The transfer window is shut, the summer business is done and once the players are back from the international break, the season really starts. But we move back in time to just after Christmas when it was announced that Shahid Khan had invested in a ‘Chief Football Officer.’ Khan, a man whose ownership has been about trusting others with enough rope to succeed or to hang themselves with, lifted the pressure on CEO Alistair Mackintosh with appointment of Mike Rigg to take charge of the footballing side of club. This move frees the aforementioned Mackintosh to concentrate more on the business side and growing of Fulham FC as an entity, with Rigg growing it as a football club.
Mike Rigg came to Fulham with an impressive CV, notably coming from the FA as the Head of Talent Management as part of a team looking to reshape English football; and prior to that being the Head of Recruitment for Manchester City as they looked to quickly transform from any old Premier League team to title contenders and Champions League participants. An experienced recruiter, Rigg was involved in Manchester City signing Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure and David Silva – as well as Nigel De Jong who he first tracked as Blackburn’s Chief Scout, a role he held from 2006 to 2008. So meticulous were the reports on players, Manchester City’s report on Alexis Sanchez was 56 pages long, including detail like his family home and external activities. In an interview with Goal, Rigg said “[scouts] would check into hotels where they knew the team was playing and pretend to be a fan and go up and get an autograph off them.” The particulars of this report, all for a player that ultimately signed for Barcelona, is representative of the template that Mike Rigg wishes to implement and the standards he aims to live by.
I don’t want to make this is transfer window review post, but Rigg has displayed his ability to recruit with flair – transforming the playing staff with quality whilst also slashing the wage bill and keeping the net spend miraculously low. Fulham’s squad has tonnes of division experience, and former success with 7 club specific Players of the Year. Our core squad is now resolute, technically comfortable and mobile, leading to the spending figure deserving to be drummed to highlight the magnificent work done by our management over the summer. Players like Tom Cairney and Ben Pringle will be hungry to reach the Premier League, a Jamie O’Hara hungry to rejuvenate his career (to success thus far) as well as Jazz Richards, Richard Stearman and Tim Ream keen to return to the Premier League and add to their snippets of top-level experience. A squad has been assembled of those with the ability to take the ball in any situation, those with the right characters to succeed and those together for one goal – promotion.
The lack of patience in football is a common complaint in the modern game; managers sacked frequently and no long-term plan. In Michael Calvin’s award winning The Nowhere Men, Rigg commented on this, saying “Everybody in football wants it and wants it now. No one is prepared to wait for anything, anymore,” he said, “surely there should be a consistent set of principles to work on.” This was made even clearer to our Chief Football Officer when whilst working for the FA, he visited small Spanish side Alcorcón in search of inspiration construction a new DNA for English football, he said in an interview with the Guardian, “The council runs the club, it’s about 20 minutes outside Madrid, and it’s got a stadium that holds about 4,500 people and an Astroturf pitch that is the training ground. I sat down with their sporting director and I was blown away with how they develop players because of their DNA. It was essentially about having a plan, sticking to it and getting everyone to buy into it.” The ideology of continuity in philosophy will benefit Fulham infinitely. We’ve seen the picture (snapped by yours truly) of what can be fairly accurately presumed to be the eventual formation that will run through our football club from the first team down to the under 8s. Small pieces like this build up to create one big animal as the football club looks to return to Premier League and continue the conveyor belt of academy, with the club financing itself rather than extraneous income to grow with the best facilities and the best infrastructure.
Recruitment isn’t Rigg’s only role at the football club; he’s also to work with the academy, and the sports performance, medical and analytics teams. Analytics and statistical data are already a feature at Fulham, and that’s prior to Tony Khan’s input (who may have taken it to another level). Scott McLachlan, now Chelsea’s Head of International scouts, revealed, “The Fulham CEO [Alistair Mackintosh] could see the future before the whole Moneyball thing became a parody of itself. He believed we could combine analysis and metrics with scouting.” I won’t explain the Moneyball theory in detail, but in short, Billy Beane of the Oakland Athletics (Oakland’s baseball team), built a competitive baseball team despite its uncompetitive revenue using statistics. Statistics will be used for both performance analysis and recruitment to create sophistic scouting reports for both opposition and potential incomings. The team effort of Fulham is heightened when we discuss Fulham, as mentioned earlier about the separate roles of Mackintosh and Rigg coming together to move forward, Shahid Khan’s son, Tony manages Fulham’s statistical research alongside his role as Senior Vice President of Football Technology and Analytics for the Jacksonville Jaguars. When it does come to analytics and recruitment, there’s a nice blend at the club of believing in the ability to statistically breakdown players coming to positive results, whilst Rigg will not neglect the actual watching and scouting of a player and really learning what it is that you are investing in.
I can’t say what Mike Rigg will provide the football club from a medical and sports performance basis – if it is something he’s experienced before, it has not been recorded from what I’ve tried to find, but with the success of his transfer window and the early signs of his tenure, I’m sure that gears will start to turn to positive effect for Fulham.
A man with a plan, Rigg has given Kit Symons all the tools to succeed on the football pitch and has laid the basic foundations down for Fulham to move forward as a club. A man who only officially joined in March, Mike Rigg will still only be in the infancy of the larger picture for our unique football club and I am sure that the right people are in place for the key roles here. Alistair Mackintosh is a wonderful CEO who helped negotiate the clubs’ record sponsorship deal with MarathonBet and also set about developing our now renowned by appointing Huw Jennings as the Academy Director three months after his own appointment. A successful window has turned the mood of supporters but building a squad able to finish in the top six is only the start before Shahid Khan’s plan for our football club starts to move in the energy, work and passion of Alistair Mackintosh, and our Chief Football Officer, Mike Rigg.