internships

How the live sporting experience is being redefined through fan engagement.

When is the last time those attending a live sporting event at your venue or within your sport truly felt valued, empowered and engaged as fans? Disregard if their team won or lost on the field and think about what’s happening off it and everything else that happened at the venue on the day. Was there a diverse selection of quality food like gourmet pulled pork sandwiches at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium? Was the entertainment exciting like Manchester City’s ‘City Square’ fan zone? Were they able to access free in-stadium wifi on your second screen to connect with the team and other fans during the game like Sporting Kansas’ multi-angle replays and live stats app? Overall, did the fans feel that the club, sport and stadium created a positive relationship through delivering a memorable experience. Hopefully your club, sport or stadium are doing things right and you cheered yes to all of those questions but if not then this is where the sports business ‘buzz’ term of the moment, fan engagement or fan experience has become so prevalent in recent years among leagues, clubs, stadiums and ultimately sports fans.

It’s been well documented that sporting teams across all codes are fighting a battle off the pitch to get more fans through the gates with the reasons often attributed to a challenging financial climate; competition from new leisure activities; a crowded sporting calendar with multiple teams in the same city; as well as the convergence of digital media and sports over the last few years which has seen more and more fans viewing the game from the comfort of their home theatre sports caves on large LCD 3D HD main screens. Fan engagement then is seen as a crucial way that sporting teams can bring their fans closer and at the same time get more bums on seats.

It’s interesting when you actually stop to think about the idea of fan engagement being a new craze when clubs have always been creatively connecting with fans for many years. However, with the advent of the second screen and social media, clubs, stadiums and fans are embracing new technologies which now allow much faster connection on a more intimate level. As a result, a recent study into stadium fan engagement many fans noted that if fans had to choose between leaving their wallet or smart phone at home they would leave their wallet! How then did it get to a point where fans were crying out for a better match day experience and value for their hard earned cash? Surely the game that’s being played on the pitch is enough value for money and the main reason why fans actually attend the game? For some purist sports fans the idea of fan engagement is absurd as they see it taking away from the main reason why everyone has come to the game in the first place. Get these supporters the customary stadium pie, beer and decent seat and that’s all they need to be able to enjoy the match. However, times have changed and for a growing majority, sports fans now have higher expectations for the match day experience and are seeking more options, incentives, entertainment and engagement from clubs and stadiums.

Thankfully for both local and international fans these teams are now rapidly realising the benefits of using creative fan engagement strategies to connect with their fans. The league, club and stadium stakeholders are increasingly finding ways to collect data and create revenue streams from these fan engagement initiatives. There is healthy competition among these stakeholders to have a distinguished fan engagement selling point that separates them from other clubs with not a day going by without an exciting new idea for fans.

It’s important to understand that fan engagement is about creating a special positive relationship with fans through a two-way conversation between them and their club. It’s about reaching out to fans whether they are in the stands at the game or watching for instance via a digital membership in a foreign country in order to make them aware that they are connected and involved in the club through various creative strategies.

Fan engagement is about pulling the fan in closer to the club rather than reducing them to just a membership number in the stands. It encompasses many aspects such as creative merchandise like Queensland Red’s ‘Baby Red’ membership that includes a baby sized jersey; responsive cross platform social and digital media initiatives like West Ham United’s social media match where the team wore T-shirts with fans tweets on them; the Newcastle Knights having fans twitter names on the back of players jerseys. Match day experiences like Tottenham Hotspurs ‘Linesman for a Day’ or the Oakland Raider’s ‘Fanicure’ experience for female fans are also examples of how fan engagement is being used by sporting teams around the world.

Clubs and stadiums also see the benefit of maximising fan engagement by providing quality stadium food options, such as Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium gluten free stand or Sydney’s Allianz Stadium ‘Seat & Eat Free’ deal, as well as providing fans with dedicated fan zones like Queens Park Ranger’s Matchday Activity Zone for youth supporters and ESPN’s Fan Deck seen recently at the Opening Series of the Major League Baseball in Sydney. While these are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of best practice initiatives for fan engagement in 2014, what sets fan engagement apart is that many of these ideas are very inexpensive and easy to facilitate and in turn can generate significant added revenue into a club by attaching memberships, merchandise, corporate hospitality and commercial offers or incentives to these fan engagement strategies that means the brand can now also be marketed towards newer markets of international supporters.

Global innovations in fan engagement are taking place on a daily basis with recent additions including the FIFA World Cup 2014 rolling out a second screen social and mobile heavy experience called Global Stadium which lets football fans from around the world connect during the 64 games. Atletico Madrid have also recently announced plans to install a massive 4000m2 fan zone around their stadium by 2016 and the AFL has teamed up with wearable technology company Wearable Experiments (We:eX) to develop ‘Alert Shirts’ which allow fans to experience what the players feel through a technology-enabled jersey.

