Language Training For Football Clubs

“When you look back at all the British football players who have been successful playing abroad, it is the ones who have got themselves into the culture, learnt the language, and made their life enjoyable. Throw your heart and soul into it and more than anything learn the language, because I think if you can be happy and communicate off the pitch that will reflect in your football and how things go on the pitch.” Gary Lineker, September 1st , 2013, interview for BBC

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At LinguaTracks we also believe communication is crucial for the success of a football team. With the ever expanding foreign influence on the UK game we are extremely aware of the need to integrate the players, staff and their families into their new surroundings as efficiently and smoothly as possible.

 

The margins between success and failure in football are very fine. A player and his family that adapts quickly to a new language, culture and surroundings will become an immediate asset to their club. These in turn can only aid and increase immediate performance levels. We want to help you maximise the potential of your staff immediately.

ba7af65355c46ab08675812aa29ef943We sometimes take it for granted that, being immersed in the language, foreign players are going to acquire English and that they do not need support. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

The problem with communication in the modern game is apparent. Following the comments and articles concerning sports in general we have notice a rising number of issues on the basic level of communication. This issue directly influences the quality of the game and therefore, the performance of players. To exemplify this we have found numerous articles expressing difficulties they have experienced.

 

Paolo Di Canio: ¨Every session you can see that everything is going OK, then when we practise something, there’s a misunderstanding. A British player says: ‘You squeeze up,’ and the French player or the Italian can’t understand. I stop the session.¨ Source: The Guardian, The Guardian article about Paolo Di Canio

Training photo

Harry Redknapp “It’s a crazy situation. We’ve got three people who can’t speak English. What is the good when you have got people and you cannot even tell them what to do?” Source: BBC Sport: BBC Sport article about Harry Redknapp

This is the reason we have decided to step in and solve this ever-expanding problem for football clubs.

LinguaTracks is a dynamic and fast growing provider of language training to clients across a broad range of industries. We specialize in maximizing results and clearly demonstrating fast and efficient improvement in communication skills. After achieving significant recognition for our services across Europe, we have now created a dynamic and bespoke set of courses aimed entirely at teams in the Premiership and across the football league. There is too much football talent being hindered just because of language barriers, we are here to break them!

We know that communication is a crucial part of teamwork and achieving objectives together. The courses will focus on improving players language skills on and off the pitch. This ranges from on pitch colloquialisms, to interview techniques and every day interactions.

We have established our own unique Sport and Cultural integration Methodology. Its main principles focus on immediate immersion and effective usage of the target language on and off the pitch.

We feel that the future of British football is to have an experienced language company you can trust to provide your linguistic training. The course has been created in collaboration with a former FC Barcelona language training provider, who has taken part in the creation of the project. We understand that all footballers and clubs have their own unique history, which must be respected and we are able to adapt our courses to the needs of our clients.

The main rules we follow are:

- We believe that that it is essential to start with the basics and make the player acquire the one hundred most often used football language terms.
- Later on we integrate real-life materials from the clubs history to make the students feel welcome and ¨at home¨ playing for the new team. This will help him build a rapport with fans.
- We will help the player develop off-pitch communication skills, which will help him settle into the new culture.
- We will introduce on-pitch colloquial language and help the player understand what is required of him

If you think this issue concerns you and your club, do not hesitate to contact us!

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www.linguatracks.com

Info@linguatracks.com

+34651072619

+447930084735

Skype: linguatracks

Link to FC language course offer -

http://business.linguatracks.com/offer/language-training-for-football-clubs/?lang=en

Teaming Up To Tackle Phone Headaches

Glenn Jackson, Managing Director at Moneypenny, explains how football clubs can benefit from telephone answering support…

Bill Shankly famously once said “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.” Well for football clubs, answering their phones may not be a matter of life and death, but it could be the difference between winning the final of the customer service and operational efficiency cup or being knocked out in the group stages. (Not a very catchy competition title, but you get the point).

Football is big business and whether you are a Premier League side or a non-league sleeping giant, managing your telephone calls well is extremely important.

From keeping fans and stakeholders happy to maximising revenue and making sure that the club is as efficient and cost-effective as possible, there is a long list of reasons why more and more football clubs are choosing to use an outsource provider to manage their phone lines.

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This is definitely a trend that we’re seeing at Moneypenny. We work with football clubs of all sizes to ensure that they not only capture every single incoming call, but also deliver the very best service into the bargain.

Moneypenny is the UK’s market leader in telephone answering with a base in the UK and New Zealand. In total we have almost 400 staff who handle around nine million calls a year for over 7,000 businesses, including start-ups right through to international corporations.

So how does the service work? There are three main options – real people taking calls, clever technology or a bespoke combination of the two.

For example, where football clubs have previously had multiple incoming lines and struggled to manage the peaks and troughs of call volume, we’ve introduced Digital Receptionist. This offers a world-first in voice recognition accuracy and enables clubs to customise how they handle different types of enquiries; so certain calls, say for general match/club information can be automated, while others such as VIP contacts, family/friends, press enquiries, urgent issues are handled by a dedicated Moneypenny Receptionist who knows their client’s business inside out and answers calls seamlessly as though based in-house either on an overspill or fully outsourced basis.

This could be the perfect solution for some of the Conference teams who have recently drawn a Premier League side in the next round of the FA Cup. Imagine how busy their phone lines are going to be when FA Cup fever sets in and fans clamour to get tickets. With the best will in the world, it’s simply not possible for many smaller clubs or non-league teams who don’t operate at full capacity to keep up with demand of this nature.

Likewise, one Premier League side I spoke to recently needed support for their receptionist who was taking dozens of calls about ticket sales enquiries when that call should have be going through to a different number. This was tying her time up and therefore reducing the efficiency of the club. But, by using our automated technology, they realised they’d be able to eliminate this and direct callers straight through to the correct department.

There are other benefits to using an outsourced telephone answering service too. This includes the peace of mind in knowing that you have a robust telephone answering/business continuity plan in place in case of emergencies. For example, a telecoms failure, factors affecting their premises as well as for day-to-day operational issues preventing staff from taking calls such as sickness, holidays, adverse weather or unplanned absences. Having an outsourced partner right beside you means all calls are covered whatever the situation.

