It may not have been on the agenda, but Nicky Butt quickly became the natural choice to step in when Gary Neville left his part-time role as Salford City chief executive.

Neville and Butt, alongside Phil Neville, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, purchased the Ammies back in 2014 when the club were languishing in the eighth tier of English football. Under the Class of 92’s stewardship, Salford have skyrocketed up the leagues and into the EFL.

With club attempting to adopt a more polished, professional approach off the pitch, Salford aspired to appoint a full-time CEO when Neville relinquished his figurehead role back in October. Fortunately, Butt had undertaken his CEO course in a bid to understand the demands which are readily placed upon non-football people in such a role, so all the pieces fell into place.

Speaking exclusively to Mirror Football , Butt says: “Gary was doing the CEO role but he was only doing it one day a week - you can’t run a football club like that. If you want to be a serious football club, as we do, then you have to be professional and that starts right at the top and works down.

“Discussions were [initially]: ‘Lets go and get a CEO’, but it was going to be a very difficult dynamic coming into our club and working with the owners because we’re all very involved and knowledgeable with our background in football. I’d done my course and had been looking at the role for a while, so the natural way forward was [for me] to step in.”

Despite undertaking the relevant qualifications later in life, Butt is the first to admit that an executive role was never part of the vision when he pondered his future at the end of a storied playing career.

Even after he and the rest of Salford’s co-owners bought into the club, there was never a set plan on certain people inheriting specific roles; just the one goal that everybody would be working at Salford some day. He, Giggs and Scholes are currently involved in official roles at the club.

Butt never shirked a challenge on the pitch and, unsurprisingly, he’s embraced his new role in a similar fashion. He adds: “It’s a totally different world. People come out of University with accountancy degrees to go into that role. I obviously didn’t have that with football, but I did the course originally just to become more emphatic with the CEO’s that you work with two years ago.

“I’ve realised what a difficult role they have; obviously it’s all well and good asking for X, Y and Z every time when you’re a manager, a coach or a player, but the business has to run smoothly and it has to be balanced.”

Salford co-owner and chief executive Nicky Butt Butt was hands on visiting Salford fans with club partner Love Holidays this week (


Ben Stevens Photography)

Butt splits his week between the training ground and the club’s Peninsula Stadium, where he plays a role in all facets of the business. Salford’s growth on the pitch has accelerated at a remarkable rate over the past six years but other aspects of the business have not followed suit.

Butt explains: “We felt that the football team had gone stratospheric, but in a business sense, that aspect of the club didn’t really move with it. There’s a lot of good people in the company. We knew that if we were going to try and push this team to the Championship, then we also had to grow the club as well.

“Everything you would expect to find in a fully-functioning professional football team, we’ve now got.”

The club’s evolution behind the scenes has been expansive: Salford have gone from a two-person media team to eight staff, while a full-time Ops manager has also been appointed. The club now has dedicated commercial people helping to facilitate the co-owners dreams of growth off the pitch, while they focus on evolving Salford on it.

It’s not all been plain-sailing, though. Salford’s search for a new stadium, which has now spanned almost five years, is “on the back-burner” due to issues finding land. There is confidence though that Salford’s current ground, with alterations, is fit to meet their needs while they are below the Championship.

Salford City chief executive and co-owner Nicky Butt Butt is involved in all facets of the business in his new executive role (


Matt McNulty/Getty)

The club are fresh off the best league campaign in their history after head coach Neil Wood guided the Ammies to a seventh-place finish. Unfortunately, Salford were edged out in the play-off semi-finals by local rivals Stockport County.

The sterling work undertaken by Wood, who worked with Butt at the Manchester United academy, almost seems to have slipped under the radar on a wider level. But the failure to achieve promotion - the goal which was set at the start of last season - still rankles for Butt.

“I don’t really like saying it’s the best season we’ve ever had - although technically it was - because we didn’t meet our own expectations. If we’re going to be painfully honest, we made the play-offs by one goal difference: I wouldn’t see that as success. We’ve got to be better than that really. We’re a very passionate group of people who want to succeed in football. We don’t really speak about failure and, ultimately, we failed.”

Salford City head coach Neil Wood Head coach Neil Wood guided Salford to the League Two play-offs and their best-ever finish last term (


Matt McNulty/Getty)

Wood and co are aiming to bounce back this season, where again, promotion to League One is the sole aim. Externally, everybody expects Salford to challenge at the top of League Two, but that pressure isn’t any less intense inside the club - even though Wood’s relationship with Butt transcends football.

However, Butt doesn’t believe that aspect of their lives necessarily makes their working relationship any easier ahead of Saturday’s trip to Tranmere.

“I think it’s alright when its working well but it’s difficult when its not working so well. From the word go we told Neil: ‘Look, we’ve known each other a long time and we’re friends, but, ultimately, you’re working for Salford Football Club’. There’ll be times where we need to sit down and have honest conversations which won’t be nice, but there’ll be plenty of times where he’ll be getting pats on the back because everything’s great.

“He knew that he’d come in and get backed with whatever it is he needs, and he knows whats expected of him. I think he’s got high expectations of himself as well.

“We believe in the same things, so that level of expectation is there but it’s no greater than what the top teams in the league will be experiencing. Stockport will be the same, Gillingham will be the same, Wrexham and Bradford will be no different. If you don’t have that expectation then you shouldn’t really be in that job!

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“But he definitely does; Neil is driving it forward and hopefully we’ll get to where we want to be at the end of the season.”

While the other co-owners all have their say on how the club is run, ultimately, Butt is now responsible for the big decisions. And much like he did on the pitch, he’s relishing every second.

“It’s not difficult [making decisions] because we’re all moving in the same direction. We’ve all got the same philosophy, that same background and upbringing in football. We discuss things and we agree and disagree [on things] but ultimately I make the final choice.

“I would never say: ‘We’re not going to go with what you’re all saying, I’m gonna do my own thing’, because I’m not that kind of leader. I take everyone’s opinions board but ultimately everything lies on me. It’s difficult and in some ways it’s outside of my comfort zone, but I’m enjoying it.”

Nicky Butt was speaking to Mirror Football at an event marking Salford City Football Club’s new sponsorship deal with loveholidays. The UK’s largest online travel agent will become the club’s official holiday partner for the 2023-24 season and will sponsor the club’s matchday highlights, run a matchday activation and support exclusive holiday-themed competitions for fans throughout the year.

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