Month: December 2013

London Sports Business Internship Blog #15: West Ham United Vs Arsenal

Manchester Piccadilly Station. 7.14am. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club ‘Shuffle Your Feet’

Ventured out to West Ham United against Arsenal today on boxing day with a good mate of mine from Brisbane via London.

Tube to Upton Park

Tube to Upton Park

WHU v Arsenal

WHU v Arsenal

Walking to the Boleyn

Walking to the Boleyn

We caught up at a pub in Plaistow where we grabbed a few pre match beers and a pie and mash. Not bad for a £12 pie either!

Pre game pie and mash in Plaistow

Pre game pie and mash in Plaistow

Made our way to the stadium and took up our seats in the Booby Moore stand. Nice view for a chilly game of football in London.

View from the Bobby Moore Stand

View from the Bobby Moore Stand

The view

The view

I thought it was a nice touch by running the scores across the electronic screens at half time, something I had not seen before on previous visits to the Boleyn Ground.

Good idea to run the scores across the LED Boards

Good idea to run the scores across the LED Boards

Some interesting merchandise ideas were seen at the end of the game too

Cluedo WHU game

Cluedo WHU game

Interesting owner merch

Interesting owner merch

The view

The view

My mate Jon and I at West Ham

My mate Jon and I at West Ham

 

London Sports Business Internship Blog #17: Manchester City Vs Crystal Palace

Bounds Green tube. 7.23am. Split Enz ‘Poor Boy’
Leaving Arnos Grove at 6am to Manchester

Leaving Arnos Grove at 6am to Manchester

On the train to Manchester

On the train to Manchester

My third straight football away weekend and I left the flat at 6am today and headed into London Euston for a Virgin Pendollino high speed train to Manchester. Arrived in manchester by 9am and went straight to check into my hotel. A quick tip if traveling and you get into a city early, always just go to the hotel and see if you can check in as chances are your room wasn’t used the night before and like my case I was able to check in from 930am.
I checked out the great educational national football museum before heading out to the Etihad Stadium for a meeting with the Manchester City service and fulfillment manager and the game against Crystal Palace later that afternoon.
Man City match ticket

Man City match ticket

I found the transport accessibility probably the best I’ve experienced and closest to the stadium that I’ve ever seen, even better than Yankee Stadium or Suncorp Stadium. I caught the metrolink light rail from Piccadilly Gardens to Etihad Campus for £2.90 but annoyingly at the end tickets weren’t checked so not sure if the transport provider just allows free travel back into the city in order to get everyone on the light rail.
Metrolink at Etihad Stadium

Metrolink at Etihad Stadium

The vibe as soon as I got off the light rail at The Etihad Stadium was electric and everything you want from a fan engagement perspective was on offer from live music and bands, mascot appearances and former player interviews and competitions to free wi-fi being offered across the stadium, table settings for dining, food carts, EA Sports gaming centre and live video screens playing past games and showing fan tweets.
Free Wi-Fi at Etihad Stadium

Free Wi-Fi at Etihad Stadium

All of these fan engagement activities were part of Manchester City’s dediated fan zone called City Square. As soon as I entered the fan zone there was so much to see and do and even for the neutral fan like myself it certainly was a memorable experience.
City Square

City Square

EA Sports fan zone

EA Sports fan zone

Table settings for dining and relaxing before the match

Table settings for dining and relaxing before the match

I checked out the plans for their stadium redevelopment which will see an extra 13-15k odd seats and talked to a nice chap from City named Chris about what future stadium designs might look like with hologram capabilities so games can be played in various locations around the world.
Manchester City new stadium plans showcase

Manchester City new stadium plans showcase

Manchester City new stadium plans showcase

Manchester City new stadium plans showcase

Manchester City new stadium plans showcase

Manchester City new stadium plans showcase

Manchester City new stadium plans showcase

Manchester City new stadium plans showcase

I was met by Lisa, the service and fulfillment manager of Manchester City who was a fountain of knowledge and took me into the City offices for a chat before kick off. One of the key fan engagement aspects to learn from her was that communication above anything else is the basis for all effective fan engagement. The take away was that effective communication and actively listening to fans was the most important part of the fan engagement process. I liked City’s idea of a twitter supporter services account @MCFCHELP designed for fans to ask questions about match day’s, memberships or anything club related. This was another way that the club were addressing the Visit Football Quality Assured Stadium Scheme checklist by really going above and beyond for their fans. Lisa was incredibly knowledgable and professional regarding these areas and gave me a Blues scarf before we got a pic and I headed out to the take up my seat in the stadium.
Meeting with Lisa at Manchester City

Meeting with Lisa at Manchester City

I grabbed a pint of Fosters (what else right!) in a specially branded Manchester City pint cup which was a nice touch and took me back to working the bars at the 2000 Olympics. I struck up a conversation with a lifetime member and his teenage grandson (the only two in their whole extended family that supported City, the rest were United fans!) about their thoughts on the price of football, fan engagement and the stadium and they had nothing but glowing things to say such as that his pensioner season ticket was only £299 (a big difference to the two old ladies I met at Villa and Southampton who were paying £500+ a season.
Manchester City branded beer cups

Manchester City branded beer cups

I purchased a match day program (my 7th so far on this trip) for £3.50 and was really impressed with the content. From the professional packaging and poster that was included it really rivaled the Arsenal program and for kids and adults alike those little touches really stand out. Hopefully one day in Australia ours will look this slick.
City Vs Palace program

City Vs Palace program

Headed on over to the City megastore to see if there was any out of the box creative merch and found a few nice items in a David Silva figurine, a City PS3 skin and a fold out large scale Etihad Stadium replica.
Love this idea. Manchester City stadium in kids size!

Love this idea. Manchester City stadium in kids size!

PS3 console skins

PS3 console skins

Cool merch idea. Tiny David Silva figurine

Cool merch idea. Tiny David Silva figurine

I took up my seat high up but directly on the half way line and greatly enjoyed the match but overall it was the whole match day experience which truly won. On another note it was interesting to see so many women at a football match. One of the areas with fan engagement I’m really passionate about is catering for and enhancing the match day experience of females. For too long the game has just been targeted to men or seen as a blokes day out but these clubs realise that as a business you need to make revenue so why not cater for all demographics by looking at ways to get more women involved in football for instance. How do Manchester City get more women to the games? Im not sure just yet but perhaps it has something to do with creating a modern, positive and engaging community kind of vibe on match days that has replaced the macho bygone days of football.
Nice visual idea for the outside of the stadium featuring famous City moment

Nice visual idea for the outside of the stadium featuring famous City moment

City Vs Palace

City Vs Palace

The view from the seats

The view from the seats

Zdeko scored a cracking goal after it looked like they might be headed for a draw and I was very impressed with watching Mile Jedinak’s performance. He really did look powerful today so perhaps a Socceroos spot is guaranteed for the World Cup.
Outside the stadium

Outside the stadium

Members names make up this large art piece outside the stadium

Members names make up this large art piece outside the stadium

I’d heard and read a few articles on Manchester City’s fan engagement strategy but to see it (and the match) live was a really great experience which has given me heaps of ideas as I move into a fan engagement career in the sports business.