This is exactly why Wrexham FC called us in 2011. At that time, Wrexham Supporters’ Trust had taken over the running of the Club, and all inbound phone calls were handled by a phone system that had four ISDN 2 channels. This allowed a maximum of three inbound calls to be received at any one time as one channel was reserved for outbound calls. A number of analogue lines and direct dial lines were also located at the football ground and its training ground at Colliers Park. All too often, it wasn’t enough and club supporters and other callers were getting frustrated with frequent engaged tones.

At this point, the club decided to call us. Initially they were looking for short-term support; however, we suggested that they introduce our Digital Receptionist technology. This enabled them to tailor how they handled different types of calls. Now, callers ring one number and hear a greeting asking them to say the name of the department they wish to speak to.

Busy times such as high profile games which generate increased call volumes – like their upcoming match against Stoke – are no longer an issue for the club either as our receptionists are on hand to offer support should they be needed to answer any overspill calls. They’ve even set up a new match day information line for supporters which automatically kicks in, thereby taking the pressure off the ticket office. As a result, the club’s Chief Executive Officer, Don Bircham tells us that the club is delivering greater efficiencies and vastly improved customer service, as well as saving in excess of £1,000 a year as compared to their old system.

Overall it’s an easy decision for an increasing number of football clubs. A streamlined approach to call handling with a professional partner makes for a win-win of improved operational efficiency, happy fans and stakeholders, never missing a call, and in most cases making notable cost savings.

The Evolving Business Of Football: ‘Insuring Against The Cost Of Success’

‘This article was written for and first published on LawInSport – click here

Have you ever considered that a football club may be financially worse off in the short-term for achieving promotion or winning a trophy?

You would be forgiven for dismissing this as a bizarre concept.

The idea some clubs need to consider insuring against the cost of paying players and managers cash incentives for winning a trophy, league title, or even gaining promotion may seem unusual.

However, clubs are increasingly looking at ways to protect themselves from the financial risks associated with success.

To find out more about how clubs are using insurance to protect against increasing levels of performance bonus liability, I interviewed Saul Paine, Business Development Manager at Hedgehog Risk Solutions, who specialises in insuring contractual bonus liability in football and a number of other sports.

Backround

Money and success often go hand in hand in professional sport, with successful performance bringing about significant financial gains. This is no more evident than in professional football, where wages at the top level have steadily increased over the last 10 years (Deloitte Annual Review of Football Finance1).

With clubs and their wealthy benefactors continuously demanding better results, it is no surprise that performance related bonuses can create significant exposures that can run into the millions.

Performance bonuses have long been a part of football club culture and clubs have readily adopted player contracts that remunerate players for a job well done based on a wide range of conditions.

Player contracts now typically include bonuses linked to a number of conditional circumstances i.e. number of appearances, loyalty bonus, performance targets (e.g. goal scoring bonuses / clean sheets), as well as an additional share of the clubs bonus pool, which can be linked to a specified performance measure such as promotion, winning a specific trophy or qualifying for European competitions2.

Saul provides some examples to illustrate this point:

“In 2012, the Independent3 reported that Man City paid £6.2m across the squad for winning the Premier League as part of their bonus incentive scheme, which also included separate bonus pools for the Champions League, FA Cup and Carling Cup, which in total amounted to just over £14m.”

“This is not an uncommon as all clubs up and down the leagues will have their own bonus schedule with varying levels of liability and different structures”

“Such bonus schemes are not limited to the domestic game either. A large majority of the National Associations will have had a pre-agreed bonus schedule for the World Cup and other major international tournaments. For example, players in the German national team will have brought home more than just a winners medal in the summer, with each squad member picking up a reported bonus of €300k for their triumph in Brazil.4

Whilst in most cases these bonus structures are designed to be offset against any increase in revenue or prize money, clubs can easily become over exposed financially even when they achieve success on the pitch. An infamous example being Portsmouth Football Club, when in 2010 having made the FA Cup final, they were not able to field certain players as they could not afford to trigger related bonus payments.5

Whilst the above demonstrates that these schemes can be successful there have also been situations where bonus schedules have had an adverse financial impact (see Portsmouth example above).

The Football Association Stance On Bonus Insurance Schemes

In accordance with The Football Association (“The FA”), each club is required to submit their bonus schedules to The FA prior to the start of the season (Rules C 1 (b)(iv), The FA Rules and Regulations of The Association).

In 2012, The FA introduced the Bonus Insurance Scheme Policy (“BISP”) after they had “been made aware that clubs may wish to enter into insurance arrangements to cover contractual liabilities that would become payable should a particular competitive outcome occur, for example promotion bonuses to players.” 6 The FA took “the view that such insurance arrangements have similar characteristics to a ‘bet’ and therefore may contravene Rule E8 in certain circumstances.”7

However, the suggestion that The FA consider this type of insurance similar to bet is dispelled in the policy as Saul points out that “it would seem the FA are keen to differentiate between their regulations on betting and insurance contracts in regards to performance bonuses.” The FA’s policy states:

“Following detailed consideration together with its stakeholders of the issues arising, and recognising the particular circumstances of clubs and their desire to mitigate their financial exposure, The FA has agreed that Clubs may be permitted to enter into certain prescribed arrangements as an exception to Rule E8.” 8

Saul adds, “This policy has been introduced as an exception to Rule E8 and it recognises that clubs should be able to manage their exposure through regulated insurance contracts, providing clubs fulfil each and all of the criteria the FA outlines in their policy. This includes the club receiving prior written consent from the FA (see BISP 3.3).”

Saul is strongly supportive of The FA’s approach on this matter, “The FA has been forward thinking in introducing such a policy. This policy ensures it is a regulated activity and that clubs are acting in the best interests of the game when they are entering into such agreements and have recognised that success can create significant financial liabilities.”

This ensures clubs are taking out insurance with Financial Conduct Authority approved insurers and are not entering into private financial agreements with wealthy individuals or private companies that are not financial services regulated (see BISP 3.2).

What Is The Benefit To Clubs For This Type Of Insurance?

