When we think about private companies taking government funding, images of corporate greed and unaccounted for money spring to mind. Government funded bodies, on the other hand, are viewed as public knights that battle heroically against their limited budgets. They scrape by because their crusade is viable: but their vision is sometimes lacking. Entrepreneurs live and die by the success of their ideas. If their business fails, they lose their job, their mortgage, and their dreams. Public bodies must relinquish their need to control every minute step, and learn to delegate niche tasks to people with in-depth knowledge of the subject. If they can ride atop the expertise and creativity of private companies, they are much more likely to win the battle.
Tech is always best developed by hungry entrepreneurs; people who make substantial financial, personal, and, possibly, marital sacrifices to get their business off the ground. Their business is their baby. They will nurture it, stay up all night for it, and do everything in their power to help it grow. Their passion allows them to develop a strong niche. They may spend years perfecting their specialism. They will not claim to know everything, but when it comes to the exactitude of their niche: they are a walking encyclopedia.
Innovation is key to progress
Tech defines our era and is continually evolving. It solves problems every day (and sometimes it creates new problems). There is a constant need to discover better, faster, smarter ways of working. What is relevant today may not be tomorrow, so it is crucial that a company innovates to avoid stagnation. Take Richard Branson, who founded Virgin Records. If he had been comfortable with his original business, he would be virtually bankrupt (like HMV) by the introduction of CDs, mp3s, and now Spotify. Instead, he has transcended genre; progressing to transport, to condoms, to cola, to trains, to media, to gyms, and now to space. Some of these ventures have been more successful than others, but he has undoubtedly stayed relevant and rich.
Room for creativity
Government bodies are shackled by regulations and restrictions, meaning that ideas that are “out there” remain “out there.” Branson claims successful companies “start small and think big.” A start-up has nothing to lose but hopes and dreams. With no rule book and no governing body to adhere to, entrepreneurs are free to experiment. In fact, it is their individuality and creative thinking that makes their ideas viable and successful.
Targets are ambitious
When public bodies receive a sum of money, they frequently see this as a prompt to spend the entire amount. The government monitors their spending, flagging any move that seems too radical. The result is that money is invested into tried and tested routes that will provide safe results. Private companies usually spend excess profit on new developments, with success triggering further success. Private companies give their employees ambitious targets, keeping them engaged and enthusiastic. When spending your own money on your business, you make damn sure that you are maximising profits.
PayPal co-founder said to a humble tech entrepreneur: ‘In a world that’s changing so quickly, the biggest risk you can take is not taking any risk.’ That entrepreneur went on to create Facebook. Businesses take risks every day: some of them pay off, and some of them set them back, but it is the nature of survival and growth. For public bodies, outsourcing may seem like a big gamble (as funding could be pulled if a strategy fails). Nonetheless, if a company is expert in their field and appears to have the solution to a problem, is it really such a daunting risk? If you discovered a tumour in your leg, would you try to remove it yourself? In our opinion, choosing to outsource is the less risky option.
In the middle of summer, Dubai is hot and humid, with the mercury often bursting through 45°C. This heat makes outdoor fitness impractical and unsafe. To combat a decline in fitness, Dubai Sports World takes up residence in Dubai World Trade Centre for three months every year. 25,000 square metres of sheltered, air conditioned space is a magnet for sporting enthusiasts, drawing attendees from all over Dubai and beyond. It runs from early summer to the beginning of September each year right through Ramadan. DSW is open to the public and completely free to enter.
Here’s a video capturing aspects of this spectacular indoor sports and of course showing OpenPlay’s online sports booking system!
The centre caters to a dizzying number of sports and activities, from street basketball to pro-wrestling. Players can rent pitches and courts,or, those eager to learn, can join one of the many leading sports academies. Online bookings are powered by OpenPlay, the quick and easy bespoke booking system. The event is arranged by Dubai World Trade Centre alongside Dubai Sports Council. With top of the range sports equipment and the latest technology, it is an expensive venue to run… So, how does it make ends meet?
