Last week, I was fortunate and grateful receive an invite to an event at DWF hosted by Tom Mungovan @tvanmungo, at which David Dein was the guest speaker. Thought I’d share a thread with some of the key highlights – and there were many – David is an absolute gentleman and hugely visionary and engaging character
The 2 hours flew by in his company. His enduring passion and love for the club still shines through. If anything, the session only served to re-emphasise the dichotomy of feeling concerning KSE. You really felt what we had lost and what we miss since David’s departure.
David covered an wide agenda; everything from landing at the club, bringing Arsene in, being the brains behind the formulation of the Premier League, to VAR and use of technology in the game. In addition, his exemplary efforts in developing the women’s game and more recently helping push the Twinning project between clubs and prisons to help given second chances and lower chances of re-offenders.
Arsenal anecdotes: David interspersed humour – and great humour at that – throughout the entire session.
Remembers helping French players settle into London: Asked Patrick Vieira, “do you speak any English?” Vieira “Yes Mr Dein”, Dein: “What do you know?” Vieira “Tottenham is shit” (Apparently Paddy had already been getting English lessons from Ray Parlour)
Tells of how Henry and Bergkamp regularly stayed behind for extra training together. Being World Class was not enough for them.
I asked him – what were his observations on the way in which KSE are running the club? Like a commensurate leader, he did well to navigate the response, but was clear enough in sharing his fear that the club is at a point of inflection and fears for us.
A gag shortly followed: “I was walking past a tree the other day and saw a Spurs Season Ticket nailed to it. I thought that looks useful, I’ll have that; so I pulled the nail out of the tree and put it in my pocket”.
The conversation turned to several slides worth of fascinating data points around the evolution of the Premier League – How revenue is distributed on a “fair” basis; how the founder members were at pains to look after the well-being of League clubs as part of the transformation. However he admitted that some “eggs had to be broken to make an omelette” as part of the process. The story was compelling. Year on Year growth of key KPIs: wealth, attendances, ground quality, diversity in crowds, safer environments. You could see his pride that many of the objectives he had in mind over two decades ago were being achieved.
One of the EPL’s early focuses was on bringing safe and modern stadia to the UK. The Hillsborough tragedy weighed heavy on the founder members’ strategy. In typical charismatic fashion, Dein did not allow the heavy background of the subject matter to dominate proceedings… soon followed a joke “I remember back in the 70’s being at a game, lining up behind a cue of blokes waiting to go for a pee. Guy in front says, “I’m bursting”. Dean replies to him “pee in the guy in front’s pocket. He won’t know”. The guy says, “How do you know?”…Dein: “I’ve just pissed in your pocket and you didn’t notice”
Alas, he also observed, “Tottenham now have the most advanced training ground in the UK and by the time their stadium is finished it will be the best in world football“. I almost vomited.
Underlined the wheeling and dealing, ingenuity and boldness that AFC had to go through to establish The Emirates and the transformed facilities at Colney.
The talk on technology and its impact on the game was wonderfully crafted. First game a segment on VAR including an audience participation game where two incidents from the last World Cup were put up and we had to vote for the right outcome following VAR footage being shared.
Then onto his absolute nugget… turns out David was approached while in Buenos Aires as part of the England World Cup 2018 campaign team by a guy David referred to as “Fernando”. Fernando to David: “Mr Dein, you look like you really understand the game – could I take a minute of your time to discuss an idea I have”. Dein: Of course”, Fernando: “I want to talk to you about paint“…. Dein obviously bemused. Fernando then goes onto pitch a product called 9.15 to David – paint that disappears after a short period of time on contact with a surface. David loves it, gets it and becomes the vehicle for promoting and scaling the product. Yes – it is the mini-canisters of vanishing white spray that every ref in top leagues now uses! Once an entrepreneur, always an entrepreneur!
As David said, I always use the Turtle motto with people “If you don’t stick your neck out in life, you won’t get anywhere”
The topic moved onto the women’s game – obviously an area David cares about deeply (a protagonist in his day by the establishment of our successful Arsenal Ladies side). David gave an enthusiastic prognosis on the state of the game and was very hopefully for its future growth. Moreover, you could tell his belief was founded on hands-on involvement and intent, rather than just a nod to the topic.
Similarly David briefed the audience on another innovative initiative he has spear-headed, with the Prisons twinning programme – linking professional clubs to local prisons, to encourage clubs to help with education and reformation of prisoners and help provide a 2nd chance for people as they reintegrate into society.
Apart from David’s love for all things Arsenal, what also struck me was his drive, his ability to conceive of opportunities and commit to them. Even in difficult times and in the face of adversity, he has the intelligence paired with EQ and charisma to make most projects work. Appropriately, he closed the talk with an apt phrase: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass… it’s about learning to dance in the rain”
Our thanks for this guest post, to Adam Rivellini, The Clerkenwell Gooner who is a great follow @RationalArsenal