Saul is of the view that “for clubs with restricted financial resources, contractual bonus insurance is one way that clubs can offer bonus incentives that can have a significant impact on the motivations of players whilst controlling their financial exposure. For some clubs it will allow them to attract and retain players in which they are investing a lot of money in, whilst also protecting themselves financially when they are doing well. In that respect, when used correctly these schemes can help clubs to:

  1. budget with certainty
  2. limit their exposure and protect the balance sheet
  3. incentivise players for specific competitions/performance objectives
  4. reduce wage inflation on basic salaries
  5. implement a more sustainable remuneration model
  6. act inline with the principles of financial fair play”

I wanted to know if other businesses use this type of insurance. Saul assures me that “contractual bonus insurance is something that apparel manufacturers and sponsors have widely used to cover their liabilities linked to an ambassador’s performance, typically in golf or tennis – this has helped them determine what sponsorship agreements offer a better return on investment for them. From that point of view, sponsors appear one step ahead in the thought process as they seek to negotiate higher performance related deals with less of a focus on larger retainers, which may reduce the overall costs involved. For example, it is not uncommon for us to receive a call from a sponsor wishing to assess what coverage terms are available before or during the negotiation stage with athletes or clubs, in order to weigh up the costs of entering into a new sponsorship agreement.”

Effects Of FFP And The Growing Interest In This Cover

Clubs also now have to navigate the financial regulations when competing in European competitions and in their domestic leagues, which has made them more prudent in their financial management. Therefore clubs will increasingly be looking to different ways to protect against liabilities and access alternative means of finance. Saul’s view on how the insurance market fits into this is an interesting one:

“Certainly the introduction of FFP has brought the topic of financial sustainability and risk management to the fore and whilst it is relatively a new concept in football it is beginning to have an impact on how clubs are run both internally and also how they do business with other clubs. Take the recent transfer window for example; the FFP regulations made a noticeable impact in the window, arguably for the first time, as it was apparent clubs accepted they could only afford to invest what they generated in revenue. Real Madrid (€113m), FC Barcelona (€79m), Atletico Madrid (€77m), Chelsea (€94), Liverpool (€92m) and Manchester City (€62.2m) all recouped record figures for player income – that was in figures released by The Soccerex Transfer Review by Prime Time Sport.

Whilst there is no direct relationship between the emergence of contractual bonus cover and the introduction FFP it is certainly a product that resonates with UEFA’s primary objectives:

  • to introduce more discipline and rationality in club football finances
  • to decrease pressure on salaries and transfer fees and limit inflationary effect
  • to encourage clubs to compete with(in) their revenues
  • to protect the long-term viability of European club football
  • to ensure clubs settle their liabilities on a timely basis

As a result, we have certainly noticed a large increase in clubs taking an interest in this type of cover and taking stock of what options are available to them.

When you consider UEFA’s primary objectives you can begin to see why more clubs are taking performance related pay more seriously. This is an area that has received some media coverage in the past.9

For example, comments from Liverpool’s Managing Director, Ian Ayre, in 2013 about Liverpool’s shift towards a more performance related pay structure show that this is something that is on the agenda of clubs even at the highest levels of the game.10

With that in mind, I expect financial liabilities linked to a clubs performance will grow rapidly in a number of different areas over the course of the next few years and as result clubs should be looking more closely at the benefits contractual bonus cover can offer them.”

How Other Football Associations In Europe Regulate Insurance Policies?

One question that immediately sprung to mind during our discussion was ‘how does this approach compare to other leagues?’, Saul provided an example: “Whilst other football associations on the continent may require clubs to lodge their insurance policies with their association, not necessarily for approval but for full disclosure, there is no other recognised ‘Bonus Insurance Scheme Policy’ elsewhere in Europe, and therefore there is more flexibility for clubs on the continent to also insure against negative outcomes. This is something widely used by clubs in respect to relegation, lower league position, or failing to qualify for European competition. They also have the advantage of looking at insurance of this nature at any point in the season”.

Being cynical this does make me consider how this effects the integrity of European competitions where it is conceivable that and English club is playing a club where they have been able to fund a squad because they do not bear the same financial risk as they have offset their exposure to relegation or non-qualification. Although it may be unlikely, it is conceivable that a club in financial distress could be incentivised to lose to help ease liquidity issues; pay-outs from insurance policies of this nature can help clubs in such circumstances as they will receive the funds more quickly than those derived from the distribution of broadcasting or competition revenues.

Other sports like cricket and rugby have also outlawed betting, for example in rugby the IRB regulations enforce a global ban on betting for ‘connected persons’ (see IRB Anti-Corruption and Betting – Regulation 6.1.411), something the RFU has readily acknowledged in their own regulations (RFU Regulation 17.1.4 – Anti-Corruption and Betting12).

Saul believes that we may see other national sports association and international federations make “the distinction between betting and these permitted insurance arrangements as an exception [BISP’s] as they look to regulate this activity through similar bonus insurance schemes

Conclusion 

Insurance is tool that is used widely to protect consumers and businesses alike. It seems The FA have been proactive and pragmatic in their approach to how football clubs can use contractual bonus insurance whilst protecting the integrity of the sport. As more money flows into sports across the globe it will be interesting to see how other governing bodies approach the regulation of insurance linked to performance related bonuses.

As always, your comments and feedback on this article are welcomed.

