MIPIM: Property same as transfer market, says Neville

Jessica Middleton-Pugh

Former Manchester United FC footballer, Gary Neville, spoke about similarities between the Manchester property sector and football, as part of an interview by chief executive of New Economy, Mike Emmerich on Thursday 13 March at MIPIM 2014.

The last of six Manchester stand events was introduced by chief executive of Manchester City Council Sir Howard Bernstein, who described Neville as a man with a "profound sense of place". It was Neville's first time at MIPIM, and he made his enthusiasm for the conference and Manchester as a city clear in the keynote event "My Manchester – a Personal Perspective on the City."

Neville's background as an international football player and former Manchester United Captain forms an inescapable part of his profile within the property industry, with Emmerich asking Neville on parallels between the two sectors.

"There are some similarities," Neville said. "Developments live and die by the selection of property or land, and in sport it's the same with the selection of the players. The transfer market is quite like the property market in that sense."

The constant connection to football was inevitable according to Neville, due to the city in which he has consistently chosen to call home. "Manchester is a fantastic city to live and work in," he said, "and you can't separate Manchester city centre and football, it's internationally known."

When asked about the importance of good leadership in the property sector, Neville likened it to his experience at Old Trafford: "The biggest issue is when bosses don't communicate. Sir Alex Ferguson communicated with all his players, which is how he kept a group of 24 people happy even though he could only choose a team of 11 at a time. He was a brave, decisive manager with an incredible work rate. The best bosses work hard."

However, Neville stressed that the business world was very much his comfort zone now, and for anyone hoping for a return to the beautiful game he said: "I have no interest in playing football anymore. Life has moved on."

Property has been a consistent interest for Neville, who famously read property magazines on the journey to and from matches. He bought his first house at the age of 19, with his first development coming a few years later in the form of a 12,000 sq ft barn conversion in Bolton.

Neville's current projects include the 138-bed Hotel Football, which is due to open in autumn 2014 opposite the Old Trafford football ground, and a role within Zerum Consult, according to Neville a "holistic approach" to building design which was launched last week.

Borne out of a merger between King Associates and RED Property Services, Neville said Zerum Consult was part of his campaign to end "design in isolation."

"We wanted to create an in-house dialogue or hub, with no gaps or voids, where the planner can go talk to the mechanical guy who can talk to the electrical guy who can talk to the project manager who can talk to the architect," Neville said.

This is essential, as according to Neville, "environment at work is as important as environment at home. The buildings and spaces you work in can inspire you."

The keynote speech reflected the optimism prevalent throughout much of MIPIM 2014, and the sense of a sector and a city that is very much back on its feet.

For Neville, Manchester is clearly the place to be in the current climate, as a city which he believes is confidently moving out of recession. "You can see cranes again. Things are definitely happening."

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