London Sports Business Internship Blog #12: QPR vs Leicester (First Game)

7.31am. Shepherds Bush Station. Band of Horses ‘The General Specific’

Minutes from Kick Off

Minutes from Kick Off

Woke up at 5am to get ready for the 6th straight day at QPR, but this time for a match day against Leicester City at home.

Early morning drive to the stadium

Early morning drive to the stadium

I was lucky enough to be picked up at 630am by one of the match day commanders and we headed into Loftus Road arriving by 715am. We had a quick greasy fry up at a QPR fans cafe around the corner from the stadium and then headed over to the ground.

At 8am I was introduced to a few key people in the operations room including police, chief safety officers, paramedics and QPR ops staff. A hive of activity with a group of very professional people. I made it clear to everyone that I wanted to stay out of everyone’s way and just sit, listen and learn from the experience. Everyone at QPR, not just the team here today have all been so supportive, friendly and helpful by giving me tips, ideas, feedback, resources and their time which has been more than I ever could have asked for. I could have come here and found that everyone was too busy to help me learn however the exact opposite has happened and the team have been brilliant.

The safety briefing at 9am was not dissimilar to ones I have had working at The Gabba Sports ground in Brisbane or the Hammersmith Apollo here in London, however the professionalism that was on show was to be admired. This is a team who genuinely want people to have a safe day out at the football. The planning and preparation that went into this match was another great aspect to see. Everything from crowd behaviour, fire procedures, radio instructions, response team procedures and terrorist threat advice was delivered in a professional, clear and respectful manner to stewarding staff so that everyone got the picture that they were prepared for the day.

We waited in the office for an hour or so before the briefing but I was lucky enough to be taken down to meet the referees and see how that procedure is dealt with. Basically the refs will fill out a form which takes into account their expenses such as hotels and travel and then the clubs pay that fee before the Football League reimburses the club later down the track. It was very professional to see that QPR do not get all chummy or hang around long with the refs which was again another very professional aspect which I witnessed on this match day.

Loftus Road

Loftus Road

I walked through the tunnel and I think directly into a SKY Sports live broadcast but was then able to meet a production manager from Sky as we made our way into the operations room to take up our places for the game, which was an early kick off at 12.15pm. A type of match like this was hopefully not going to see many alcohol problems due to the bars just opening at 12pm meaning that people had not had a long time to get on the ‘sauce’!

QPR match day program

QPR match day program

With gates about to open and the atmosphere buzzing inside the ground, I took a seat in the operations room with my pen at the ready to jot down as many interesting insights as I could. Below are some of my observations:

  • I found it interesting that security stewards wear GOPRO cameras strapped to their chests or smaller cameras on glasses so that if there are any incidents everything is captured on camera. Possibly coming to Australia soon.
  • Learnt more about the issues of flares and smoke bombs today being a massive issue in the game here at the moment. In 2009/10 there were about 40 incidents across the UK but in this year alone there are have been over 200 so it is a rapidly growing problem
  • The best ways grounds are fighting the flare issue is to use metal detectors as the flares and smoke bombs often have a copper wire pin which goes off, however  some fans around the UK are using children or girls as ‘flare mules’ to smuggle them in as steward staff are reluctant at some stadiums to do full body pat downs on children or females.
  • A few local police officers travel down with the away supporters and provide intelligence with the London police. This happens with every team but is becoming less and less as the hooligan element is not happening as much anymore
  • The biggest issues now for stadiums are drugs use (cocaine) and alcohol issues like people taking grog into the stands as over here you’re only allowed to drink behind the stands and away from the view of the pitch and you can be ejected if you have an alcoholic drink in the stands.
  • Another big issue is people that come into the ground having bought kids tickets. Some stadiums have implemented a traffic light system such as Red for adult, Green for children, Yellow for pensioners.
  • With the rise in obesity some of the issues here are that the ambulances have had to be made bigger, the stretchers have gotten larger and the turnstiles have also had to be widened at grounds across the UK.
  • Was great to be able to see a live crowd tracker of the day and that it was only at about 14,000 or 80% by kick off due to the rain keeping many people away. This would be a constant issue for me in the music industry whereby your crowds just drop off if theres the slightest bit of rain!
  • Interesting that CCTV around stadiums is so good that it can pick up really small details but that when it scans across shops or houses the inbuilt software pixelates the images (and rightly so!) therefore not allowing it to actually zoom in or capture images.
  • The stadium set up having one entry point for away fans with multiple stages that way fans do not cause a rush and can be properly patted down and checked to ensure they do not have any weapons on them.
  • Clubs should make team branded hankies judging by the amount of people with colds blowing their noses!
Go Pro's for Stewards

Go Pro’s for Stewards

QPR Squirrel

QPR Squirrel

About 15 minutes or so into the game a squirrel ran onto the pitch and had a bit of a run around. The poor thing must have been so scared and really what are stadiums to do here, especially when the game is being broadcast live on TV around the world. You can’t kill it, you can’t really trap it, you can’t allow the game to go on as an injury to one of the players could be very costly so you really just have to usher it away and hope it makes a run for it off the pitch.

The chants by all sections of the crowd to ‘There’s only one Luis Saurez’ certainly made alot of people laugh around the ground. Poor bloke!

Here’s some vision from the day of the squirrel

Squirrel Cam

Here are some of the match highlights:

QPR 0 vs Leicester City 1

All in all a fantastic opportunity to sit in on the match day operations and learn from this amazing crew of people.

 

 

London Sports Business Internship Blog #14: Arsenal vs Chelsea

3.31pm. Finsbury Park. The Finn Brothers ‘Only talking sense’

Emirates Stadium

Emirates Stadium

Had a pretty busy day today doing up a Prezi on the cost of season and match tickets in the Premier League and Championship but left the office at 3pm due to the weather starting to really turn bad.