By Sean Cottrell

Sean is the founder and CEO of LawInSport. Founded in 2010, LawInSport.com has become the “go to sports law website” for sports lawyers and sports executives across the world.

sean.cottrell@lawinsport.com  @SeanLawInSport


Saul is Business Development Manager at Hedgehog Risk Solutions, a specialist sports insurer with particular expertise in managing financial risk linked to sports performance. Saul manages the companies football related business – specialising in contractual bonus cover and revenue protection, and has delivered insurance and risk management solutions for a wide array of professional football clubs from across Europe.

spaine@hedgehogrisk.com @hedgehogrisk

Footnotes:

  1. ‘Deloitte Annual Review of Football Finance 2014’, deloitte.com, accessed 18 November 2014, http://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/pages/sports-business-group/articles/annual-review-of-football-finance.html
  2. R Berry, ‘Bonus structures in English professional football’, LawInSport.com, 16 April 2014, accessed 4 November 2014, http://www.lawinsport.com/features/item/bonus-structures-in-english-professional-football
  3. S Wallace, ‘Manchester City bonuses enough to change a life (if they were not already millionaires)’, independent.co.uk, 31 July 2012, accessed 18 November 2014;http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/news-and-comment/manchester-city-bonuses-enough-to-change-a-life-if-they-were-not-already-millionaires-7988202.html
  4. G Akoto Boafo, ‘Germany to pay 300,000 euros for World Cup win‘, allsports.com, 23 December 2013, accessed 18 November 2014,http://allsports.com.gh/features/germany-to-pay-300-000-euros-for-world-cup-win-id2688516.html
  5. ‘Portsmouth’s FA Cup final dilemma: the seven players who may not feature’, telegraph.co.uk, 12 April 2010, accessed 18 November 2014,http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/teams/portsmouth/7581689/Portsmouths-FA-Cup-final-dilemma-the-seven-players-who-may-not-feature.html
  6. Policy 1.2, Bonus Insurance Scheme, The Football Association
  7. Policy 1.3, Bonus Insurance Scheme, The Football Association
  8. Policy 1.4, Bonus Insurance Scheme, The Football Association
  9. S Ingle, ‘KPIs and GPS put the geeks in charge of players’ pay packets’, theguardian.com, 12 May 2013, accessed 18 November 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2013/may/12/geeks-players-pay-packets
  10. R Bailey, ‘Liverpool’s Move Toward Performance-Related Pay Is the Future of Football‘, bleacherreport.com, 14 May 2013,http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1639732-liverpools-move-towards-performance-related-pay-is-the-future-of-football
  11. IRB Regulation 6. Anti-Corruption and Betting, irbintegrity.com, accessed 18 November 2014, http://www.irbintegrity.com/resources/IRB_Reg_6_EN.pdf
  12. RFU Regulation 17 – Anti-Corruption and Betting, accessed 18 Novmber 2014,http://www.englandrugby.com/mm/Document/Governance/Regulations/01/30/35/16/RFU_Regulation_17_Neutral.pdf

How to Set Up a Cheerleading Team for your Football Club

You may be toying around the idea of setting up a cheerleading team for your football club in order to maximize fan engagement (read more about why your football club can benefit from a cheerleading HERE). You may, however have some reservations when it comes to cheerleaders, which may include:

  • How much is it going to cost?
  • Is having cheerleaders seen as sexist nowadays?
  • How will female fans react to the cheerleaders
  • Will our fans have a positive reaction to it?
  • How can we use them effectively?
  • Who will manage them?
  • How do we ensure that their image is of quality and reflects our comms strategy?
  • How do we ensure QUALITY?

Asking yourself these questions is only a positive thing because you are being thorough with your job description and ensuring the welfare of the team’s marketing. Cheerleaders may or may not be the right thing for your team, but if you do decide to go down that route, here are some things you may want to think about.

Cheerobics Video Promo shoot. Photos by: 1. Recruitment of management team

The first step with ensuring your cheerleading team goes in the direction you want to go, is selecting the right manager which has a unique combination of:

  • Cheerleading Qualifications and Insurance
  • Strong background in dance and choreography
  • Thorough understanding of marketing and Social Media

These three skills are absolutely ESSENTIAL in ensuring you are running a cheerleading activity as it is the only way to ensure that you will be getting a team of quality, experience and alignment with your marketing strategy. Hiring a recent dance graduate to head your cheerleading team is as detrimental to letting a learner driver getting behind the wheel of a Ferrari. Your cheerleading team will be a representation of your football club and you do not want to be giving this responsibility to someone with an amateur background. Finding coaches with this particular skill-set is very rare – which is one of the reasons we wet up the CHEER PRO™ recruitment, consultancy and training services. In the UK and Europe we have an extensive network to find and train talent in this particular area.

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2. Sponsorship & Budgeting

If you really want the quality of the cheerleaders to reflect the quality of your football club, then this is not an area where you can cut important corners. Sure, it has to fit in within your budget but you have to consider that hiring trained, professional dancers (with a choreographer / team manager) cannot cost you £25 or £50 per dancer as is the current case with a lot of teams. Consider that for a cheerleader to turn up to your game and dance, she has to:

  • Rehearse between 3-5 hours per routine (in one season they will most probably learn 4-6 different routines)
  • Travel (for away games or to cover petrol / public transport)
  • Take the full day or half a day off to be at the game (therefore not able to book another job on the first day)
  • Be managed and choreographed by a coach / team captain who in addition to the hours above needs to count one extra day of admin, costume sorting, etc..

Additional expenses will include uniform kits and appropriate training for your cheerleaders. It is safe to say that you must calculate between £110.00 – £150.00 per game per cheerleader depending on the timings and activities (this cost should include rehearsals and team management) if you wish to have a team of professionals. Away games and additional travel may require a higher fee.

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Even though this may seem like an unnecessary expense – if you budget any less, you will encounter the same problem we have experienced time and time again, with a number of teams:

  • You cannot afford professional dancers, so your team will look amateurish
  • Uniforms and styling may be too provocative / unfitting with your comms strategy if not right people are put in charge
  • Team will make no effort to go the extra mile to rehearse or be part of your comms strategy
  • Dancers / cheerleaders will drop out because it is no longer in their priorities as it is costing them more to take part than what they are earning

A good way to ensure that you are covering the right ground, is to offer further opportunities to your existing sponsors by offering them the chance to brand the team’s cheerleaders and include visibility of their sponsorship activities (which may also include PR opps / TV appearences / Youtube Videos / Calendars / Merchandise / Prizes, etc..). Instead of giving them a price per game – offer them a full sponsorship package for the entire season – including an appearances calendar and comms activity that you can work together with the cheerleading team manager.