It’s not hard to see why sporting clubs and stadiums around the world are investing more and more resources into fan engagement initiatives as it gives their supporters more bang for their buck, increases fan loyalty and enhances the game day experience which in turn creates lasting memorable moments for fans.

Interning in the Sports Business: A case study of my time at Queens Park Rangers Football Club (Sport Business International June 2014)

Australian Blair Hughes turned his back on teaching and the music industry to pursue a career in the sports industry. He gives his account of travelling across the world to intern at a London based football club.

FROM A YOUNG age I was always the one in my group of friends to plan days out at a sporting match or think up creative entrepreneurial ideas to make pocket money. I think, therefore, that sports event management and fan engagement have been in my blood before I
even knew what those two skills were.

Over the past seven years I have worked as a high school teacher and as a venue, tour and
artist manager in the music industry, where I ran a successful PR and events business.
Postgraduate study in sports management – or any field for that matter – should be applauded
as it demonstrates a person’s ability to be a lifelong learner and invest in their career.
The approach I have taken – to proactively trek across the globe seeking out practical experience through internships – has proved to be very beneficial for my own career.

Let me set the scene for you. It’s early 2013, I’m a year away from turning 30 and I’m in
a teaching job in Australia that I’ve become disillusioned with. I knew due to the stress I was feeling after seven years as a teacher that I needed to change paths, follow my dreams and
find my true passion. I knew that my diverse life experience and unique skills developed
from years of working in the education and music industries would hold me in good stead
heading into the sports industry, but it would still be a very big challenge to secure a job.

Progress through Persistence
In 2013, I sent e-mails and letters and made calls to London at 1am from Australia to over 40 football clubs across the UK – including West Ham, Tottenham and Chelsea – and set up
meetings with 17 of them. This kind of proactive enthusiasm has got me everywhere over the years and is what I continually teach my students: if you want to reach a goal, you can’t just sit back and wait for it to happen. You need to get off your butt, put yourself out there, never stop
learning, market yourself as the best in the game and search out who you want to professionally emulate. Discover what your passion is and do everything you can to reach your career goals.At the end of a meeting with QPR (Queens Park Rangers), I asked about the possibility of an internship, and to my astonishment they agreed to take a punt and have me come back at the end of the year to learn from them.

While at QPR I was able to work on some exciting fan engagement and operations projects ranging from helping design new incentives for membership packages, investigating e-cigarette and vaping policies in the English Football League as well as researching ticketing and loyalty schemes. I was also able to sit in on the action in the control room on matchdays against Leicester City, Doncaster Rovers and Huddersfield Town to learn from the experienced football police squad about serious crowd management issues such as hooliganism and flares. I participated in pre- and post-game briefings with key stakeholders such as stadium operations, and a Hammersmith and Fulham Council safety meeting that looked at all the factors that go into creating a successful and safe matchday.

The English Premier League gave me an insight into the issue of pyrotechnics, and I learnt about the current awareness campaigns and dangers around the use of flares and smoke
bombs, including how women and children are being used as flare mules in grounds across the UK. Along with this, I had a chance to learn a deeper understanding of hooliganism from chief superintendents of the Metropolitan Police Service’s football division.Last but by no means least, I was privileged to be able to spend a couple of days with the QPR Community Trust, helping teach football to kids with Down’s syndrome and meeting the players as they signed merchandise for charities.

All through the QPR internship I tried to be the first into the office and the last to leave, talked to everyone from the cleaners to the owner Tony Fernandes, and networked with clubs back in Australia, mentioning that I was talking up their initiatives…all to get my name in their minds.The internship, though, was not without its challenges or anxious moments. For instance, there was a financial risk in taking the internship in the first place, and I had to save up enough money to last me a few months in London as I wasn’t being paid. Getting a UK visa was also a hassle, and I had to pay an immigration lawyer to sort it out.Then there were other anxieties. Would I be out of my depth, or too old for the internship, given it would usually be reserved for a high school graduate? Would there be a structured programme for me? How much freedom would I get at the club to develop? Would I actually learn what it was like to work in fan engagement? Would I make good contacts?

As it turned out, everyone at QPR gave me their time, experience, advice and ideas and the placement greatly helped guide my understanding of exactly where I wanted to go with my career in the sports industry. I also networked every day I was in the UK, attending over 20 Premier League and Championship matches and having meetings with key fan engagement staff at these clubs along the way.

The rest, as they say, is history. Fast forward to mid-2014 and I’ve completed an internship
at QPR and now currently work in fan engagement for a London start-up, whilst also running the social media for a major sports conference and teaching event management and marketing to teens one day a week. I will also be gaining some US experience at the end of 2014 with some high-profile sporting teams over there, and would like to return to QPR to work full-time in fan engagement or operations somewhere down the line.

In many ways I’m living the dream, but I didn’t get there overnight; the last nine months have been long days of calculated risks, relentless networking and seeking out practical experience in the sports industry through internships.

