Ralph Krueger: How His Apppointment Affects the Future of Southampton

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Ralph Krueger: How His Apppointment Affects the Future of Southampton
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On Wednesday, Southampton announced that Ralph Krueger would become the new chairman, replacing Nicola Cortese, who resigned back in January.

The move may seem curious to many football fans—Krueger's prior background in sport was in ice hockey.

The Canadian-born German has served as head coach of the NHL's Edmonton Oilers and the Switzerland national team. He was also a member of Canadian national team head coach Mike Babcock's staff, serving as the primary European scout.

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Southampton has never been afraid to go against the grain, though.

Sir Clive Woodward, the coach of England's Rugby World Cup-winning squad, was once hired as a technical support director by the club. Previous chairman Cortese had no real background in football. He was a banker by trade, specializing in sport management, when he helped Markus Liebherr purchase the club.

Krueger realizes, though, that he doesn't know much about the game itself. In an interview with Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal, the 54-year-old said:

I don’t pretend to know a lot about football … I mean, I’ve been in Europe a long time and certainly watched it.

But when I got contacted a while back, it seemed like an interesting offer … It just felt right to me.

Instead, Krueger will focus on the overall management and business aspects of the club, where his role with the World Economic Council will help.

"The teams that I've been leading for the last 25 years, it's always been about growth," Krueger said according to Colin Harvey of the Daily Star. "It's been about trying to get the potential out of the people you're leading."

“Although there is a solid foundation in place, the Club still has tremendous untapped commercial potential," Krueger said in a club statement

Owner Katharina Liebherr is taking a boardroom approach to the club, also appointing Hans Hofstetter and Gareth Rogers to the board. Instead of one single leader, it appears that Southampton will truly be run like a business.

Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images
Ralph Krueger may be tempted to cash in on players like Luke Shaw if the offer is too good to refuse.

That may be a positive or a negative. On the plus side, Krueger and Liebherr will provide a model that works for the long-term sustainability of the club. But being sustainable as a business may not please fans at times.

Many decisions will be made on a cost-benefit basis.

Bringing in a £25 million transfer, personally financed by the ownership, probably won't happen unless the benefit exceeds the investment. Occasionally, a player might be sold if the offer is too good to refuse. The club will be expected to at least break even, if not turn a profit, each year.

Ultimately, Krueger will be judged by the results Southampton produces on the field, not how many more jerseys the club sells or how much commercial revenue the club generates.

But making the club more attractive, and generating more revenue, will allow the club to attract higher-quality players. Which will then help the club generate more revenue, and so on.

Hopefully for Saints fans, the business built by Krueger and Liebherr will be a blue-chip company with long-term growth, not a fly-by-night tech company that crashes into administration.

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