Advertisements for Pepsi border the football pitches and the walls are draped with TechnoGym banners. In 2017, no fewer than 17 companies sponsored the event, including Nissan, Pepsi, and Adidas. It’s not just international names, but Shuttle Time Dubai, Dubai World Trade Center, and Dubai Sports Council. These brands know the importance of giving the community access to fitness, and the positive brand image they will receive, in return for sponsoring such a healthy and engaging event.
Here in the UK, sports sponsorship is generally restricted to professional games. We have the Nitto ATP, Heineken Cup and Barclays Premier League. Our massive venues are also sponsored: The 02 Arena, Sports Direct Arena, The Emirates Stadium. Yet, we are disinclined to use sports sponsorship in our local, grassroots venues and activities. We allow court lines to fade, nets to rip, and bibs to lose their colour. The exception of this is the Powerleague, whose sponsors include Lucozade, Budweiser, and Adidas. The pristine condition of pitches and goals used by Powerleague are evidence of outsider funding (as is a brick red pitch with Budweiser printed across the centre). It may be a little crass for some, but Dubai Sports World and Powerleague have financial models that many grassroots level organisations could benefit from.
Whilst their specialisation and awards may be different, these funding bodies have something in common. Their goal is to increase sports participation by providing better, more accessible facilities. They allocate their loans to those most in need, targeting clubs at grassroots level. Applying for funding is a gruelling process; it takes time, commitment, and passion. Nonetheless, if you plan well and sing your praises, you are sure to get your hands on some cash.
Sport England provides National Lottery funded awards of £300-£10,000 for projects under £50,000. They supply grants to build or fix grassroots facilities. Not-for-profits and statutory organisations are eligible. They pay for improvements to floodlights, 3G turf pitches, games areas, as well as maintenance or drainage of grass pitches. Funding is awarded to those who align with Sport England’s mission statement. They aim to increase sport participation, particularly in those between 14 and 25, and in people with disabilities. Priority will be given to community programmes that are located within areas of hardship. Looking for funds for age 13 and under? They will be tough to get as it is not a target area. You must prove you are providing long-term, sustainable, community sport that makes a difference.
Lawn Tennis Association (LTA)
The LTA aims to double the number of indoor and public tennis courts over the next decade. So far they have spent £250 million on grassroots projects. They provide both low and high cost loans and grants. For traditional build indoor projects or clubhouse developments, the applicant must provide 50% of the project cost. For smaller indoor or outdoor structures only 25% is required. Funding is awarded on a 50:50 loan to grant ratio. The LTA want to partner with visionaries who aim to spread tennis to a wider community. Preference is given to projects that unite multiple partners, in order to deliver needed facilities to the local community.
McDonalds FA Charter Standard Kit Scheme
Ironically, McDonald’s are both the problem and the (attempted) solution to obesity. The FA Charter Standard Programme are big supporters of grassroots clubs, giving away 250,000 kits and training 30,000 new coaches. The scheme is set to launch in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland later this year. You can apply for a KickStart grant, so long as your club is recognised by your national FA.
Aviva Community Fund
This isn’t restricted to sports funding, so you are competing against your local library and scouts club. However, many of their awards are given to sport, as they aim to create healthier, happier communities. Prizes range from £1,000 to £25,000. Sign up and then spread the word. Get your family, friends, and neighbours to vote in order to reach the judging stage.
Tesco Bags of Help
When plastic bags became five pence, the country was inexplicably outraged. Are you guilty of slipping a box of eggs into a stolen bag at the self-checkout? Did you know that these charges are not fuelling evil corporate greed, but improving your local area? The money made provides such wonders as medical equipment, park benches, and pipecleaners and lollipop sticks for craft lessons. Sports clubs can get funding for kit, changing rooms, and outdoor facilities. Charities or community organisations may apply year round via your local Tesco store. The three shortlisted projects will put up for a vote in Tesco stores. It will be up to local Tesco shoppers to choose a worthy winner. Similar schemes are run by Wilko’s and Morrison’s .