Prezi on EPL/Championship Prices

Prezi on EPL/Championship Prices

It was great to be able to watch some A-League on the BT Sport channel in the office today as well

Watching A-LEAGUE in the office at QPR

Watching A-LEAGUE in the office at QPR

I had purchased a ticket off a mate of mine who is an Arsenal RED member through their ticket exchange program and while this set me back £80 ($200AUD) I thought why not shout myself a Christmas present and see this top of the table league defining match.

Blair at The Emirates

Blair at The Emirates

Turned out to be a bit of a lame spectacle and a 0-0 draw in pretty appalling conditions with hardly any passes connecting and Arsenal registering their only shot on goal in the 85th minute. A fairly spiteful match with a few close punch ups but overall a fantastic experience to get to The Emirates stadium and see this really gorgeous arena where every seat in the house has a great view.

Emirates Stadium Ground Level

Emirates Stadium Ground Level

I left Arnos Grove at 6pm and made my way through the four stops on the Piccadilly line to Arsenal tube station to see the atmosphere buzzing in the freezing London night.

Arsenal Tube

Arsenal Tube

I walked around the street stopping in at some of the counterfeit merchandise stands to see what merch they had for sale. Cheap and cheerful but fairly poor quality gear.

Arsenal merch

Arsenal merch

Arsenal merch

Arsenal merch

Cruised down to the ticket office as I wanted to see if I could get my mates electronic Arsenal card ticket turned into a physical ticket. Ok, I know that this might sound a bit silly but I collect all the tickets of gigs and sporting events I go to and have crafted some pretty colourful wall features as a result of the 1500+ music and sporting events I’ve been to, the majority of which I still have tickets for. Before I got to the box office I found a customer support liason officer who printed me out what looked like an EFTPOS docket which showed me where I was sitting. This still wasn’t the physical ticket that I wanted so I waited in line to finally find out that they don’t print physical tickets at The Emirates. I know this all sounds a bit ridiculous but if you’ve paid £80 and want to get a physical ticket then perhaps clubs need to realise that some fans want to grab all the memories of the night that they can. I know that in the music industry it really started to annoy people when there were no tickets to hand out to people at the end of a night at my old venues due to everything going to paper tickets. Who the heck wants a Ticketmaster print out!

Carlsberg Corner

Carlsberg Corner

Carlsberg Corner Arsenal Fan Engagement

Carlsberg Corner Arsenal Fan Engagement

Walked over to get a photo of me outside the stadium and before I could ask anyone I had a huge Nigerian guy asking if I would take his pic for him. I kindly obliged and asked him if he would take mine as well. We both joked about the power of football that two people from the other sides of the world would meet here tonight to see a team play. Certainly a thrill for both of us.

Stadium before kick off

Stadium before kick off

Purchased a match day program for £3.50 and made my way inside the stadium after checking out the Carlsberg fan zone area.

Arsenal Match Day Program

Arsenal Match Day Program

Arsenal Match Day Program

Arsenal Match Day Program

Arsenal Match Day Program

Arsenal Match Day Program

The match day program has to be the best I have ever purchased as it had a sticker sheet, fold out Walcott poster, OPTA stats and so much more.

Stadium before KO

Stadium before KO

The inside of the Emirates is truly world class with plenty of graphics, artwork and information about the history of Arsenal.

Inside the Emirates Stadium

Inside the Emirates Stadium

I made my way up to my seat and as I turned around I was really struck by how huge and amazing the stadium and view was.

Stadium

Stadium

The game itself was a bit of a poor game to watch but as a neutral it was just great to catch a game here.

Padded seats

Padded seats

Made my way back to Arsenal tube at the final whistle to head home and found that the stadium management of public transport was very efficient and well organised.

Arsenal Tube

Arsenal Tube

 

 

London Sports Business Internship Blog #13: Southampton vs Tottenham

7.34pm. Basingstoke. Something For Kate ‘Back to you’
Pulled myself out of bed at 6am after only a few hours sleep. Probably could have just gone back to bed but a great opportunity to check out Southampton’s St Mary’s stadium.
Walking to the Victoria Coach station in the early morning

Walking to the Victoria Coach station in the early morning

St Mary's Stadium

St Mary’s Stadium

Artwork near St Mary's stadium, Southampton

Artwork near St Mary’s stadium, Southampton

I got the Piccadilly line tube to Kings Cross at 7am and then down to Victoria station and then walked to the coach station. I used to do this trip many times from the area I used to teach in out in Suffolk trekking all across the UK for my previous business, Brisbane Sounds, sport and gigs so know it well and bright back many good memories.
Sold out game at St Mary's for SOUTOT

Sold out game at St Mary’s for SOUTOT

Got the coach to Southampton and by 1030am I was off the coach and walking (in the wrong direction) to the stadium. I found both here and in Birmingham that stadium information is quite poor. There might be some small signs here and there but most have been defaced or are not even on those ‘you are here’ information boards. Sure I have an iPhone with maps and I looked up the stadium guides beforehand but when you get into a city for the first time you just want to know which way to go. Perhaps Southampton FC could put a sign up in the coach station for instance.
Southampton FC VS Tottenham

Southampton FC VS Tottenham

This is one of the things that we do so well in Australia. Transport, stadium accessibility and match day information for residents and out of town supporters is always clear, but these clubs are 100+ years old so you have to give them some slack as the first time visitors to the stadium must account for 0.001% of crowd figures.
It was a beautiful day in Southampton and great to be back in this nice city. The last time I was here in 2011 I saw John Butler Trio with a mate and we stupidly decided to get the 5am coach after the gig and with nowhere to sleep or away from the freezing conditions we had to camp out in a junkie stairwell. Sometimes its just not worth saving a few bucks!!
Finally found my way to the stadium by following a few other supporters, had some chips for £2.50, bought a match day program and did a big walk around the stadium to really take it all in and see what they do on match days, which as it turned out today was not a lot outside the ground but was told that this was due to Sky Sports showing this match live which really takes up alot of their time and effort.
Corner kick by SFC

Corner kick by SFC

On Friday I was lucky enough to tee up a quick meeting with Becky who is the fan support officer at Southampton. We had a great chat before the game about the fan engagement strategies that Southampton use on match days and for their fans. Family fun days had gone down well in the past and today they ran probably the best run relay around a ground I’d ever seen as the kids were dressed up as Santa’s (many blokes too!)  and had to run around the ground kicking a footy… Made for a good laugh.
With Becky from Southampton FC

