Fleetwood Town buck trend with Uzbek deal

Fleetwood Town chairman Andy Pilley with Davron Azizov of Lokomotiv Tashkent
Fleetwood Town chairman Andy Pilley with Davron Azizov of Lokomotiv Tashkent

Chief Executive Steve Curwood insists Fleetwood Town will not follow the herd after announcing an historic partnership with Usbekistan Premier League side Lokomotiv Tashkent.

The deal, which will see the clubs co-operate in commercial activities and could potentially generate new sponsorship opportunities for the Highbury club, could see Uzbek players visiting the UK to train with Town as well as Fleetwood’s players experiencing football in central Asia.

Town are also expected to travel to Tashkent on a pre-season tour before the 2016/17 season.

Final details of the partnership, brokered by Cheshire-based Kickworldwide, are yet to be revealed.

It is unlikely, at this stage, any Uzbeks will join Fleetwood’s first team.

Employment regulations and work permit rules would make such an arrangement difficult.

But Town could establish an international academy as part of their new training ground development, which could welcome young players from Uzbekistan and central Asia.

Chief Curwood is hoping it is an adventure which will benefit both clubs.

“We’ve got to find new approaches to doing things,” he said.

“There is a lot of following the herd in England. We’ve been guilty of it.

“By going abroad and seeing how other people do it, you can see different ways of doing things and how you might have done things differently.

“We’ve learned from trips to Europe but this is a more significant, strategic move – something more for the long term.

“It’s about doing something different to allow us to compete with the bigger clubs.”

Town were approached by the Uzbek club, owned by the state railway company, who were impressed by their rise through the ranks of English football.

Curwood, despite having dealt with Kickworldwide for a number of years, was as surprised as anyone by the proposal. “If you’d have asked me 12-months ago I’d probably not have known where Uzbekistan was,” he said.

“I could give you a general region, but to be honest, if you’d suggested it I’d have said you were crackers.

“I’d been talking to Steve Bellis from Kickworldwide. I’ve known him for a number of years. I know of his work in all parts of the world and what his company has produced.

“There was never an opportunity for Fleetwood to be involved because we were far too smal. We couldn’t benefit what he was looking to achieve overseas.

“It’s only through our progression that we’ve had the opportunity to partner with a club he’s had discussions with about developing their football relationships.”

“Uzbekistan and Lokomotiv Tashkent were looking for a UK club. Steve spoke to them and they’d done their research, and eventually we were approached to partner up in a number of areas.”

The formal deal between the clubs will be signed in the coming months, and Curwood is hoping it will have benefits not only for Fleetwood Town but for businesses in Wyre.

“We’ll have a delegation who will go out to Tashkent in the coming months and sign a formal agreement,” he explained.

“There are a number of things we anticipate will benefit both sides.

“There will be collaboration, sharing ideas and coaching, and opportunities on the playing side.

“Hopefully it will culminate in a commercial tour pre-season next year and an opportunity to send other teams of ours out there in the forthcoming year.

“But it’s longer term than that. There will be business links – football is the perfect bridge for commercial trade.

“If we can give opportunities to local companies, hopefully they can benefit.”

While the partnership is serious business, Curwood is hoping it will also be a chance to enjoy something fresh.

He said: “To have something as exciting as this is great fun. You can’t get away from the commercial side and the opportunities it will bring, but it will be fun as well.”