How business can bring lasting benefits to sport
Partnerships between business and sport are nothing new, but how many of them deliver real, sustainable benefits?
There are plenty of examples of football clubs collapsing following the departure of a single benefactor, or of a deal extending to a hefty payment in return for little more than a logo on a shirt and a few match tickets.
But when Keepmoat took over Doncaster Rovers the owners, Dick Watson and David Blunt, decided to instil the disciplines and culture that had helped turn their company into one of the most successful private building business in the UK.
Having helped them with Keepmoat, I also assisted with creating a new strategy for Rovers. The first-year priorities to increase ticket sales, simplify the structure starting with the directors, and improve the commercial performance.
We achieved all of that by engaging directly with the community and setting up sales points in the town centre, by introducing a loyalty card offering various benefits to fans, and by generally introducing Keepmoat-proven practices to make the club more efficient.
Faced with the question of why the team was winning away games but losing at home, David Blunt suggested that I facilitate a session with the manager, the captain James Coppinger, and himself to try identifying the reasons for poor home form and to find solutions.
The problems were highlighted by James and together we created the solutions.
David said: “The most significant was the pitch was like a ploughed field. We played attacking football and it was hard to do that on a poor surface. This was fixed at the end of the season.”
The club won the award for League One Pitch of the Year at the end of the 2020–21 season.
Lesson: if you want to develop your business, then you need to confront the real problems with brutal honesty and not believe your own PR.
Has the process of transferring the lessons from a successful business to a football club worked?
David concluded: “Our fans enjoy the benefits of our loyalty card as well as good football. Our colleagues are highly motivated and perform well. We break even and don’t lose money, which keeps our board engaged.
David Hall helped us apply the lessons we learned with him at Keepmoat and they have once again been highly successful.”