With Becky from Southampton FC

Program & Pastie

Program & Pastie

The grounds have your typical burgers, hotdogs, pasties, pies and other typical food but I truly wonder when we’ll see a stadium serving up healthy nutritious ‘take away’ food at games. Perhaps never    as the demographic is there for football and a fatty feed but with rising obesity rates and the popularity of healthy and active lifestyles maybe this will change and instead of a pie and chips at games you could get carrot sticks and hummus. Call that crazy but I witnessed it happen at the school tuckshop in my time as a teacher.
St Mary's Stadium

St Mary’s Stadium

The game was a cracking 5 match thriller which I really thought Saints would win based on the shocking week Spurs have had but Adebayor was on fire netting a brace in a 3-2 win. A really cold day where beanie and gloves were needed! Plus a hot pastie.
A few pics from the day.
Walking to the stadium

Walking to the stadium

Walking to St Mary's

Walking to St Mary’s

Close to the ground

Close to the ground

Tottenham coach

Tottenham coach

Left the stadium walking back to the city centre, got the coach to the tube at Hammersmith and curled up into bed.
Overall a great visit to St Mary’s stadium.
Outcome: 2-3 win to Spurs https://www.bbc.com/sport/football/25387088

London Sports Business Internship Blog #1: How I Scored An Internship at Queens Park Rangers Football Club

9.10am. Queensway tube. Hunters & Collectors ‘Talking to a stranger’

Match Stats:

  • Born in Brisbane, Australia in 1984
  • Graduated with degrees in Behavioural Studies and Education from the University of Queensland in 2006
  • Have worked as a high school teacher since 2007 in Brisbane, Central Queensland as well as in Newmarket, Cambridge and London.
  • Currently employed in the tertiary sector in Australia teaching event management, communications, marketing and artist management.
  • Have extensive music industry experience from managing bands, booking gigs, planning events, international tour management, venue management and maintaining digital media strategies.
  • Previously worked at the Brisbane Cricket Ground (The Gabba) from 1999-2006 managing stadium hospitality services as well as at music venues The Zoo in Brisbane and The Hammersmith Apollo in London.
  • Undertaking Masters of Business (Sport Management) through Deakin University, Melbourne in 2014 (online).

Teaching AFL at a school in London

Teaching AFL at a school in London

At SXSW Music Conference in Austin, Texas

At SXSW Music Conference in Austin, Texas

Presenting a speech at a Brisbane Sounds event

Presenting a speech at a Brisbane Sounds event

With my primary school students in Mildenhall, Suffolk.

With my primary school students in Mildenhall, Suffolk.

The Pre Game: How I got an internship at Queens Park Rangers Football Club.

This is one hell of a crazy story. However if you know me, you’ll know that my whole life is one crazy story after another. From teaching in challenging London high schools where I’ve had a knife put to my neck to tour managing bands around the UK and running a PR and events business that has taken me all over the world promoting the Brisbane music industry, I don’t sit back and wait for things to happen. I get off my butt, seek out opportunities and live out my dreams as well as actively encouraging and inspiring my students to do the same.

Brisbane Sounds Logo

Brisbane Sounds Logo

SEALS UK Tour 2011

SEALS UK Tour 2011

Flood Bank 2011 Disaster Appeal Gig

Flood Bank 2011 Disaster Appeal Gig

Brisbane Sounds 2010 Event

Brisbane Sounds 2010 Event

This is why 100 days before I turn 30 I’m about to embark on a life changing trip back to London to reinvent my career by working in the sports business. From December to January 2014 I’ll be working at global football club Queens Park Rangers in Shepherds Bush, London where I’ll be completing an internship in event management, communications and marketing with the aim of refining and improving my skills in these areas and bringing that knowledge back to Australia and securing employment in the sports business (or trying to get sponsored and work in the UK/Europe). However, the whole process to get this amazing opportunity sorted out has not been easy and is an example of my strongest qualities with those being dedication, positivity and enthusiasm. But how did this all come about?

Queens Park Rangers logo

Queens Park Rangers logo

Loftus Road Stadium

Loftus Road Stadium

Player Biography

Going back to early 2012 and I was getting very disillusioned with working in the music industry, particularly in my hometown of Brisbane where I had worked tirelessly since 2006 promoting 1000+ artists, building a 16K strong online community, networking internationally, running events and spending over $85,000 of my own money on the business. I cut my event management and communications teeth with my business, Brisbane Sounds during this time but I also learnt life lessons in business as well. It’s a ruthless and stressful industry to work in and I kept feeling that my morals were being tested and knew I had to get out so made the decision to finish up the business in April 2012 and direct all my focus on improving my practice as a teacher.

Brisbane Sounds 2008 Gig

Brisbane Sounds 2008 Gig

Brisbane Sounds 2010 Compilation Album

Brisbane Sounds 2010 Compilation Album

Around the same time as working at a high school part time, I also started working as a teacher part time at a tertiary institution. It had always been a bit stressful going from one job to the other each week, packing and unpacking my bag each Wednesday over the past two years and managing 100 odd teenage and adult students. However this year I had a student I was close to pass away through illness, a past student in England also died and I’ve had multiple learners with challenging diverse needs to support so it was probably one of my most stressful years as a teacher.

In this same period I had to reapply to keep one of my jobs, complete an extensive four month training course for the same job and then someone maliciously damaged my beloved 4WD. Things just kept going from bad to worse but I had to radicalize positivity and get on with life. I was finding that when I took students to see the counselor I’d be feeling as though student issues and teaching were starting to really weigh me down emotionally. It was very difficult being this super positive teacher for my students and helping them through their own personal troubles so I knew I needed change and I knew I was the only one who could do something about that. Therefore decided to focus all my efforts to get back into marketing, branding, event management and communications but this time with a focus on the sports business and not the music business. I do wonder how other teachers cope sometimes with all the pressures in their own lives but also wanting to do everything they can for their students in times of need.

My 4WD

My 4WD

Usually every year I would take myself off to the UK or USA and set up professional development and networking opportunities with people I admire and want to learn from while mixing my passion for sports and music by seeing gigs and games at stadiums and venues around the world. So in February of this year I decided to head to Europe for my 29th birthday as one of the teams I support,  West Ham United were playing on the weekend of my birthday and my favourite band, who I’ve done some work with in the past, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club were playing in Brussels on my actual birthday two days later.

West Ham vs West Brom at Upton Park

West Ham vs West Brom at Upton Park

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club gig in Brussels

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club gig in Brussels

This time around though, I decided to set up meetings with key players in the UK football industry. I emailed, sent letters or called every London club from the Premier League to the lower divisions and eventually got meetings with Fulham, West Ham, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and QPR along with a few other clubs throughout Europe.

