Living The Dream – Part Two

I enjoyed an excellent relationship with the CEO, David Davies, whom I found to be a very good man manager. It didn’t mean we agreed on everything, but at least I could air my opinion without fear. My first role at Rangers allowed me to get involved with most aspects of the club, except stadium operations and players contracts. I was grateful to David for allowing me to widen the role in that way. When, out of the blue, I was presented with a chance to develop my career further and become CEO at Swindon Town, I felt that I had to seize the opportunity. Swindon proved to be a great grounding for me. It was a club with very little money and in a second CVA. The staff there were very committed to the club, especially given that the difficult circumstances meant that, on occasions, we could not even pay them on time. However, over my initial two years there, we managed to keep the club going, reduced the losses and the team got into the League One play-off’s, sadly losing to Brighton on penalties.

Later that Summer I was back at Loftus Road as CEO, following major Boardroom changes. Once again I found a club which was short of cash, but with a new group of Directors who wanted to take the club forward. Despite a baptism of fire when we, initially, couldn’t utilise the full capacity of the ground due to issues with a new stewarding contract, I felt that the club was beginning to make progress. I had to make many cost reduction changes, which included making some staff redundant and changes to some of our service providers. The redundancies were a necessity, but not a pleasant part of the job.

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On the pitch, the highlight was the unbeaten run, culminating in a 1-0 win at home to West Ham. At that stage it seemed like we were going to get ourselves into a position to attack the play-off places, at the very least. Sadly, it wasn’t to be, but for a year or so it was great to be part of the Rangers revival and as CEO to boot. As everyone now knows, the situation changed very quickly during the close season and the atmosphere in the Boardroom became less than cordial. One minute it was a happy camp with everyone pitching in to help, or so it seemed, the next it became very acrimonious and highly mistrusting. I could have understood it if things were going badly, but it was quite the opposite.

Using the power of hindsight, I’ve thought long and hard as to whether I would have done anything differently. Apart from the lack of consultation with fan groups over the season ticket price increases, I’m not sure I would change much else. I think that I should have had more ‘balls’ in dealing with some things I didn’t agree withand I do regret that. However, sometimes the need for self-preservation and a way to pay the mortgage get in the way.

For a number of months after leaving the club, I found myself spending a lot of time looking at various message boards and reading people’s views and opinions. It was the views, dressed up as fact, given by people with only limited, if any, knowledge of actual events that used to annoy me most. But one thing you have to develop, if you work in a relatively high profile role within a football club, is a thick skin and broad shoulders. What would have happened, if the status quo had been maintained, we’ll never know and there is every possibility that the people who now own the club may never have got involved had things developed differently. However, it would have been nice to get to the current position without all the pain and aggravation of the last few years.

One thing the plane crash taught me was to re-evaluate what was really important in life. After nearly losing my son and my own life, I have learned to put the events at Rangers down to life experience and move on. After all, I am lucky to have been given a second chance and I intend to make the most of it. All I can finally say is that, despite the mess of my final few days at Loftus Roadand even though I am still technically banned from all areas of the stadium, except Ellerslie Road on a first team matchday (apparently I’m a security risk ???), I would not swap the chance to have been the CEO at my club for anything else. I appreciate how lucky I have been to have had the opportunity.

Mark Devlin

5 thoughts on “Living The Dream – Part Two

  1. Interesting read, thanks Mark.
    100% agree, family and health before everything else…..even our chosen family.
    Hope you and Stan have fully recovered, and are both fit and well.

  2. Cheers Mark for that insight.
    Just thank your lucky stars that you weren’t in the firing line during this terms season ticket price hiking!!! There but for the grace of god…!

  3. Thanks Mark for all your support of the youth system and having a very approachable board who really cared.
    Miss you loads and I give my love to you and Stan and if you ever see Bill and Dave give them my love too.
    Your management of the club was a very happy time for me and my family.
    Miss you loads.

  4. An interesting and open account. As I read through the different stages, even though on the outside, I could I’m sure like many sense the air of change at the club as time passed.
    Kalitsa’s comment says a lot about the board at that time.
    Thanks for insight.

  5. Thank you Mark a good read and insight into you’re time at the club.
    See you back in the loft one day fella.

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