Cheerobics Video Promo shoot. Photos by:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Plan the look and the Comms Strategy

Before you start working on a comms strategy, find out from your fans what they would like from the FC’s cheerleading team: with an online poll campaign you can get the fans engaged with the choices you are making by always keeping them in mind. If you do so and listen to their suggestions and requests, the cheerleading team will be a much bigger success because the fans have been involved in the setup, as opposed to something that has been sprung to them.

In terms of comms strategy and look, we strongly suggest that pushing the athletic and performance level is something that the fans would be proud to have their daughters take part in. as opposed to a team look that may be too provocative and inappropriate for family audiences. This is especially important to consider at a time where gender equality and sexism is a hot topic, which is why ensuring the appropriate time and budget is allocated to your cheerleaders: leaving these important details to people with little experience is a recipe for disaster.

Cheerobics Classes

 

 

 

 

 

4. Including female & family-friendly activities 

The reason why cheerleaders are so popular in the USA is because the teams are not designed with a so-to-speak “take the husbands away from their wives” approach (some teams do this better than others. The Dallas Cowboys’ Cheerleaders are considered America’s Sweethearts. Beautiful? Yes. Provocative? Never. Even though their shorts are short, their polished routines and activities are always aspirational rather than patronizing towards women. They are involved in the community and engaging with the female fan-base. To have the same effect, here are some suggestions:

  • Involve ladies in choosing / designing the uniforms. This will make the female fans also part of the decision-making and allow them to feel represented by the cheerleaders rather than having the uniforms just designed for their male counterparts.
  • Equally, involve them in song choices: make them get up and dance in their seats because they chose the playlist instead of Tweeting angrily about why there are cheerleaders on the football ground.
  • Ensure choreography is fun, cheeky but never provocative. Otherwise this will ring alarm bells with the women and likely to cause stir-up with the comms department.
  • Offer Cheerobics® ( www.cheerobics.net) classes for women at the club. Not only this is a great way to boost involvement of women with the club’s activities, but it is also a great PR story as you are helping female fans to be active – AND they will engage with the cheerleading team on a friendly level and support them. Plus – this could mean additional subsidizing the cheerleader’s expenses so and all-round winner!
  • Offer a cheerleading club for the children, with opportunities to join the junior league who can also perform on the field during the season. This is done in the USA on a regular basis and is one of the most popular activities. Just be extra careful that the coaches are fully qualified in cheerleading and have the appropriate experience.

Cheerobics Video Promo shoot. Photos by:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Recruitment and Training 

Cheerleading is not a profession here as it is in the USA. It is therefore ESSENTIAL that the recruits are chosen with care, and trained to be fully qualified cheerleaders before allowing them to represent your football club. Most FCs make the mistake of recruiting trainee dancers or girls who dance as a hobby, with the result of an amateur team. The only option to fully make your cheerleading team a success is to audition and train a combination of professional dancers and high-level competitive cheerleaders, and then giving them a month of intense training (or up to 15 hours total) to learn the techniques and routines of the team – lead by an experienced professional.

This way they can be moulded to the same standard, just like you would do with your players on the football team. Recruitment is just as important as training, as you want to calculate 5 auditionees per space on the team to ensure maximum talent. This is a combination of a strong comms strategy that you can work with your Cheerleading team manager, and putting the new recruits through their paces. CHEER PRO™ have for this very purpose created the very first Professional Cheerleading qualification of its kind – to ensure the standard of performance, fitness and appearance is consistent throughout the whole team. More info on: http://bit.ly/CHEERPROqualification

If you have any questions about setting up your very own cheerleading team, please email us at cheerpro@cheerobics.net or tweet us @CheerPro_Teams

How clubs are responding to the ‘Omnichannel’ Fan

The topic of the ‘omnichannel’ fan – hungry for 24/7 content, on TV, on the web and increasingly, via mobile – continues to capture our attention. We took the opportunity, earlier this week, to have an animated debate with a range of football clubs about the subject.

In the inspiring setting of The Gherkin, we discussed the importance of the online relationship that clubs have with their fans; what makes a great online experience and how this helps to build loyalty, enhance a club’s brand and drive commercial opportunities. Everyone agreed with the view recounted from last month’s Leaders in Sport event – ignore digital channels at your peril and make sure you’re monetising them. But there was also a recognition that clubs were at different stages on the road towards enhancing the online journey for their fans.

We were fortunate to have Scott McLeod from Everton Football Club share his experiences and insights into the significant strides they’ve taken in making it simple for supporters to engage and purchase with the club online. This, he reported, is helping to change purchasing habits of existing fans whilst also enabling them to engage with new ones.  Online engagement is at the heart of Everton’s ongoing digital strategy, which has been spearheaded by the success of the official club app. This is exciting because the app provides fans with the opportunity to purchase tickets more quickly and easily than ever before, with our TALENT Sport commerce platform integrated within the native app. All this work by Everton has resulted in the club winning an award at the Football Business Awards (read more here) as well as being voted number one by the fans in the Premier League’s annual fan survey for ease of purchasing tickets online (read more here).

Kurt Pittman from Brentford Football Club also shared his experiences about encouraging fans to move online and the importance of using data to provide a personalised experience for supporters. In fact, the focus on delivering a customised, tailored journey was a major theme throughout the event. Everyone agreed that using data about the fan in the right way helps to deepen the intimacy of the relationship. Clubs can use previous purchasing behaviours and profile information to better understand fans’ preferences – this insight can then be used to create a better, more relevant experience but also to unlock the value of the individual supporter from a commercial perspective.

Prior to holding the event, we had debated the role that the retail industry plays in informing the sports organisations how to deliver a great online experience. Tina Spooner from IMRG – the online e-retail industry body – attended the event to provide this insight, looking at trends around shoppers in the retail space. She shared how game-changers for online shoppers have been mobile, personalisation and maximising international opportunities. It was interesting to hear how consumers have shifted from shopping online to find better value, to a situation where convenience has become the key motivation. It’s clear that retailers are working hard to keep up with customer demands as they embrace mobile and how they endeavour to make it as easy for shoppers as possible to have choice and convenience. Tina shared that recent research carried out by them shows how retailers are struggling to find the right balance between engaging with consumers in a personalised way but without over-stepping the line and making it feel too ‘spooky’.