Meeting at Allianz Arena, Munich

Meeting at Allianz Arena, Munich

Meeting at Arsenal

Meeting at Arsenal

The meetings that I set up were to talk about the roles these people had, careers in the sports business and how a global club is run. At the end of each meeting I asked all of them for an internship and told them about myself, my skills and how they could help me achieve my dreams of a career in the sports business. As luck would have it QPR agreed to an internship for December. I walked away from the stadium telling myself that nothing was set in stone and to go with the flow with whatever was to come. To this day I owe the lady who set this up so much gratitude and admiration as in just a short 45 minute chat she could see my potential.  There is no doubt that she is on the Christmas shopping list!

Over the next few months I continued to focus on teaching however by July I had made the decision to resign from one of my teaching posts and focus all of my efforts into reinventing my career in the sports business by looking at what I’ve done up to this point in my life and looking at where I wanted to go. I realized that I needed a break from teaching young adults, parents, paperwork, marking assessments and all the stressors that go with that life.

Game Day Strategy

From July to now I really began getting into personal branding and started reevaluating what I wanted to do with this next phase of my life. I found this amazing book called ‘Reinventing You’ by US based author Dorie Clark which hit me like a soccer ball to the head in terms of how life changing it was. I started writing out a list of all the personal branding and career reinvention jobs I had to achieve before I left for London. The list started out with a few simple things like getting new business cards and a website to networking and completing volunteer work.

'Reinventing You' by Dorie Clark

‘Reinventing You’ by Dorie Clark

I have been adding to the list on a daily basis and intend on writing a book about this experience but for now the list is up to 33 elements which I have ticked off. These include:

 

1. Creating a personal brand statement: ‘I’m a creative and ambitious communications and event management professional with seven years of experience visualizing, developing and facilitating major events and communications projects with a high success rate of delivering exceptional outcomes for clients in both local and international markets. I’m a leader, networker and life long learner skilled in social media, marketing and public relations with exceptional interpersonal skills and a proactive and passionate approach to executing outstanding results.’

2. Refining my LinkedIn with a focus on key word optimization.

3. Setting up a website  www.mrblairhughes.com which sells my personal brand and story.

www.MrBlairHughes.com

www.MrBlairHughes.com

4.  Setting up a logo.

Blair Hughes Logo

Blair Hughes Logo

5. Having a professional photo taken.

Professional Photo

Professional Photo

6. Setting up all the same branding on social media sites.

Social Media Branding

Social Media Branding

7. Networking through social media with leaders in the sports business.

8. Producing a personal infographic that sums up my story in a visual form.

Personal Infographic

Personal Infographic

9. Completed volunteer work in my new field to get my name out there.

10. Had testimonials and endorsements from past clients and colleagues written.

11. Defined my title in a few words.

12. Created content for my website and social media sites such as infographics.

Infographics

Infographics

A-LEAGUE Infographic

A-LEAGUE Infographic

A-LEAGUE Infographic

A-LEAGUE Infographic

A League Infographic for Brisbane vs Melbourne

A League Infographic for Brisbane vs Melbourne

13. Went to conferences in this new field.

14. Participated in Twitter live chats.

15. Continued to learn from listening to 100+ TED Talks, instructional videos, online workshops and webinars along with reading countless articles.

16. Made a new email and email signature.

17. Created business cards.

My new creative sports business themed business cards

My new creative sports business themed business cards

18. Participated in Skype sessions with leaders in this field.

19. Bought 20+ books on personal branding, sports business, leadership, marketing and event management.

Renegades Write the Rules

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20. Crafted my stories and storytelling from my past experiences.

21. Subscribed to industry magazines and publications.

22. Bought new clothes and completely revolutionized my wardrobe and style to match this new career.

23. Started to blog and share ideas.

24. Worked on helping others with this knowledge of personal branding. Found that I would be offering advice not only to students but also other adults in the area of personal branding.

25. Sought out the leaders I wanted to emulate and went about setting up meetings both locally and internationally.

26. Created a Pinterest account to share ideas on sports fan engagement and marketing ideas.

Pinterest site

Pinterest site

27. Investigated study options and chose a course in Melbourne to study in 2014.

28. Talked to people and friends about what I wanted to do. Started selling my brand more vocally because you never know who is listening and who can help you on your journey.

29. Found mentors in my field who I wanted to assist me.

30. Expressed my ideas and plans.

31. Did a career path self assessment.

32. Started work on a short film showcasing my skills, dreams, goals and past work experience.

33. Developed a new elevator pitch.

Leaving the Sheds

Getting to work at a major football club in London was not easy though. Around early September I was contacted by the club and told that I would need a visa for the trip as the UK immigration department deemed what I was doing as ‘work’. As I had already completed my working holiday visa from 2006-2008 the only available option was to get an immigration lawyer involved at a cost of $1000AUD and figure out what visa options were available to me in this unique situation. Acquiring the services of an immigration lawyer was probably the best money I spent though as the lawyer was exceptional from start to finish and really helped me out with some of the problems I faced in getting back to the UK.

Ready to send my Visa application to UK Immigration.

Ready to send my Visa application to UK Immigration.

What problems though? Well, having put together the 50 pages of documents (CV, bank statements, cover letter, return airfare ticket, letter from my employer about when I was due back for work in 2014, letter of offer from the club, accommodation details, passport, passport photos and visa application forms) for my visa application I then had to call the $15 a minute UK Immigration hotline in Canberra after their online system charged me $140 twice for the biometrics payment.

On calling to sort this out I was questioned about my visa application and told in no uncertain terms that my lawyer had got it all wrong, the visa I was applying for was wrong, my visa application would be refused, I wouldn’t be allowed into the UK and every time I travelled I would be hauled off for questioning due to having had a visa application refused. I was told that they had never heard of an Australian going over to work at a club before, that it probably wouldn’t be worth wasting my money on the visa application and also that the majority of times most people just rock up at the gate at Heathrow and state their case and 9 out of 10 get allowed into England. I politely told her that I had a lot on the line here and I did not want to risk being the 1 out of 10 which was denied as I had invested a lot of time and effort into all of this.

She also happened to mention that she was a Chelsea supporter….

The crisis was averted when the lawyer got involved to further explain the situation and immigration decided to check with their Manila office regarding my visa queries and got back to me 35 minutes before my biometrics meeting in Brisbane city to advise that it was all ok and good to go. Phew!

Kick Off

So here I am, 7 days out from heading back to London to start this new period in my life. I’m absolutely buzzing as my mind is in a better place especially from the cardio boxing sessions I’ve been doing over the past three months which have prepared me for the fight ahead while also losing a total of 23KGs. The future is unwritten and I’m out to carve my name in the sports business. Exciting times await so thank you for reading this lengthy first post about my upcoming adventure.

