Aberdeen: 'Why can't we be America's Scottish team?' asks Dave Cormack

By Tyrone SmithBBC Scotland Sport
'Aberdeen are going to tap into American market'

"Why can't Aberdeen, and I'm thinking out loud here, be America's Scottish football team?"

After a quarter of a century living in the United States, Pittodrie director Dave Cormack has a big vision for his hometown club.

The Atlanta-based businessman wants youngsters in California to wear Aberdeen kit. He wants the club to play matches on a Saturday night. And he wants the Scottish Premiership side to return to the latter stages of European competitions.

In this interview, Cormack tells BBC Scotland about bringing American kids to Scotland, swelling manager Derek McInnes' budget through commercial deals, and getting bored of being on a Florida beach.

'American clubs want to bring kids to Aberdeen'

Soccer is growing exponentially among the younger generations in the United States and Cormack wants Aberdeen to seize upon that.

He says he has met people through business who have intimated an interest in coming over to play golf and "would kind of like to be involved" at the club.

Furthermore, he is exploring affiliating with "20 to 30" soccer academies - something he says could raise up to £2m a year through them buying Aberdeen kit.

"It's not that Man City or Man United or Barcelona don't do it, but with them they are just a number," Cormack explains. "We can bring something tangible.

"There is the appetite to bring kids to Aberdeen in the summer - 200 kids, two-week stints - where they get an experience of training in a professional environment, and we let them see the sights and sounds of the north east.

"Not everything is going to work, but I learned a long time ago, if you are going to fail, fail fast and learn quickly, and if you don't try you are never going to succeed."

Summer football & Saturday night games

Earlier this month, Cormack invited one of the owners of MLS club Philadelphia Union - Richie Graham - to give a presentation to the Aberdeen board.

Manager Derek McInnes and his staff were also there and the talk centred on how a club such as Union or Aberdeen can compete with more moneyed rivals.

Cormack points to commercial deals which, in the last seven months, have enabled the club to put an extra £750,000 into the playing budget. And he believes that figure can be swelled further by catering more to the fans.

Summer football, Saturday night kick-offs and a good customer experience at the stadium are all on his agenda.

"I think we can do a lot better," says Cormack, who has established that the average Aberdeen fan is a 39-year-old male.

"Businessmen and leaders in the States aren't any better than we have in Scotland, but the difference is that there is a can do attitude.

"The leaders over there in my software business will give us 10 reasons why something can be done, and maybe nine of them are useless but there is always a gem. Here its 'ach, that'll never work', but we need to explore these things.

"The principle has to be 'is this the right thing for the fans?' and how we entertain them and look after them."

'Why can't we be guaranteed group-stage football?'

Since arriving as a non executive director, Cormack has invested heavily in Aberdeen, both in terms of time and money.

But now the 59-year-old is keen to influence the wider Scottish game - starting with merging the SPFL and Scottish FA and having a single body run the professional game and another deal with the semi-professional, amateur and youth side.

The status quo has led, in his opinion, to "mediocrity" and that clubs must "strive for more" and that attitude extends to the European game, too.

Aberdeen took Burnley to extra time before being knocked out in the Europa League qualifiers
Aberdeen took Burnley to extra time this season before being knocked out in the Europa League qualifiers

Cormack believes the Scottish game should not be "sitting back and taking the crumbs off the table" at a time when Uefa are considering the creation of a third club competition, and when some of the game's biggest clubs are discussing a possible European super league.

"Teams like Aberdeen, Hearts and Hibs should have exposure to European football, and not just a qualifying round here or there," he says.

"Why can't we be 'guaranteed' some kind of group-stage football if we finish second, third or fourth in the league? What is wrong with trying to promote a Europa League or Champions League for teams that have turnover of £20m or less, with clubs from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Greece, Turkey and Scotland?

"Let Barcelona, let Real Madrid knock themselves out on their own. I just think we need to be pushing that agenda. Nobody else is going to fight our corner like we will."

'I got bored being on the beach'

Seventeen months after returning to Aberdeen, where he had a stint as interim chief executive in 2000, Cormack says he is now in it for the long term and for reasons that are about more than simply football.

Spending too long at his beach house in Florida made him hanker for the challenge of working in Scottish football and he was drawn back to his home town.

His work so far has focused on the commercial side, but his personality is such that his portfolio will likely expand.

"After six months of getting a great sun tan and walking the beach, I kind of got bored," he says. "My wife and I are both from Aberdeen, with lots of family here, so we are blessed to be able to come back and forth.

"As long as I feel I am adding value to what we are doing and what we are trying to achieve then I am happy to be around.

"It's not just about the club, it is about the city, and giving something back because the city gave us a lot. The club puts a smile on the city's face if it is doing well, and I just like to be able to help in some small way with that."


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