector and learning providers to deliver support.
* THE importance of making best use of assets was emphasised by Philip Hughes, estate manager at Rhug Organic Farm, Corwen. Diversification had seen a retail shop opened selling estate produce, forestry land opened up for rally cars and rivers used by canoeists and anglers.