This latter point sparked off great debate; the clubs around the table all agreed that, for sports fans, it just can’t get too personal. In fact, the feeling was that this becomes a badge of honour based on their support of the club; it demonstrates that the club knows exactly how deep their loyalty lies. The role of fan data and being able to use this data in the right way to profile fans and, subsequently, engage more effectively with them, was clear. Clubs shared several examples of this, such as targeted communications with tailored videos full of relevant sporting memories to the individual supporter which helped to increase season ticket sales. Tina acknowledged that most retail brands would die to have the level of engagement and loyalty that football fans offers.

There was also a reality check where clubs intimated that, on the whole, they simply do not have the same budget as retailers and, therefore, can’t always deliver exactly the same experience online. Choice and convenience are still at the forefront of their minds when delivering a great experience, and making sure that the basic benefits are in place is fundamental. For example, fans do expect to be able to purchase a ticket easily, quickly and seamlessly, from any device – and within as few clicks as possible.

Given the retail shopper and the football fan is – in many cases – the same person, there were conversations as to why the consumer is happy to purchase online yet the football fan is often steeped in tribal traditions. There was an acknowledgement that in some cases, driving fans online required a forced change in behaviour to encourage fans to purchase online.  However, there was agreement that you still need to make the experience as rewarding as possible; prioritising relevant content for particular audiences, so the customer journey is personalised and the ‘virtual store’ is polished and clean, as well as some of the basics outlined above.

For us, we’re more certain than ever that exploiting the value of fan data in the right way helps to enhance loyalty by delivering a satisfying customer experience. Enriched data means more personalisation and opportunity for increased yield, as well as delivering enhanced commercial value to sponsors. But it was also evident that the core technology commerce platform still needs to deliver the goods when a fan is purchasing online – a few of the words used to describe this was quick, simple, and efficient – fans don’t want big bottlenecks which disappoint and means clubs have to work very hard to draw fans back online.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be looking closer at how sports clubs are finding innovative ways to create compelling online experiences and, more importantly, using online data to develop the services of the future.

We’d like to hear from you; what are your biggest challenges when engaging fans online?

Mark Dewell

Managing Director - Advanced Ticketing

 

For all news and stories see our Advanced Ticketing news site or follow us on Twitter: @Adv_TALENTSport and @MarkDewellADV

Managing the Social Media Voice of your Football Club

In order for a football club to establish a direct and engaging relationship with its fan base it must develop a strong and consistent voice across its various digital and social media channels.

Having an original and genuine voice can prove to be a challenge as it is not always easy to speak to fans in a conversational tone.  If managed correctly, however, it can uplift the presence of a mediocre club to become an industry leader.

Some important guidelines to remember when establishing your club’s social media voice include:

A.      Determining your football club’s own brand identity

This will be based on the organization´s culture, values, and overall brand experience it would like to promote.

For example, more traditional clubs like Arsenal, Manchester United or Real Madrid will tend to communicate throughout their social media platforms in a more formal manner as they consistently strive to transmit the image of class, excellence and tradition.

On the other hand, less classic and long established clubs such as most Major League Soccer’s franchises will favour a more personable communication approach in an effort to consistently generate buzz and engagement in less mature football markets.

 

B.      Knowing your football club’s audience

Knowing the desired demographic that your brand wants to reach will help your club understand its target audience and the relevant social media channels to use to reach out to followers and potential consumers.

Although it is important to remain consistent throughout your social and digital media presence, it is also imperative to adapt your approach to the relevant audience you are targeting through each platform.

For example, the style of writing in a football club’s official website should be different than the voice and tone used across other social platforms such as Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.  Each platform has a different set of followers and must be targeted accordingly.

 

C.      Engaging and interacting with your community 

Whether the objective is to inform, sell, or provide customer support, it is essential to know how to communicate your football club’s objectives with personality and sincerity.

Listening to the needs, thoughts, opinions and insights of your audience will help your brand achieve the corporate objectives and remain authentic via social and digital media platforms.

Because of their massive size and social relevance most top-flight clubs will tend not to answer directly to followers on social media mainly due to a question of volume and risk management.

Nevertheless, when communicating with your online community of fans and supporters worldwide it is essential to remember that in order to generate true engagement social media platforms should be used like a telephone and not like a megaphone.

photo-6The Sports Business Institute Barcelona offers a two-month program entitled ¨Football Communication & Social Media Online Program¨ that provides practical training to those wanting to start or advance their career in the areas of communication, PR, sports journalism, online branding and social media management for the football industry. 

For more information visit: http://bit.ly/111jVD9

To read the full course prospectus click here: http://bit.ly/1sGqhiy

Financial Fair Play is incompatible with business

Gary Tipper_PalatineGary Tipper, managing partner at Palatine Private Equity, discusses the business of football, and how the new Financial Fair Play rules are incompatible.

 

 

 

Almost every business in every sector is built upon the idea of competitive advantage. Firms will do whatever it takes to find a gap in the market, including accepting losses for the first few years. Sadly, it seems that one of the UK’s most lucrative industries, and one Manchester is particularly good at, seems not to agree.

I am, of course, talking about football. Having seen Manchester City spend and lose millions over the first few years after being taken over by Sheikh Mansour, UEFA decided to solve a problem that never existed by creating the Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations. As a hardened City fan, the words Financial Fair Play are enough to make my blood boil, especially when considering the fair aspect.

Before the regulations were announced, I think most football fans thought the idea of FFP was to make sure clubs were not taken over by disreputable owners. The likes of Leeds and Portsmouth have experienced this in recent years, with mis-management leaving the clubs debt-ridden and ultimately heading for administration. No one wants to see this happen again, as in the end it is the fans that really suffer.

However, what UEFA have come up with is a system that effectively means that the clubs with the largest turnovers are the ones that can spend big in the transfer market, protecting the old order of European football. No other industry in the world blocks new money being invested in it, which is essentially what UEFA is effectively doing to European football. Whether fans like it or not football is now a huge global industry and should be dictated by market forces not by an industry body trying to protect the old order.