Contract Negotiations

I’m obviously on the look out for employment opportunities in marketing, fan engagement, event management and communications in the sports business either in Australia or abroad so if you would like to learn more about me, link me up with people who could help me on my journey or better yet offer me a job then please get in touch.

Thanks

London Sports Business Internship Blog #8: Day 2 at QPR

4.55pm Holland Park tube. Old Crow Medicine Show ‘Methamphetamine’
Started the day making a power packed nutritious salad for lunch which turned out to be delicious even if it was a 5 degree kinda day. I left the flat at 8am and made the hour journey to White City with time to spare so I’ll probably start earlier as I’m really enjoying all the work the team are giving me.
As soon as I got to the office I was quick to work researching aspects of interest from the QPR fans for the fan forum tomorrow night. I was tasked with finding some information on policies and laws on e-cigarettes and safe standing in English grounds along with wifi networks in stadiums. These were all areas in which the fans had requested information on.
Morning in Arnos Grove

Morning in Arnos Grove

I tried to get in touch with my contacts at Suncorp Stadium and The Den through the Brisbane Roar but by 10am here it was already after 7pm back in Brissy, so i’ll take this up again tomorrow. I got to speak to a few organisations from the Safe Standing road show and Footballers Federation and tonight I’m going to shoot off an email from my smart new QPR email to Western Sydney Wanderers who have purchased rail seats for Parramatta Stadium to ask them some questions. I put together the following information for  safe standing and it really makes for a good understanding of the issues as to why it has been banned for so long…. Well for one its not illegal! But take a read.
Loftus Road at 2pm

Loftus Road at 2pm

I then started to research e-cigarettes in stadiums and put together this table (will add later) on the 44 EPL/Championship teams who allow smoking areas or e-cigarettes. I then got to call the Premier League office and speak to them about these issues as well, very exciting stuff. Ended up with the following research:
1. Safe Standing

Overall Research Conclusion:
Many clubs are keen to have SS, momentum is growing with fans and other clubs around the world, rugby/music etc allow it as do league 1 down but the laws need to be changed first for championship/EPL to allow it. Overwhelming feeling is that it will be allowed soon in EPL/Championship on a trial basis due to its success in other parts of the world, especially Germany’s Bundesliga.

• LAW: The legislation relating to standing in football grounds derives from section 11 of the Football Spectators Act 1989: ‘The Secretary of State may, by order, direct the licensing authority to include in any licence to admit spectators to any specified premises a condition imposing requirements as respects the seating of spectators at designated football matches at the premises; and it shall be the duty of the authority to comply with the direction.’

• The law does not say that standing is illegal but that grounds need seats, however it is contrary to the football league ground regulations.

• In England and Wales, standing is permitted at rugby union and rugby league venues, as well as at speedway and horse-racing. It is also permitted at football grounds outside the top two divisions.

• Safety is commonly perceived to be the main reason for all-seating. The Taylor Report refers to capacity control, stating that seating allows those in charge to know the exact number of supporters in a particular part of a ground. He also refers to swaying and surging, stating that these cannot occur in all-seated stadia, where, he says, “involuntary and uncontrolled crowd movements occasioned by incidents in the game are effectively eliminated”.

• This has been mitigated by access technology, as laid down by the Green Guide at all major UK football grounds. Longer crush barriers allow a far shorter unhindered run. With rail seats, where there is a barrier along every row, surging is physically impossible.

• See site http://www.safestandingroadshow.co.uk/ who are leading the way

• The Safe Standing Roadshow works alongside the Football Supporters Federation
http://www.fsf.org.uk/campaigns/safe-standing/  to promote rail seats. The FSF see ‘rail seats’ as the most suitable safe standing solution for Premier League and Championship stadia,as they enable clubs that have an expectation of playing in European competition to provide accommodation for standing spectators at domestic games while being able to convert such areas to all-seater configuration to fulfil UEFA and FIFA requirements. The roadshow has persuaded some clubs to support safe standing.

• The aim of the FSF : To persuade the Government, football authorities and football clubs to accept the case for introducing, on a trial basis, limited sections of standing areas at selected grounds in the stadiums of Premier League and Championship football clubs.

• As of May 2013, a total of 25 clubs in England and Wales playing in the Premier League and Football League have backed safe-standing. Premier League clubs who have expressed support for safe standing include Manchester City, Aston Villa and Swansea City.

• Vote passed recently  by 55 out of the 72 Football League clubs recently at their AGM, where they approved a motion to “explore the steps necessary” to run safe standing trials.

• An example of what Brisbane Roar do in Australia at Suncorp Stadium with their active supporters area is allow a scaffolding structure to exist around fans with a guy on top barking chants etc. 

• The Western Sydney Wanderers (Australia) plan to install German style rail seating into the Red & Black Bloc active support section of their home ground Parramatta Stadium, as part of a larger capacity and facility upgrade in 2014.

• One country that has developed such alternative forms of standing accommodation is Germany.

• All German Bundesliga grounds permit standing and many have very large standing areas. Until as recently as 2004, for instance, top-flight German club Borussia Mönchengladbach’s home stadium, the Bökelbergstadion, provided standing accommodation for over 25,000 fans and seats for under 9,000.

• Today, Borussia Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park (aka the Westfalenstadion) provides standing accommodation for 27,000 fans.

• Example of “RAIL SEATS” in German stadiums, currently leading the way in terms of safe standing.

• New stadia, such as Morecambe FC’s Globe Arena (opened in 2010) with standing for over 4,000 spectators and St Helens Rugby League Football Club’s Langtree Park (opened in 2012) with standing for almost 8,000, continue to be built with terraces and are operated safely in accordance with the Guide.

• Bristol, June 2013. Bristol City look set to become the first club in the UK to incorporate safe standing rail seat areas into their ground.

• The only sad thing about the plans is that unless the rules change between now and August 2015 only supporters of the club’s new groundshare partners, Bristol Rugby, will be allowed to stand at the rail seats. For football games the stadium will still have to offer only “seated accommodation”, so the rail seats will be unlocked to enable them to be used as seats.

• Good video here to watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=apX5V1IJCW4
2. E-Cigarettes

Overall Research Conclusion
Health benefits still unknown therefore health groups wary of allowing the promotion/advertising/de-normalising of smoking, regulated as medicines in other countries, will be regulated in UK from 2016, has not stopped some clubs signing sponsorship deals with e-cig firms, EPL will be banning e-cigs anyway from 2013/14 season.

