Jeff Shi has been at the club since 2016 and became executive chairman in 2017. Since then, Shi has overseen promotion to the Premier League and qualification to the Europa League. Below is an interview from October 2020 outlining the club's progress and plans for the future.
Jeff, how do you assess the progress being made at Wolves?
At the beginning of last season, my personal goal for the first team was to surpass the points tally of the 2018/19 season, but I said to myself it would be tough. In a Premier League debut season, when you reach the top seven, you actually make the next season a very hard challenge. I’m happy and proud of our team because they have achieved it and we’ve also got to the last eight of the Europa League – that’s not easy, which broke a long-term record for the history of Wolves. Also, we have seen many unforgettable moments, some obvious improvements from our players, and they are training hard, working hard, and are very focused.
Have you been surprised by the club’s evolution since 2017?
The progression of the club has been quicker than my prediction, but it’s not been quicker than what I had hoped. One part of my brain is very rational and says you have to be reasonable, cautious and go year-by-year, so on that part, it’s quicker than my rational prediction. But on the other part of my brain, it’s about passion. Of course, I want to see results quicker and sooner – like every fan does – we all want to win the next game. But for me, I have to merge the two parts together and find the balance. I’m always telling my colleagues, it’s not only about our achievement or results. You don’t know for sure if you’ll win the Premier League or Champions League in the future, so it’s more important to enjoy the journey.
How important is building the global Wolves brand?
Eventually for a business and for a commercial organisation, the brand is everything. Our ultimate goal is to try building a top brand. I’m glad to see in an independent survey that we are already in the top 20 football brands in Europe, and it’s a big leap, but it’s not our final goal. For the next 10 or 20 years, we want to make Wolves an outstanding, legendary sports brand. To achieve that, we need to do well on the pitch and continue the progress of our first-team, but there are a lot of other aspects which form part of the brand; our Academy, our Esports, our retail business and our fashion products. All these things are key elements that contribute to what the Wolves brand represents.
What has the club been doing away from football to expose the brand?
Many fans may still remember our China trip last summer. We did something creative and post-modern there, a fashion show mixed with live rock music from Miserable Faith among the shiny skyscrapers of Shanghai, but this is not the end. As a new entrant, our fashion brand WWFC has won a lot of loyal fans in China. Our eSports business has made a big leap this year. Wolves FIFA online team become the champions in China’s top official tournament, our PUBG team were promoted to the top tier league in China and we have just launched our first Rocket League team in Europe. In the future, we’ll see even more different and innovative projects and products around the Wolves brand. The club might be 143 years old, but our heart is still young and full of curiosity to the times and courage to adventure.
What are your aims for Wolves’ future?
We have a mutual aim and we are all working very hard together. In my experience, the most enjoyable and exciting moments are when you’re close to the destination, but you are still not there yet. The pace of our progression has been really good, but the whole club is still growing and developing, and the challenge now will be to maintain that pace, or even speed it up. From the Championship to the Premier League there was a challenge, but from now to the next step, it will be another challenge and maybe even tougher.