This story appeared in the June 2014 edition of Sports Business International

More Than The Game: Fan Engagement

Sporting teams are fighting a battle off the pitch to get more fans through the gates.

The challenging financial climate, competition from new leisure activities, as well as the convergence of digital media and sports over the last few years has seen more and more fans viewing the game from the comfort of their man (or woman) home theatre caves.

Sports fans these days have higher expectations of the live stadium experience. While the football purists proudly still exist, long gone are the days when it was only about the 90-minute game on the pitch. For many fans the game alone is now simply not enough value for their hard-earned money. Therefore sporting clubs around the world are investing more and more resources into fan engagement initiatives in order to give their supporters more bang for their buck, increase fan loyalty and enhance the game day experience in order to create lasting memorable moments for their fans.

In late 2013 I interned at English Championship side Queens Park Rangers football club in London, where I was able to work alongside highly experienced marketing, operations and fan engagement representatives at this famous football club.

My main aim was to explore how global sporting teams – I visited 16 UK teams such as West Ham United, Southampton, Everton, Manchester City and Fulham – engaged and actively communicated with their fans to bring them closer to the match day experience both at the ground as well as in their home via social media.

Two of the leading resources into fan engagement in the football world include the Football League Fan Engagement Guide as well as the Quality Assurance Stadium Scheme Visit Football Checklist.

The Football League Fan Engagement Guide is designed to help clubs grow their fan bases and provides a comprehensive list of ideas and initiatives that aim to improve supporter experiences for existing, lapsed or potential fans. The guide was designed to recognise supporter needs, deliver or add value to existing engagement strategies and create memorable match day experiences.

The Quality Assurance Stadium Scheme Visit Football Checklist developed by enjoy.england.com is designed to reflect the changing match day expectations of fans. It’s a checklist, conducted via a mystery shopper-style assessment, which addresses the supporters experience at every stage of the journey from pre-visit to inside the match and leaving the stadium. Moreover, this handbook looks at pricing, retailing, transport, amenities and much more. The assessment has been developed in order to ensure that fans have the best possible experience at the game as well as ensuring that football is attractive to all sectors of society.

These fan engagement resources feature ideas that had been well executed such as Portsmouth’s stadium sleep over, Cardiff City’s away fan zones (where bar staff wore the away team jerseys) and creative food ideas like Middleborough’s famous ‘Parmo burgers’ and Morecombe FC’s pies – which were so successful that they are now being stocked in Harrods.

The fan engagement initiatives currently taking place in England draw heavily from these resources and include Manchester City’s ‘City Zone’ that includes live bands, picnic tables, food carts and free Wi-Fi throughout the stadium. An hour west away by train, Everton turns the Goodison Park car park into a fan zone on match days that includes FIFA 14 gaming stations, the use of Tag Board as well as having various themed days such as their retro day where fans are encouraged to wear vintage kits. Everton caters to and engages with their older fans by bringing them in on non-match days to play bingo and have a pie and pint in the stadium.

At Arsenal there is a dedicated sponsor driven fan zone outside the Emirates called The Carlsberg Corner. Across town, Fulham has created a post box in their kids zone where young supporters can leave a note about their thoughts on the match.

Not to be outdone, QPR has created a ‘My Match Day Experience’ card for kids to fill out as well as a Matchday Activity Zone for kids in the stadium that is complete with gaming systems, fussball tables, TV screens and activity worksheets for kids to fill out with the community trust staff and their parents.

Ipswich Town has also just installed a kids activity zone room in Portman Road, so it seems likely that more teams will also follow suit.

The importance of valuing fan-generated content via social media was also highlighted by these clubs, who spoke about the increasing need to back fans who create their own content for the club. A simple retweet on Twitter of a tweet from a fan who has created a design can do wonders in bringing that fan closer to the team, as well as showing the greater fan community that their participation is highly valued.

While the majority of fan engagement strategies are aimed at children in order to build lifetime supporters, it was interesting to note from all of these meetings that many clubs were realizing the importance of catering for different demographics. Improving the match day experience for the elderly fans, the purists and the tech savvy millennials is integral to creating lasting memorable experiences for fans at the game as well as in the online world by creating genuine human conversations via social media that connect fans away from the stadium.

Fan engagement is taking off in the sports business. While A-League teams have some creative initiatives such as Perth Glory’s man of the match QR code app, Brisbane Roar’s photographic experience in partnership with CameraPro and Central Coast Mariner’s Superhero themed match, more can be done to continue to make the A-League leaders in terms of fan engagement amongst sporting codes in Australia. The establishment of a fan engagement checklist or stadium quality assurance scheme is vital in taking the A-League match day experience to the next level in Australia.

Words and photos by Blair Hughes.