• LAW: Because UK law allows building owners and landlords to determine policy for themselves, clubs and stadiums have the right to limit or restrict vaping, or any other activity for that matter. There is no rhyme or reason to it, but there’s also nothing that football fans can do about it.

• Last month the UK  Government announced electronic cigarettes were to be classified as medicines in a bid to tighten up regulation.

• The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency says it will regulate e-cigarettes as medicines when new European tobacco laws come into force.

• Jeremy Mean of The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said the government had concluded that e-cigarettes currently on the market do not meet appropriate standards of safety, quality and efficacy.

• In some countries, such as New Zealand, e-cigarettes are regulated as medicines and can be purchased only in pharmacies.

• In other countries, including Denmark, Canada and Australia, they are subject to restrictions on sale, import and marketing. Complete bans are in place in Brazil, Norway and Singapore.

• Although they contain nicotine, electronic cigarettes are marketed as being less harmful than real ones because they do not contain harmful toxins such as tar.

• But research has shown the levels of nicotine each e-cigarette contains varies from batch to batch.

• Fearing the unknown consequences, some countries, such as Brazil and Mexico, have banned them altogether, even though actual tobacco remains legal.

• Derby County and Merthyr Town FC, Burnley and Celtic have had sponsorship deals with e-cigarette companies. Derby even gave away free e-cigs to supporters, however the big issue from health groups is that there is just not enough evidence/research yet to say definitively that e-cigs are OK to smoke. So for one angle to counter the e-cig issue in LR, there’s obviously big health concerns still to be addressed.

• Football fans in Shrewsbury and Telford will now be subject to some policy changes relating to the use of electronic cigarettes on those football grounds. In Shrewsbury, e-cig vaping has been banned at the Greenhouse Meadow stadium, while at the New Box Head stadium Telford, e-cig users can still use their e-cig devices, but only in designated vaping areas.

• Manchester City and Chelsea have both banned the electronic tobacco alternatives in their stadiums. In Manchester City, one fan recently had his season ticket suspended specifically because he used an e-cig whilst on the concourse.

• From 2014/15, the Premier League will ban e-cigarettes inside stadiums.

WIFI
• Brilliant article on MLS team Sporting Kansas and their new stadium http://newsroom.cisco.com/press-release-content…
From 2-3pm I got to sit in on a marketing sales pitch from a telco company offering direct call back and sms services. It was interesting to see the backend of how these systems work, sending out 30,000 odd targeted texts at 2-3p a pop. Enjoyed the sales pitch which included street press advertising too which was interesting to hear from a London football club perspective rather than music industry.
There were plenty of other jobs I got to work on today but for privacy reasons I just will not be disclosing them however its safe to say I have learnt so much in just 2 days that this is just such a thrill.
Home cooked goodness

Home cooked goodness

London Sports Business Internship Blog #10: Day 4 at QPR

Walking into the stadium

Walking into the stadium

9.21am White City tube. John Butler Trio ‘Bound to Ramble’
Got in at 9am today to follow up on some work from yesterday.
Sent off more emails and made calls to premier league and championship clubs regarding fan engagement , this has been a great way to network and add top industry people to my contacts list. Certainly a valuable asset if I’m looking to work in the sports business
EPL Quality Assurance Checklist

EPL Quality Assurance Checklist

After a few emails I had a meeting with two older lads who were ex Euro 96 and detective inspectors with the MET police but who now provide security consultations to stadiums across the UK. I was able to interview these guys in depth about the change in tactics of hooligan gangs and firms and found out interesting insights such as the rise with the problem of flares and smoke bombs in that children were being used as flare mules to carry this stuff in as well as how the firms and gangs had changed over time so that now the old boys don’t get involved as much yet train the young ones up to do the violence. However what was interesting was learning about the sociology of these groups in that usually they start young with the violence then ease off as they have kids but then kick back into it once they’re in their 50’s. Often the older lads are up for a bit of a fight however the young ones generally back off at the sight of police.
It was interesting to hear that when a team plays away they have a few local cops from their area who travel with the away supporters and who relate intelligence and information onto the home teams police. I was told that a big reason for this is that away supporters often think they’re invincible away from home however with a cop from home ready to yell at or warn a badly behaving away supporter it really does act as a deterrent as in ‘Oi you, i know you, stop it or you’re nicked’ anyway interesting stuff.
QPR trophy cabinet

QPR trophy cabinet

Got to talk to a few security people about the reason you don’t see many supporters wearing jerseys to games. When you watch these games live on TV in Australia and you see everyone rugged up and without a scarf you just think ‘oh its cold’ however the three main reasons for the lack of jersey wearing are;
1. Most pubs ban ‘colours’ in their establishments. When I went to a Liverpool vs PSV Champions League game in 2007 I was refused entry to a pub in the city centre on the basis I was wearing a reds/PSV combo scarf (i’m not a Liverpool supporter but love buying merch of games I attend) and just this year ahead of the QPR vs Wigan game I was told I couldn’t enter a restaurant for a pre game feed until I had removed the QPR jersey I had on (I also like to collect kits of teams I visit). The rationalizing behind this is that wearing club colours could cause violence amongst rival fans.
2. Wearing the jersey/colours can be seen as showing off your allegiance to your club to rival fans and could cause you to be singled out and harassed or worse.
3. The sheer cost of club jerseys has skyrocketed even since I first came to live here in 2006. Jerseys with badges, name and number are now upwards of £70-80 meaning that the average family or supporter just cant afford to buy a jersey. I bet you if you actually looked at each stand to see who wears their teams 2013/14 jersey it would be quite rare.
All in all I think this all shows that the team jersey as we know it, totally needs to be taken back to the drawing table. Not least so that the principal sponsors are able to get their brand out there. Either that or shirt sponsors should start advertising on Bench, North Face or SuperDry jackets!
Was nice to be told today how adaptable I am in that I’ve just got stuck in and asked for work and jobs from various departments. If I can make anyones job a bit easier then its fantastic and its great I’m doing some serious jobs and not just making coffee. Not that I’d mind that but my skills and life experience do illustrate that I know what I’m doing here in marketing, ent management and operations and that this is the career I need to focus on.
After lunch I had a fascinating chat with the support liaison officer about fan engagement and customer services and it was great to share my Pinterest site (www.pinterest/mrblairhughes) which i has been working on in the leas up to starting here with him.
QPR fan engagement

QPR fan engagement

I got a great insight into the PL’s Visit Football quality assurance scheme as well which is a marking system designed to assess various factors of a stadium and match day experience.
QPR pitch

