University challenger got royal seal of approval

Michael Taylor and Brendan Flood

Brendan Flood is one of the survivors. If he’s learnt one thing from a long and largely successful life it is to anticipate change, then embrace it.

Before a sell-out audience at the elegant surroundings of Manchester Hall, the chairman of Cole Waterhouse group and the founder of challenger institution the University Campus of Football Business (UCFB), opened up about the twists and turns of business and opportunity.  

He spoke about the financial crisis of 2007-2008 where the crash of banks chased him around the world, with UK, Irish, German and Australian banks all bailing as their risk appetite and credit strategies were upended.

Though he lost his property mojo for a time, he confessed, he immersed himself in the world of football, and then academia, but none of the guests were left in any doubt that his thoughtful and commercial approach to development opportunity is back. 

He’s shifted the model to align the funding in a way that spreads the risk, rather than piles it on with a build out and pay back model.

But he also told the story of his idea to build a university that specialised in the football business, and how his passionate pitching of the project rubbed off on the future King Charles when he was paying one of his many visits to Burnley FC’s Turf Moor, when Brendan was chairman, and the monarch received a special gift of a first team shirt with HRH on the back.

“He was genuinely really impressed and kept asking me lots more questions about my idea, especially as it was going to be the first of its kind in the world.”

But the greatest tribute, he said, was the employability of industry-ready graduates and what they go on to do in the booming football and media industry. “Our graduates work in the Premier League, at governing bodies and community clubs around the world, utilising their knowledge and skills across the hundreds of roles available within the football and sports industry.”

Generously, when asked to name the people who he’d been most impressed with in his professional life, he proudly mentioned his team at Cole Waterhouse, but also singled out Tim Heatley of Capital and Centric and Anthony Kilbride from Relentless Developments, who were both part of his team at Modus back in the day.

Asked which football player he most enjoyed watching in the famous claret and blue, he didn’t hesitate to say Ralph Coates, though he nodded in the direction of his good friend Paul Fletcher, another Clarets legend and now a director of UCFB, with years of experience in stadium development in his career after football.

He also shared a couple of amusing stories about Burnley’s other celebrity fan, Alastair Campbell, who stayed in the guest room at chez Flood with a Margaret Thatcher portrait for company. The tales about Eddie Howe, the current Newcastle boss, and one of his signings are best not repeated here.

This was the last of our events of the year, thanks to everyone who has come along and enjoyed the ambience and the insights we’ve been able to share.  

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