This article originally appeared in Thin White Line

More than the game: fan engagement

A-League Social Media Stats October 2013-May 2014

In October 2013 I put together an infographic to showcase the social media stats of the A-League across Facebook and Twitter.

 

Social Media Statistics A-league 2013 Season

Social Media Statistics A-league 2013 Season

On the 10th May I went back after the completion of the 2013/14 season and had another look at the social media statistics to see how the competition is rising among fans online.

Social Media Statistics 2014 A-League

Social Media Statistics 2014 A-League

Some very interesting statistics here but it’s just great to see how far the A-League continues to come both on the field and off it. The FFA deserve a lot of credit for all the hard work they have put in however

Brisbane Roar vs Western Sydney Wanderers A-League Grand Final 2014 Infographic

Brisbane Roar vs Western Sydney Wanderers A-League Grand Final 2014 Infographic

Brisbane Roar vs Western Sydney Wanderers A-League Grand Final 2014 Infographic

Brisbane Roar vs Western Sydney Wanderers A-League Grand Final 2014 Infographic

 

15 Steps to Career Reinvention.

On Thursday morning 27/2 at 530am Brisbane time (1.30pm EST USA 26/2) I’m speaking about my career reinvention through personal branding with the University of Boston, Massachusetts in their emerging leaders program. If you would like to register for free and watch then here is the link:http://www.leaders.umb.edu/index.php/leaders/webinar_reinventing_you/

It goes for an hour and features Dorie Clark who is the author of the book which has revolutionised my life, ‘Reinventing You’

Below are the 15 steps which I will be talking about that I have gone through in my own reinvention.

15 Steps to Career Reinvention

15 Steps to Career Reinvention

W-League Grand Final Infographic Melbourne Victory Women vs Brisbane Roar Women

Here is an infographic I have just made up for the big grand final this weekend for Melbourne Victory women and Brisbane Roar women.

 

W-League Grand Final 2014

W-League Grand Final 2014

London Sports Business Internship Blog #29: Sports Business Insider Feature Part 3

SBI Blog #3

SBI Blog #3

The past six weeks have been very long days where I have tried to be the first into the QPR office and the last to leave. My weekends have been anything but a holiday as I have been continuing to have meetings with key fan engagement leaders and see Premier League games up and down the countryside and with the final days of this incredible learning experience interning at Queens Park Rangers fast approaching I report for Sports Business Insider for the last time about my experiences working at a major football club in London.

Over the past few weeks I’ve had a great opportunity to get involved in a few projects as well as help out with the QPR in the Community Trust which works with members of the local community aged 4-90 and runs projects based around four core aims of health, education, social inclusion and sports participation. In my first day working with the Trust I went out to a local primary school where we ran an entertaining football and fitness training session with adolescent boys that reminded me of how challenging it was to teach London teenagers back in 2008.

During the day I was able to learn about elite player nutrition from the Academy coaches and Community Trust staff who teach emerging local footballers about fitness, nutrition and careers after football. It has been fascinating to see how supportive and passionate everyone at QPR is from the office staff right down to the coaches. At night we went out to a gym around the corner from Loftus Road where we ran a skills and training session for the QPR youth Down’s Syndrome team. The club decks these amazing kids out in full kits and coaches them in football skills and it was really interesting to see how there’s no cliques, no bullying or typical teenager stuff as these kids greet everyone with smiles, hugs and laughs. The Down’s Syndrome kids love the QPR community trust staff and from the smiles on the faces of the parents you can see how much this community work by QPR means to them.Meal

I had a great chance to sit in on a meeting with club marketing representatives from the Qatari Stars League who were visiting clubs in England to see how they could improve their fan engagement. It was a great opportunity to understand where the game is at in Qatar compared to England and Australia but interesting to see that they don’t have mascots and do little in the way of fan engagement due to the stadiums playing host to multiple ‘home’ teams combined with the fact that the majority of their games are played late into the evening due to the extreme heat. As I was working with the QPR Community Trust this week I was decked out in their uniform of a full QPR tracksuit instead of my usual formal attire and half way through the meeting when I was talking to them about the fan engagement in the A-League they stopped to ask if I was a first team player which was quite amusing.

No wonder Blair was asked whether he was a first team player!

No wonder Blair was asked whether he was a first team player!

In the week after the Doncaster game I was given the opportunity to head out to Harlington which is the QPR training ground near Heathrow with the commercial and marketing team to meet the players and have jerseys, balls and other merchandise signed for charities and competition giveaways. It was a surreal experience to meet these players and coaches who like many of us have watched over the years early in the morning on Fox Sports such as Joey Barton, Bobby Zamora, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Andy Johnson and Harry Redknapp as well as Rob Green who I had a great chat to about his drumming skills as randomly the guy I was staying with in London had taught him how to drum a few years ago. We stayed at the ground for a few hours and were lucky enough to sample the healthy food the players eat which was probably the most nutritious meal I had in my time in London.