Running sports facilities is both time consuming and expensive once you factor in staff costs, lighting, maintenance and so on. Probably what is most frustrating and challenging is filling up the dead time, particularly off-peak. Below are eight ways to help you increase revenue and usage through booking sports facilities.
1. Experiment with price reduction and rewards
Get your tenth cup of coffee free! Cafe Nero are doing it, so why aren’t you? Sixth drop-in session is half price; whatever deal will get them coming back. Print off some cards and invest in a football stamp so it looks fun and professional. Price reduction is a delicate balancing act and doesn’t need to be imposed across the board. Reduce the price for off-peak times or low turn-out sessions. Perhaps your Under 12s sessions are flourishing but you can’t get the teens through the door? Offer a ten percent discount for secondary school students.
2. Run drop-in sessions for idle courts and pitches
Tailor these sessions appropriately for different demographics. Friday evening is the ideal time for drop-in men’s football. Make it low cost and have something for after that is either included in the price or can be added on. Who isn’t interested in Football and beers? Football pitches don’t have to be used for football, why not run a circuits or yoga class for stay at home mums.
3.Run leagues and tournaments
Nothing gets people more interested than some healthy competition. It doesn’t need to be fiercely competitive (although that might be suitable for your venue). Make it fun. For example, run an “American Tournament” on Wednesday mornings during the summer. Kids will love coming down for sports and a hamburger and, if it’s drop in, they might bring extra friends along. Parents should be encouraged to hang around too (and even help) so you can make some extra burger and coffee sales!
Watch any sporting event on TV and the court, pitch, and players’ socks have advertising on them. You may still need to have the odd housekeeping poster dotted around the bathrooms, but local advertisers will pay for that little space on the back of a toilet door. They will also pay for a corner of your website, email notifications, posters and the sides and back of your pitches and courts. You could even look at having who pitches sponsored from start to finish both online and offline.
5. Coffee and snacks
The item with the highest margin in the world is cinema popcorn, with a 1,275% markup. With that sort of pricing, they hardly need to sell any movie tickets. It’s the same with sports venues: there are only so many kids you can fit onto one court, but there is no such limit on coffee sales. Some venues in London make more dough from cappuccinos than they do from coaching. It may not be your passion, but it can certainly fund it.
6. Monthly memberships
Many people have unrealistic fitness expectations. Take advantage of their beginner’s enthusiasm and get them signed up and locked in. You can offer lengths of time from a three day membership to yearly. The longer you can chain them down for, the better. Experiment with unlimited class vouchers. People may think they will go 27 times in one week, but reality and Netflix means they will most likely not.
7. Gate access and control
OpenPlay has exciting access control technology under development. Integrated within the OpenPlay system is an access pass that syncs to a client’s booking. For example, if someone books a pitch at 7pm, you can set their changing room and pitch access for 6.30 or 6.45; whatever suits your club. If you’re a sports centre that pays someone to man the doors, this is a massive financial saver. Not to sound too morbid, but that saves you a person’s salary and allows you to open up when you could well be shut. This could even be integrated with your lighting system to automate everything.
8. Off-peak times
Off-peak makes up a large proportion of every weekday, it is such a shame to let space go to waste. Get in touch with nearby schools and offer class coaching sessions or host their sports day. Retirees, stay-at-home mums or dads, freelancers, and night shift workers are most likely to be free during weekday mornings. Try running outdoor fitness classes such as ‘Tennis Bootcamp’, ‘Run Club’ or even ‘Parent and child’ sessions. If you have a clubhouse, rent out the space to a pilates or yoga instructor. These will be trial and error and completely dependent on the neighbourhood you live in. Have a look around your area and see what is already on offer, for what price, and where there is a gaping hole in the market.