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Saints chairman Ralph Krueger won't allow football agents to take advantage of him
Saints chairman Ralph Krueger says he has no concerns about agents attempting to take advantage of his inexperience in football.
The 54-year-old, who officially began work at St Mary’s last week, heads up the new board of directors assembled by the club’s owner, Katharina Liebherr.
Krueger might not yet be completely familiar with the machinations of football, but is adamant he is well-versed in dealing with similar dynamics elsewhere.
While the Canadian-born German is often simply referred to as a former ice hockey coach, he has a far more rounded background than that.
He spent a number of years working as a general manager in the sport, for Austrian club VEU Feldkirch, dealing with contractual issues, agents, and the like.
He believes, therefore, he is well prepared for the task that lies ahead.
“It’s exactly the same,” said Krueger, whose most high-profile role in sports to date has been as head coach of the Edmonton Oilers, in the National Hockey League, while he also had a long spell in charge of Switzerland’s team.
“I was a GM and manager, coach of an organisation for seven years, and then the (Swiss) national side for 13 years I was the head coach.
“But I also managed, and I had to deal with all of that.
“Running the under-20s, under-18s, under-16s of that country, that’s where the agents were showing up, so I’ve had to deal with that.
“In the National Hockey League it’s exactly the same, so those are areas where I feel really comfortable, and I have no problem with dealing with that part of our reality.
“I’m a realistic optimist that I can deal with it, but I know that it’s not always easy.
“I know that football has its own dynamics, because of the world, and players can have multiple agents, and all of that is clear to me, but I love adversity. I love difficult situations.”
It is not always a simple transition from the North American sports world to football.
John W Henry, principal owner of both Liverpool and the Boston Red Sox, in Major League Baseball, initially spoke of a “culture shock” after taking control at Anfield.
Henry has described football as being “sort of like the wild west”, as he and his Fenway Sports Group organisation tried to get to grips with the influence of agents and player power.
Krueger, who is also a highly-regarded leadership speaker, as well as an active member of the World Economic Forum, will not be navigating his way through football’s waters alone, though.
As well as manager Mauricio Pochettino, there are other experienced heads already in place for him to call on when it comes to areas such as agents and transfer deals, including executive director Les Reed, a member of the football club’s board and an important figure at St Mary’s.
While Krueger concedes that Saints will sometimes need to operate with people whose methods they do not necessarily agree with, he says that they will, if possible, seek to conduct their business with those who are in line with their own values.
He said: “The only thing you always have to ask about any individual is ‘Why are they doing something?’ “There are excellent agents out there in every sport that are doing it for the betterment of the game, for the betterment of the athletes – there are those out there.
“I’m not going to judge anybody that I don’t know, but I just believe that we want to also try and find people to work with, when we have that choice, who are in line with our values and our principles, and they will be rewarded for it.
“So that is what we will strive for, but that will not always be the case.”
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