Over the past fortnight we’ve had matches against Doncaster and Huddersfield which QPR have won 2-1 on both occasions in some very poor weather conditions of high winds, chilly breezes as well as lots of rain. The Huddersfield game was a good experience to see how the operations team handles a large contingent of away fans. Huddersfield brought 1800 fans to this match, which is also the maximum the Football League allows (10% of the stadiums capacity but this can rise to 15% for FA Cup matches) which is a huge achievement for a club to bring so many supporters down to London. I was able to shadow one of the top stewards for a few hours as we sat through a very professional briefing covering topics such as evacuations, suspicious parcels and pyrotechnics before viewing how away supporters enter the ground. The one at a time through the barricades system, pat down procedure and metal detector scans as well as the management of the ‘risk’ supporters by the Territorial Support Group police (TSG) from train station to the away pub and then to the ground was quite interesting to see. It will be interesting to see how these kind of tactics progress in the Australian game over the next few years.

In the week before the Huddersfield match I was able to attend the bi-annual Hammersmith & Fulham council SAG (Safety Advisory Group) meeting which brings together all of the key stakeholders involved in putting on these major events in the borough. From QPR operations personnel, London Fire Service, Paramedics and Traffic Management representatives to London Metropolitan Chiefs of Police, Local Council officers and Transport Police this four hour meeting looked at all of the issues and factors that impact on matches involving QPR at Loftus Road and was a fascinating insight into what goes on in the planning of these major events.

Loft

With the Huddersfield win being my last match in the control room I was treated to some post match drinks with staff and presented with a two signed jerseys, one by the players and one by staff. A truly overwhelming experience that was only capped by getting a chance to share my story with the club’s owner, F1 boss of Caterham Racing and Air Asia supremo Tony Fernandes which was an amazing experience as he is someone who I greatly admire for his entrepreneurialism.

In the space of a few days I had some fantastic networking opportunities and meetings with the head of supporter services at the Premier League offices in Marble Arch as well as supporter liason officers at Arsenal and West Ham United and combined with the chats I’ve had with Manchester City, Southampton and the Chief Financial Officer at QPR it has been really positive to see the amount of women in high profile positions within the UK football business who are also leading the way for more women to get into the sports industry in England.

arsenal

On my second last day I sat down with a very experienced accountant and financial officer to learn first hand about how the transfer window works. I got a chance to look over a couple of professional top flight football contract templates as well as the opportunity to learn about the FIFA Transfer Matching System (TMS) which is a database of players and ensures transparency in transfer operations.

I was able to learn that players are paid monthly not weekly, a good thourough medical usually takes up to four hours and as odd as it sounds players are paid just like normal staff with hundreds of thousands of dollars going through payroll via netbank transfers. It’s interesting to learn that while scouts, managers and owners all argue over possible targets at the end of the day it comes down to the financial officer who weighs everything up and offers up the best advice. So in future when you hear the media talking up a manager’s latest signing, spare a thought for the financial officers at these clubs who often plays a very big part in the transfer process and signing a new player.

It’s currently 2pm on my final day at QPR and I’m sitting in a corporate box overlooking the Loftus Road pitch reflecting on what I’ve been able to achieve in the past few weeks in London.  There’s plenty of fist pumping and smiles as I think about how proud I am of what I’ve done here by backing myself to set this internship up by trekking across the globe to continue my passion of lifelong learning in order to start a new phase in my life working in the sports business.

I mean seriously to think I was watching QPR live at 1am on Sunday mornings last season and here I am standing on the sidelines reflecting on my time interning here. It is an absolutely surreal dream come true to be able to have interned at a major English football club.  The learning experience that QPR have provided me with is something which I will always look back on with absolute gratitude to everyone involved with the club. The QPR staff have enthusiastically given me full access to the operations and marketing departments in order to learn as much as I can and take that knowledge and experience back to Australia where I hope to land a job at a major sports club. I’ve pushed myself as hard as I could on the internship and have kicked all the goals I set so for now it’s about searching for a sports business role in fan engagement and marketing with a club in Australia or somewhere else in the world.

Thanks for reading these three blog posts over the last few months.

London Sports Business Internship Blog #28: Sports Business Insider Feature Part 2

SBI #2

SBI #2

I’m now a few weeks into my sports business internship at Queens Park Rangers and loving every moment as I learn as much as I can about fan engagement, operations and marketing from this global club. The club have given me free reign of the place and have pulled out all the stops so that I can learn as much as I can about football marketing, fan engagement and major stadium operations.

Over the past fortnight I’ve been tasked with a variety of jobs from researching stadium policies on e-cigarettes to collecting season and match day prices and membership incentives from the other 43 Premier League and Championship clubs. It was interesting to learn about ‘vaping’ zones as well as look at all the incentives that these clubs and major teams around the world give their members which in turn I’ll be using to help inform what goes into the QPR memberships for 2014/15.

