Mason building on new territory but heart remains at Bradford City

DURING the four years James Mason was Bradford City's chief executive, until leaving last summer, he had something of a routine even amid the various challenges thrown up by a home matchday.

James Mason started his job yesterday as chief executive of League One Rochdale (Picture: Thomas Gadd).
James Mason started his job yesterday as chief executive of League One Rochdale (Picture: Thomas Gadd).

Arrive at noon, have a quick word with the staff and then set about his duties of not only ensuring the behind-the-scenes operation ran smoothly, but also hosting the visiting directors.

Come kick-off he could revert to being the fan who had watched his first Bantams game as an impressionable seven-year-old before putting his official head back on at 5pm.

Mason will be back at Valley Parade a week on Saturday sporting a Rochdale tie as the Lancashire club’s new chief executive. It is an experience the 40-year-old admits will be strange.

“I only noticed Rochdale were at Bradford a couple of weeks ago and I couldn’t help but smile at the irony of it all,” said Mason to The Yorkshire Post, while settling in on his first day at Spotland.

“Bradford City will always be a club that is very close to my heart. Working there for four years was the fulfilment of a dream. We achieved a lot but I do think there was a lot more that still could have been achieved to take the club forward.

“I decided to leave for a number of reasons. Things had changed and the new owners wanted to do things differently. I respect that but also respect myself.

“I have lots of new ideas that will have to be implemented elsewhere. I left with a heavy heart but also feeling proud at what had been achieved in those four years with season tickets up from 11,000 to 19,000.”

Following on from the February sacking of Stuart McCall, Mason’s departure was one of many events over the summer that caused unease among a large section of the Valley Parade faithful as to the direction their club was taking under joint owners Edin Rahic and Stefan Rupp.

A little under four months on and those concerns have proved to be justified with City third bottom in League One.

David Hopkin has been handed the unenviable task of reviving fortunes with a squad that he cannot truly turn into his own until January.

“I do feel David is a good appointment,” added Mason, who last week launched the sports consultancy FIVENINE, that will largely be run day-to-day by Geoff Gray.

“But I have a huge amount of sympathy for Michael Collins (Hopkin’s predecessor). He got the job as I was leaving and I do believe my skills-set and being one of the most experienced people at the club would have really helped him through those first few weeks and months.

“I did offer the club that as an option despite me being on ‘gardening leave’. I firmly believe sports clubs have a duty of care on their employees, past, present and in the future.

“That is something the consultancy was set up with in mind. Look at (former City captain) Gary Jones, who in his career had all the adulation.

“But now he is embarking on a different career in the media, while we offer a platform for clubs to use the experience of good people like Gary, Peter Jackson and Benito Carbone.”

With Gray at the helm of FIVENINE, Mason’s focus is on Rochdale. “This is an ambitious club,” he added. “All clubs have the right to dream and while no one will put any time limits on success, if the club wasn’t ambitious – including the manager, fans and owners – then I wouldn’t be here.”