Imagine if this sort of protectionism had happened in the technology sector, which in the 1960s and 1970s was dominated by the big hardware players like IBM. Had rules stopping businesses losing money been in place, companies like Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook would not exist. Each of these household names lost millions if not billions in their development years, enabling them to become the large organisations that ultimately transformed an industry and broke up the old monopolies that existed.

Why should football be different? If money hadn’t come into the likes of City, Chelsea, PSG and others, European football would be an oligopoly for the foreseeable future – making it incompatible with business.

Here football can learn a few lessons from business. Instead of the current rules, make any new owner put up to two years running costs in a blocked account that is used if they decide to remove their support, ensuring clubs avoid administration. This would also have the effect of keeping away the buyers without any real financial substance.

When looking at sustainability, it is also important for the rules to focus on debt levels. In the past too much debt has led to the downfall of many clubs, but under FFP, it is currently seen as acceptable for United to have £500m of debt and Real €600m of debt while City are punished despite being debt free. The £50m fine handed to the Blues is another clear example of the real aim of FFP – further establishing the status quo.

As a global industry, the rules governing football should be along the lines of the rules that govern businesses. With the current rules being incompatible, they should be challenged as I think it is best for business. Manchester has had a great footballing history and with the emergence of City in the last five years should have an even better future, dictated not by UEFA, but by market forces

Why Sport is Better With Cheerleaders

Showbiz, Fan Engagement & Social Media

by Jessica Zoo – director of CHEER PRO™

When we look over at our american cousins across the pond, we cannot help but admire their pioneering business sense when it comes to the sports industry. What’s the secret of their success? They understand that even though the talent of the team comes from the players and coaching staff, the heart belongs to the fans. Without fans, there would be no ticket sales, no TV advertising and no sponsorship deals, and as a consequence no sport to play. The business of sport entirely depends on having a following and works as a cycle: more fans means more tickets, larger sponsorship value and as a consequence bigger budgets to draft better players, hire talented coaching staff and set up junior schemes to develop talent from an early age.

The USA are masters at understanding this – and they know that for bigger fan engagement they don’t just need to appeal to the die-hard fan, but also to his brother, his wife, his sister, his children (and sometimes pets!) – this way, the love for the team becomes embedded as part of a family tradition, and everyone finds a way to get involved in the fan fun.

Showbiz and ancillary team products (not just merchandise) have developed to be a key aspect in fan engagement both on and off the field. As we have moved towards an age dominated by digital communication, the experience of being ‘part’ of the team extends far beyond wearing the Tshirt and switching on the telly. You can now follow and even interact with the players, coaches and management staff via Twitter, Facebook and every other gizmo that’s trending that month.

Andy Burrows Music Vieo ZF

Your question may be – “I thought I was reading an article about Cheerleaders?” You are, and it ties in fully with the scenario we have set above. The UK and Europe have become more influenced by the American style of entertainment and marketing in sports in the recent 5 years, simply because what was reserved to American fans has now been made available to the entire world through digital means. And the fans like it.

Cheerleading CricketYou may think “What’s some pompom shaking got to do with it?”. There are two versions of this answer. Firstly. if you hire a group of dancers who throw on a ra-ra skirt to jiggle pompoms of the football field, it won’t do very much at all. It will even raise eyebrows and have fans scratching their heads not understanding the correlation between football and cheerleaders. Done correctly, with a marketing and crowd engagement strategy in mind, it can do a lot, lot more: they become part of your brand, and the values that it stands for.

Let’s take the Miami Dolphins as an example. Their cheerleaders are gorgeous, talented, look friendly and approachable. Did I mention that their “Call Me Maybe” cover has over 20 million hits on Youtube? Or that their Facebook page has over 200,000 page likes and 32k followers on Twitter? That is an exact additional 10% online engagement for the football club overall. That is 10% more interaction, potential sales and sponsorship value which is nothing to turn your nose up to.

Everyone knows the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders – they are the epitome of Cheerleading royalty and they set the standards of professional cheerleading since the 1970s : every cheerleading team aspires to be like them (and some manage better than others). Americans do it best, so what is it exactly about these american Sirens that make them so superior to the standards we’ve seen in the UK/ EU?

Firstly, it is essential to understand that there are three worlds of cheerleading. Yes, you read correctly: THREE.

Professional Cheerleaders - those that belong to a professional sports team, and mostly perform pro cheer dance style

Varsity Cheerleaders - cheerleaders belonging to an educational institution such as college or high school, performing mostly sideline entertainment including acrobatics and can also be competitive teams in national and international cheerleading championships

Allstar Cheerleaders - Cheerleaders who’s sole purpose is to push their skills for competition, and belong to an independent gym. This type is more associated to gymnastics that cheerleading itself: you will not find any pompoms or chants here! Expect most of these routines to be spent in the air rather than on the ground. This is an entirely fascinating concept of it’s own, and emerging as a sport in it’s own right

In America, those belonging to the first group (Professional Cheerleading) have all spent many years learning their skills rigorously by taking part in either Varsity and Allstar cheerleading. When you combine that experience with exceptional dance skills, experienced coaching, marketing know-how and decent dancer fees, you get the magic of NFL cheerleaders. It requires a very specific type of expertise to understand the subtleties that give that wow factor/girl next door look and that make the cheerleaders appealing both to a male and family audience.

In the UK, the cheerleading community has been somewhat segregated (we’re almost talking about separate changing rooms for cheerleaders with pompoms and those without). For the most part, this country’s competitive cheerleaders (you may be surprised that to date there are over 60,000) – do not wish to delve into the world of professional cheerleading because it has been regarded as subsidiary activity left to dancers with limited or no cheerleading background.

Lately, however,  a number of UK sports teams have shown that introducing cheerleaders managed with a marketing know-how, has been a very successful tactic to attract more fans and increase engagement on and offline (with some having more success than others). The key into making a cheerleading team successful requires 5 main steps:

  • Highly skilled professional dancers with a background in cheerleading or enough technical cheerleading training
  • An overall look and style that is both appealing to a male-oriented audience but equally family-friendly in order to engage
  • A budget decent enough to secure professionally trained dancers
  • Management of the cheerleaders with a good understanding of marketing and digital communications
  • Coaches and choreographers with a strong background in cheerleading (not just dance)

If this is something that you may have struggled with in the past or require external help, CHEER PRO™ might just be the solution you have been looking for . Aside from providing cheerleaders for hire for specific events (with our flagship team Zoo Fever cheerleaders being crowned 2014 National Grand Champions at the British Cheerleading Association, competing against 75 other teams), our team of professional cheerleading and digital marketing experts can help you set up your team using local talent, but managed by our expert coaches through a number of different services.

