In the early days of my career I, along with several others enthusiastic about sports, began to work with a small, fledgling football team in Azerbaijan – Gabala FC. As President, I took on a role that I naïvely thought would be largely ceremonial. How wrong I was. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and looking back on my experiences at Gabala, it’s safe to say it has been the MBA of a lifetime.
Our entire management team was wholly underprepared for what we saw on our first visit to the club and it soon became clear that if Gabala FC were to succeed, we needed to get our hands dirty.
My first job was to remove the cows from our main football pitch! It was a sobering realisation of how much work was needed to develop the clubhouse, stadium and pitch if we were to attract supporters and fans.
Several seasons, and hours of meetings and physical work later, we oversaw the complete transformation of the club. We professionalised everything from the players and staff to the construction of a pitch that was fit for European competition. We soon found ourselves quickly moving up the league.