Its been great to talk up the A-League at every opportunity as well to showcase what teams are doing back home to engage fans such as Perth Glory’s man of the match app and Central Coast Mariners beach zone, all of which both QPR fans and staff have been interested to hear about. Its also been good to hijack the remote on the wide screen TV and make the office watch the A-League live on BT Sport on Friday mornings.

In my first week I sat in on a QPR fan forum where the issues of safe standing were discussed and the supporters were excited to hear about the positive relationship that the Brisbane Roar, Suncorp Stadium and The Den have in terms of their active safe standing zone back home. From the research I conducted its interesting to learn that standing is not a criminal offence however it is a Football League ground regulation and failure to sit down can lead to ejection. I was able to communicate with the Premier League and a few safe standing supporter groups and it’s interesting to see that the safe standing movement is gaining speed here in England however laws would need to be changed first and police, council officers and club reps I’ve spoken to at various clubs agree that that will not happen anytime soon.

A memento from Blair's experience.

A memento from Blair’s experience.

I had the opportunity to sit in on the pre- game meeting where all the departments discussed the upcoming Leicester City match before joining the operations team on match day in the control room. It was a really educational experience joining the ops team, football police division, senior MET police, safety commanders, paramedics and traffic management crew to see how they professionally manage these major events in the stadium via CCTV, radio control and stewarding.

The game was a disappointing result for QPR going down 1-0 but was not without its Anfield cat style moment when a squirrel ran onto the pitch and stopped play for a considerable amount of time.  It was brilliant to see how the operations team handled such a difficult and tricky situation by persuading the little fella off the pitch.

I was able to talk to the Football League and Premier League to learn about the rising issue of pyrotechnics in the game here. I learnt about the current pyrotechnics awareness campaigns and dangers with the use of flares and smoke bombs through the facepyrofacts.co.uk campaign and how kids and women were being used as flare mules in grounds across the UK.

I’ve also had a chance to learn a deeper understanding of hooliganism from chief superintendents of the MET 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 and safety commanders. I also got to see how the Territorial Support Group (TSG) complete with armoured vans and guns guide away fans from the train station to the away pub and then into and out of the stadium.

I’ve been able to sit in on meetings and briefings ranging from marketing, football intelligence, pre-game, police meetings as well as learn about away fan issues. I even helped conduct an environmental impact study with Hammersmith council about the impact of football in the Hammersmith and Fulham area while learning that there can never be more than two matches over a weekend in this area featuring Chelsea, Fulham or QPR.

Its now just past New Years and I haven’t stopped going flat out for 21 days. Every day at QPR has been a huge learning experience about life at a major english football club however every saturday and sunday I’ve been trekking across the UK seeing Premier League matches as well as having meetings about fan engagement with clubs including  Manchester City, Aston Villa, Everton and Southampton. I’ve been able to forge lasting contacts at these Premier League clubs while getting to see fan engagement examples at their best including Manchester City’s City Square fan zone with free wifi, live bands and picnic areas as well as Everton’s match day bingo, pie and pint sessions for elderly fans.

It has been a great experience to visit these grounds and meet club reps as well as talk to supporters about fan engagement such as 84 year old Joyce at Villa Park who comes to one game a month as her special treat but whose been coming to see Villa play since the 40′s and 91 year old Doris who I met in Southampton who struggles up the steps with her walking stick at St Mary’s every game but wouldn’t miss the Saints for quids.

At every meeting I’ve handed out my physical business card which is in the form of a football kit that has all of my social media and contact details on it. Its been great to see how well this has gone down when I’ve been networking.

The home games against Doncaster and Huddersfield are just around the corner so there’s been plenty of jobs I’m still working on in the lead up to those games.

A few more weeks to go on the internship and then it’s back to Oz.

101 Content Creation Ideas for Sporting Teams

I’ve been collating ideas for a while now as a result of viewing a few major teams both in Australia, the UK and the US who I believed were not doing enough for their fans in terms of supporter engagement.

Along with my Pinterest site (http://www.pinterest.com/mrblairhughes/sports-marketing-fan-engagement-ideas/) which collects hundreds of sports marketing and fan engagement ideas I wanted to pull together a picture which can be used as a resource or idea starter for small to large teams who are looking at creating content but just don’t know where to start.

The following 101 ideas have been collated together to assist teams in their online fan engagement through content creation. It really is that simple, but it will just take a bit of creativity.

I hope that this helps clubs, particularly smaller clubs who may not yet be so well versed in content creation or social media but who want to grow their clubs.

Good luck putting some of these ideas into action and by all means please let me know how you go.

Thanks

101 Content Creation Ideas for Sporting Teams

101 Content Creation Ideas for Sporting Teams

The Rise of Football in Australia Infographic

When I was working in London with Queens Park Rangers football club as well when I had meetings up and down the English countryside with Premier League and Championship clubs regarding fan engagement, I was also passionately and enthusiastically talking up and promoting the rise of football in Australia.