QPR pitch

Found out that drugs such as cocaine are a huge and rising issue in football and ground management and that majority of the trouble happens outside the stadiums on match days rather than inside the grounds meaning that CCTV and police intelligence are vital tools in the fight against this bad behaviour.
Another top day at Loftus Road

London Sports Business Internship Blog #11: Day 5 at QPR

6.10am Arnos Grove flat. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds ‘Easy Money’
I picked up a few boxes of fruit mince pies from my local Tescos for all the departments who have helped me out this week by giving me work to do and showing me a lot of respect by treating me as part of the team. Thought Vegemite wouldn’t have gone down quite as well!
I started the day by picking up where I left off yesterday in that I was researching all of the Premier League clubs membership and loyalty schemes to see what interesting merchandise items, loyalty schemes and incentives each of the teams had. The research I did into fan engagement is invaluable stuff and really needs to be actioned by some A-League clubs back home. I absolutely love checking out the various membership packs of sports teams as some can be jam packed with amazing items and creative ideas whereas like I found today some are just plain bland and boring with no real idea of their demographic or with cheap generic items. For instance, a pen for a 5 year olds pack…. Be a bit more creative. How about a giant club logo branded pencil or a stylus for a tablet device? From teaching kids I know that the majority don’t even write, so a pen is kind of redundant.
I researched the club membership packs and in my opinion the best value for money was either Crystal Palace or Liverpool who both really clearly identified  their membership markets and added heaps of merchandise.
Feeling a bit flat today, possibly as a result of boxing last night however it has been a very busy week at QPR.
North London Boxing

North London Boxing

Fired off a few emails and set up meetings with support liaison and fan engagement officers with Southampton, Everton, West Ham and Vero Communications, the latter of which helped strategically plan major events like the FIFA World Cup.
I’ve had such a great first week, everyone has seen how passionate, enthusiastic and self motivated I am so its been great to get stuck into some work and really open my ears and eyes to everything that goes on at a major football club.
QPR Pitch

QPR Pitch

I got a copy of the match day program at 3pm and don’t these just look amazing. The English football clubs have really got these down to a fine art. 80+ pages of beautiful writing and images really drives home the value and experience in coming to the football here and picking up a match day program.
QPR match day program

QPR match day program

I had a bit of time to check out what FA Cup games I’m going to head to over the weekend of the 4/5 of January and it looks like I’ll head to Charlton vs Oxford on the Saturday and Nottingham vs West Ham on the Sunday. Should make for another big weekend of football trekking over England.
Final preparations were organized with the Sky broadcast trucks being organised around cars that had parked in their way outside the stadium. The big match which is 1 vs 3 or QPR vs Leicester is broadcast live across the country on Sky Sports tomorrow and as its a huge match everyone in the office is buzzing.
QPR Kids Zone

QPR Kids Zone

The more I think about what I’ve done in the past, the skills and life experience I have from traveling and working abroad and having worked as a teacher and in event management in the music industry as well as the fact that I have easily slotted in at a major sports club really drives home to me that I don’t need to go back to Uni to study these fields. I know I’m more than capable of showcasing my skills at a major club so my goals really need to be to start applying for jobs now.
One thing I have been doing has been to use the creative fan engagement ideas I have been collating on my Pinterest page to contact Australian clubs from my QPR email and give them a pat on the back for their creative CRM and fan engagement ideas while at the same time getting my name and brand into their heads.
Anyway absolutely stuffed so going for a curry and beers with my flatmates to look back on the week.

London Sports Business Internship Blog #6: Aston Villa vs Manchester United

5.19pm. Aston station, Birmingham. John Mayer ‘Vultures’
On sunday morning I left my digs in Arnos Grove, London to head to Birmingham to catch the Aston Villa vs Manchester United game at Villa Park.
7am London

7am London

I set off at 7am and made the 30 minute tube journey to Victoria coach station where I then caught a coach to Birmingham, getting in at 1130am. I had wanted to have a quick bite to eat in Brum but after checking on the stadium location it was made clear that it wasn’t within walking distance from the city.
Tube to coach. 7am

Tube to coach. 7am

Coach trip

Coach trip

It was also pouring rain and freezing as well by this point so i was getting a bit drenched.
Brum

Brum

I ventured around the Bull Ring shopping centre and finally found a bus, the 7A Football Special (coincidence or not but my old high school bus in Brisbane was the 7A) the lady said it was 2£ but you had to have correct change so she just let me ride it. It was all a bit of a shambles really in terms of communication which was worse coming back but I’ll go into that later.
Bull Ring

Bull Ring

I caught the bus down the road to the Trinity Rd side and walked through a rubbish filled car park along with all the other punters and finally saw the stadium’s typical English shed like structure…. Just gorgeous!
Football Special Bus

Football Special Bus

Villa Park

Villa Park

I walked around the stadium twice, soaking up the atmosphere, taking pics and talking to police and punters.
Match day programs

Match day programs

I loved seeing the bike rack that was made available to fans who chose public transport to the match. What a creative idea to get fans active as well as cut down on match day private transport use.
I finally went inside and starving I ordered a serve of curry chips and a plastic bottle of beer. With the match day programme in hand and a full belly I took up my seat in the Holte Stand.
Villa Bike rack

Villa Bike rack

Villa Park

Villa Park

Holte End

Holte End

When I got to my seat I was stoked to learn that  I was sitting next to 83 year old Janice, a life long Villa supporter who has been coming to games since she was 7 so since 1937! Just amazing. Janice and I chatted all afternoon about her love for the club and how this was her once monthly treat to come to the football. It was sad to hear that she comes to games by herself as a result of the passing of her husband but I’m glad I could keep her company for a few hours.
Janice and I

Janice and I

Rooney close by

Rooney close by

Food Prices

Food Prices

The gate left open in front of me.

The gate left open in front of me.

United won the match through 2 strikes to Wellbeck and one to Cleverley and then I was on my way back to Aston station and onto Birmingham new street. The communications and management of the stadium left a lot to be desired however as there was no real plan in place with signage or stewards to let people know where to go to get back to the city centre. At this stage it was 430pm and with the trains no where in sight and the line not moving I was getting slightly worried that I’d miss my coach back to London. I ran the 3km back to the city (luckily in the right direction) and made the coach to London with 8 minutes to spare.
Great view at Villa Park

Great view at Villa Park

Curry chips

Curry chips

Arriving back in London at 830pm and then back out to my digs by 10pm, I was in bed by 11 all set for the big day at QPR tomorrow.
The match

The match

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