Bristol City’s January transfer window: Who the key decision makers are and what they do

The power curve at Ashton Gate following a change of CEO and other key positions

<p>Bristol City’s chief decision makers include manager Nigel Pearson, CEO Richard Gould and chairman Jon Lansdown</p>

Bristol City’s chief decision makers include manager Nigel Pearson, CEO Richard Gould and chairman Jon Lansdown

As Bristol City weigh up what to do this transfer window the club will look to improve on their squad where they can.

Manager Nigel Pearson has already confirmed his intention to strengthen reiterating last week ahead of the Fulham game that he would like to add one player if he can this window.

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“The strategy remains the same - we’ll strengthen if we can, if we can’t, we’ll run with what we got,” said the 58-year-old, ahead of the Fulham FA Cup game.

“But it would be beneficial to add a player, of course it would.”

What business City can do will be presided over by the following people, who all hold senior positions in BS3.

Nigel Pearson will need to discuss with the Bristol City board who he wants to keep this summer. (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, Pearson was quite clear on who does what last week, elaborating on exactly where his responsibilities finish, when it comes to the transfer market.

“I’ve never dealt with agents which is why a head of recruitment is important. Look, it depends on the club. But I’ve never talked finances with agents,” he explained.

“And the agents know that so they don’t bother try to contact me. Which is how it should be. A manager should have a relationship with his players based on football.”

Here’s a rundown on who does what, when it comes to the transfer window.

Richard Gould, CEO

Joined the club from Surrey Cricket Club last in the wake of Mark Ashton departing from City. The man responsible for the day-to-day running of the club.

Gould deals with the financial matter and liaises with agents, where needed, or more often straight from club to club, with the Robins using the TransferRoom platform to talk club to club about possible player movement and more.

“Genuinely I’m enjoying working with the intermediaries and agents that we work with,” explained Gould last summer.

“There are always constructive discussions because everyone’s trying to find a way through to a deal, we won’t always be successful because there will be other variables in play, whether the agent’s wishes, the player’s wishes, the budget or other competing clubs. But it’s an important part of what we do.”

The former Somerset Cricket Club CEO has conducted plenty of interviews since taking over and is believed to wish to be more open with the media and supporters than predecessors.

He has been universally popular in both of his last two posts but and faces a difficult task in negotiating City towards success in the wake of a monstrous £38.4m pre-tax financial loss announced for 2020/21, when no supporters attended matches.

Sean Gilhespy, head of technical recruitment

The internally appointed Gilhespy runs the recruitment department at the club and is in charge of City’s scouting network as well as their team of data analysts, tracking players around the UK and abroad.

Gilhespy and his team have played a vital role over the years as City have recruited the likes of Adam Webster, George Tanner and Rob Atkinson.

“We’ve got more team members than we’ve ever had but it’s not always been that way. We’ve had to build,” explained Gilhespy last year.

“Starting with this technical recruitment department, which wasn’t here five years ago. I moved across to try and help [from performance analysis],” he added.

His team helps to flag up players who fit what Nigel Pearson is looking for, with the manager ultimately deciding whether to proceed with a purchase.

Nigel Pearson, manager

The manager has the final say on transfers, both in and out. He decides what is needed.

The former Leicester City boss was quite clear that he wanted five men in the summer, though a striker was not brought in, with a right-back arriving late in the window instead.

Pearson explained later that he had not been able to view Andi Weimann or Chris Martin properly due to both being injured at the end of the 2020/21 season.

Bristol City head coach Nigel Pearson had two bouts of COVID-19. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

But the Robins boss is believed to still believe that City can improve if they can recruit a new quality front-man who is better than what the club has in-house currently.

“I am portrayed as somebody who is very rigid in my thinking but, actually, I’ve worked for so many different clubs in different formats and I can work in any sort of format, really,” said Pearson on working with or without a sports director/head of recruitment.

(City don’t have one and after some consideration of roles last summer, eventually the club decided to continue without one, after Keith Burt last held a ‘head of recruitment’ role under Steve Cotterill.)

“Bottom line is there has to be clarity of who does what; who’s responsible for what and responsibility also carries a weight of accountability. And as long as that is clear, I don’t really mind,” added Pearson.

Jon Lansdown, chairman

The son of majority share holder Steve Lansdown is a member of the Bristol City board, along with Gould, director Doug Harman and CFO Gavin Marshall.

Jon plays a hands-on role, involved heavily with the club’s kit launches, social media and conveying the board’s major decisions, including being present for the appointments of both Dean Holden and Nigel Pearson in recent times, and being quoted when the club announces key contracts or signings.

That’s in addition to wider Bristol Sport activities, with Jon working hard to help run the Bristol Bears and Bristol Flyers umbrella teams. Lee Johnson explained previously that the Lansdowns also sign off on transfers and have a final say on matters.

While Steve has been less visible at Ashton Gate over the last two years, understandably with travel restrictions in the pandemic, Jon is often seen at the stadium, or the recently built magnificent Bears and Robins training grounds.

The Lansdown family, who are estimated to have invested more than £200m into the Bristol Sport project, have plans to further build a sports quarter in BS3, with new basketball arena, multi-storey car park and more.