As a proud Aussie, I wanted to show these major club reps at West Ham, Chelsea, Tottenham, Southampton, Fulham, Manchester City and Everton as well as football fans that I met along the way on my sports business intern adventure about the growth in the game back in Australia.

I wanted to share what so many of us true believers know in that big things are happening with the game down under from larger broadcast deals, improved crowds, interest from abroad, the rise in the women’s game and so much more.

I therefore got to work on creating an infographic which details many of these facts.

More of the infographics which I have created can be found on my sports business Pinterest site here: http://www.pinterest.com/mrblairhughes/

Please feel free to share and RT this.

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London Sports Business Internship Blog #27: Sports Business Insider Feature Part 1

With a background in PR and media, I was always going to use those skills while over at QPR to generate some news in order to get my brand and name out into the sports business.

Here’s one of the first pieces from the amazing guys over at Sports Business Insider

Sports Business Insider Blog

Sports Business Insider Blog

‘Are you where you want to be professionally’ was the tag line of a book on personal branding that I happened to glance over in a book store about a year ago. It stuck out like Maradona at a beauty pageant, it made me question if I loved what I was doing with my career and ultimately it changed my life as I set about reinventing my career.

For the past seven years I have worked two careers side by side which is a testament to my hard working nature. I worked as a high school teacher and as a venue, tour and artist manager in the music industry where I ran a successful PR and events business. With both jobs I was able to travel the world. I taught in a small village in Suffolk and in challenging classrooms in London, worked in the famed London Hammersmith Apollo, Brisbane’s iconic Zoo Nightclub and trekked across the globe to 40+ countries promoting Australian music artists. However by the end of 2012 I realised that I had accomplished everything that I set out to achieve in the music industry and then sadly in early 2013 with the deaths of two students I was close to, I could see that the emotional weight of dealing with seriously diverse adolescent issues was really bringing me down and I knew I needed to take a break from the stress of teaching. When I was running my business in the music industry from 2006-2012, I would travel to various countries a few times a year and conduct meetings with key industry leaders and at the same time take in sporting and musical events in order to learn how they run these major shows.In March I decided to do another professional development trip and headed back to Europe where I set up meetings with major football clubs from Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and RSC Anderlecht to Bayern Munich, West Ham and Queens Park Rangers. The aim was to learn as much as I could about how these major businesses facilitated their fan engagement, marketing, social media management and operations. These are all the areas which I’m keen to work in within the sports business. At the end of every meeting I asked for an internship and as luck would have it QPR saw something in me and agreed to take me on later in the year.

The process wasn’t easy with visa and immigration not believing the offer from QPR and I even got a bit of stick and warnings from a UK Immigration officer who made it clear that she was a Chelsea fan and oddly warned me against applying for the business visa. Still unsure if that was some unique pommy joke but eventually it all worked out and I resigned from one of my jobs and made it to London the day after school broke out.

Therefore as I knew I needed a change I went through a career reinvention which included reevaluating what I was passionate about and of course sports, event management and fan engagement were top of my list. Along with setting up the internship, I set up a website, created a unique physical business card in the style of a football jersey, had professional photos taken, cleaned up my linkedin, read books, subscribed to sports biz publications, wrote a personal brand statement, created a logo, networked over social media with people I wanted to emulate and overall set about redefining and reinventing a career in the sports business.

Fast forward to mid December and I’m now in London having completed my first full week of this incredible two month experience at Queens Park Rangers football club undertaking a sports business internship in the fields of fan engagement, operations, marketing and operations.

In the first week at the club I was tasked with researching the e-cigarette polices, membership schemes and season and match day prices at all EPL and Championship stadiums. I was able to call the Premier League and various major clubs to gather research and at the same time make valuable contacts at these clubs. I helped facilitate a QPR fan forum, sat in on the operations room on the match day against Leicester City to learn about crowd safety and footballing policing, learnt about the rising issues of flare and smoke bomb mules and saw first hand how a stadium should deal with animals on the pitch after a squirrel ran onto the field and ended up stopping play in the game against Leicester City. Getting my official AAA QPR staff card was also pretty sweet.

Everyone at the club has been incredible by providing me with resources, advice and most importantly their valuable time and it’s been great to get stuck in to any work I’m given and be treated as one of the team from day one. In the first week I also travelled up to Aston Villa, down to Southampton and across the Thames to West Ham for both meetings and matches. I’m networking in the Premier League, does it get any better? The sports business is where I need to be!

The end goal is to use all the life experience I have gained through working in the education and music industries and putting my skills to game changing use in the sports business. One of the main goals I have with this internship is to research how fan engagement is used over here and bring that knowledge back to Australia and work with an A-League club or the FFA to help improve and add a creative spark to their fan engagement strategies. I’m also going to be pushing hard to secure a full time gig with QPR but I also have meetings lined up with about 15 Premier League and Championship clubs so the future is truly unwritten and I’m out to carve my name in the sports business with my unique personal brand.

 

London Sports Business Internship Blog #26: QPR v Huddersfield

Wow.

What an experience I had today at the QPR home game against Huddersfield.

Another great day at QPR.

Top 2-1 win.

Met the owner Tony Fernandes which was amazing.

Got to talk to the TSG who are London’s Territorial Support Group. I watched as they professioanlly manouvered the Huddersfield fans from the train station to the away pub and then to the ground. The supporters are placed between two huge police vans. All very interesting how its done.

Learning lots of interesting operations stuff

A great win for the R’s.

QPR

QPR

QPR

QPR

QPR

QPR

 

London Sports Business Internship Blog #25: West Ham Meeting

Had a great meeting at West Ham United’s Boleyn Ground on Friday with their fan engagement officer Esha.

 

WHU meeting

WHU meeting

WHU meeting

WHU meeting

WHU meeting

WHU meeting

WHU meeting

WHU meeting

 

London Sports Business Internship Blog #24: Meeting at Arsenal

Had a fantastic 2 hour chat with Jill Smith at Arsenal today. Jill is a life time Arsenal supporter and knows the club inside out and her role is the support liason officer who works with the fan engagement officers.

I’ll post up the meeting notes soon

 

Meeting at Arsenal

Meeting at Arsenal

 

London Sports Business Internship Blog #23: Premier League Visit

Had the opportunity to visit the Premier League offices on Friday and have a chat with head of suppporter services, Cathy Long.

A brilliant chat which I’ll go into a bit more about in a future post.

Some great ideas on how to tackle the issues of flares in the A-League as well as lots of talk about fan engagement.

A great new contact in the sports business.

Visit to EPL Offices

Visit to EPL Offices

London Sports Business Internship Blog #22: QPR Kit

My time at QPR is nearly up but the staff have just given me a signed players and staff jersey.

I’ll have to get these framed to remember the great experience I have had at the club and all the sports business tips I’ve learnt.

It’s been such a great experience with amazing people to work with so I’m very grateful to QPR for all they have done for me.

QPR jersey

QPR jersey

London Sports Business Internship Blog #20: QPR Community Trust

Got all kitted up in my QPR gear and did a 14 hr day today by working in the QPR community trust which is a charitable and community group part of the business. Started the day with a session on nutrition for elite athletes delivered to the academy players followed by a player welfare session about careers after football.
Theres a team of 20 staff separate to the marketing, commercial and operations side and today I went out to a school for afternoon sports run by QPR. Basically imagine if the Broncos had a team branded group of teachers, disability carers, social workers etc.
Its all pretty interesting to think where this could go in Australia. I got to deliver some coaching clinics to high schoolers and remembered how hard it was teaching high schoolers in London.
I then went to a special school where I taught a few football classes to the most amazing down syndrome and paralyzed kids. One kid on asking my name said, ‘oh thats such a gay name, wanna be my friend?’ then gave me a hug, held my hand and we dribbled the ball. Hilarious but heartwarming stuff. Absolutely wrecked and need a berocca and a lie down.
They also have a kids fan area which is in the stadium and open on match days.
A pretty cool fan engagement experience.
QPR KIDS ZONE

QPR KIDS ZONE

QPR KIDS ZONE

QPR KIDS ZONE

QPR KIDS ZONE

QPR KIDS ZONE

QPR KIDS ZONE

QPR KIDS ZONE

London Sports Business Internship Blog #21: Charlton vs Oxford United FA Cup

Went out to The Valley for the Charlton vs Oxford United game.

Freezing night but a good experience at this classic ground. Seen better days since they were in the EPL but at least the chips were good!

Not much on offer in terms of fan engagement but it was a game that had been rescheduled twice already!

CHARLTON v OXFORD

CHARLTON v OXFORD

CHARLTON v OXFORD

CHARLTON v OXFORD

CHARLTON v OXFORD

CHARLTON v OXFORD

CHARLTON v OXFORD

CHARLTON v OXFORD

CHARLTON v OXFORD

CHARLTON v OXFORD

CHARLTON v OXFORD

CHARLTON v OXFORD

CHARLTON v OXFORD

CHARLTON v OXFORD

CHARLTON v OXFORD

CHARLTON v OXFORD

CHARLTON v OXFORD

CHARLTON v OXFORD

CHARLTON v OXFORD

CHARLTON v OXFORD

London Sports Business Internship Blog #19: Qatar Stars League Visit

Had a really interesting meeting with marketing reps from the Qatar Stars League on Thursday.
Found out some very interesting insights in terms of their fan engagement at their games.
This is the nice gift they left for QPR.
QSL gift in QPR reception

QSL gift in QPR reception

 

 

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