We select, audition, train and manage the cheerleaders for your club until they are ready to pass their Certificate of Professional Achievement in professional cheerleading (the first qualification of it’s kind). We also set up cheerleading classes for all ages (children and adults) with Cheerobics® fitness classes taught by the club’s cheerleaders so that everyone can get involved in the team’s spirit. We work in a number of flexible ways depending on your budgets and your requirements, but the result is guaranteed to provide you with an exceptional team of cheerleaders to suit your team’s marketing and fan engagement objectives.

To find out more how we can make your sport better with cheerleaders, visit www.cheerpro.net

(Interview and live performance on BT Sports with Jessica Zoo and Zoo Fever London Cheerleaders’ CHEER PRO team – after their 2014 Grand National Championship Win)

Cheer Pro Logo FilmAbout Jessica Zoo

Jessica Zoo OffiicialJessica Zoo, the creator of the Cheerobics® brand and co-director of Social Media Mentors started her cheerleading dance career at the age of 18 when she was the captain of Royal Holloway University Cheerleaders, and had a strong attraction towards commercial, or ‘PRO’ style cheerleading – her coaching and choreography skills have allowed her London Zoo Fever  Cheerleaders to be crowned 2014 Grand Champions at the BCA Nationals.  In 2011 she launched the Cheerobics® brand, which offers cheerleading fitness classes, apparel and instructor training programmes worldwide and now has over 200 instructors in Europe, the US and Asia.

With over 10 years experience in cheerleading, media production, digital marketing and event management – Jessica has fused her combined valuable knowledge into CHEER PRO™: creating and managing top class teams with a strong focus on the marketing objectives, as well as an innovative system of training & choreography.

Website: www.cheerpro.net

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cheerprocheerleaders

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CHEERPRO_Teams

Labour’s Proposals For Fan Ownership – Are They Credible?

The Labour Party’s commitment to legislate for partial fan ownership published today by Clive Efford, Shadow Sport Minister, is admirable for its intent but worryingly short on detail says Mike Dyer, Director of Portsmouth law firm Verisona Law .

Dyer said that “there is a tendency to think of Football Clubs as being somehow different from any other business organisation.” In many respects, perhaps they are, but the underlying fact is that they are companies and as such bound by Company Law in the UK.

The proposals do not seem to address the fact that fundamental changes would be required to the Companies Act 2006 surrounding (in particular) Shareholder rights.

For example, the proposed right for a Supporters Trust to appoint and remove Directors whilst only being a 10% Shareholder represents a significant departure from the present legal position.  As the law currently stands, a Shareholder with only 10% of issued shares would not have such a right unless there is a Shareholders Agreement in place (a document setting out various terms between Shareholders and regulating the voting rights on certain issues).

Without such an Agreement, a 10% Shareholder will be unable to pass the necessary resolutions to give effect to this “right” without new Company Law legislation.

I sincerely hope this proposal is not just a poorly considered populist vote catcher – but if it is to be treated as credible then significant further detail of the proposal is needed.

Mike Dyer

Director, Verisona Law

Clubs must act now for future commercial success

Introduction:

Laura Miller, the Managing Director of Miller Sports Consultancy, writes exclusively for FC Business about how football clubs need to be active in the autumn if they are to avoid being dragged into an end-of-season commercial dogfight.

For more information about Miller Sports Consultancy and its services for football clubs and brands, visit http://www.millersportsconsultancy.co.uk, email info@millersportsconsultancy.co.uk or call 01482 644414.

Article:

It is around this time of the year, when the days get shorter and the league tables begin to take shape, that football clubs across the country may be tempted to start focusing all of their commercial efforts on the festive season.

I appreciate this. Before establishing Miller Sports Consultancy, I was the Head of Commercial at Doncaster Rovers, and I know it is a challenge at this stage of the season to look at anything beyond the pressing, immediate opportunities of the current campaign. After all, the fans rarely do!

However, when the autumn leaves hit the ground, clubs really should be thinking, looking and more importantly talking about their commercial plans for the following season.

‘Too early,’ I hear you say. ‘What if we end up being promoted into a higher division with better attendances, more TV coverage, more exposure and more lucrative potential partnerships?’

But, crucially, you must ask yourselves: ‘What if we don’t?’

Delaying talks with potential sponsors for next season until the closing weeks of the campaign in the hope that you might be in a better negotiating position is NOT a sensible approach.

We have seen several clubs stung by this strategy in recent years.

At Soccerex last month in Manchester, there was a story doing the rounds about how a club that was pushed right to the wire to find a shirt sponsor for the new season ended up chopping its asking price in half before signing a last-minute deal that was negotiated in only 72 hours.

This isn’t uncommon. Brands know that clubs are in a weaker negotiating position if they are squeezed for time.

Maybe the club needs to find a sponsor for its new shirt, which must roll off the production line in a matter of weeks to catch the summer market. Maybe the club simply needs to guarantee income to fund signings before the end of the summer transfer window.

In any case, the market’s unwritten rule is that the longer you leave your search for a partner or partners, the more you can be squeezed in negotiations and end up with a brand that isn’t quite right.

Smart brands will consider a number of options – in terms of clubs as well as packages – before deciding on the right choice. Playing a waiting game, just because you think you might be in a better bartering position in a few months’ time, is therefore simply not worth the risk.

Every April, May and June we field dozens of calls from clubs who need to urgently sell shirt sponsorship rights or other packages ahead of the new season. However, by that time of year the pool of potential commercial partners has shrunk from what it was in the autumn.

We tell clubs every year that this scenario is entirely avoidable – but they need to start acting NOW, giving themselves plenty of time to find the right partner, negotiate a good deal for both parties and plan ahead for activation.

We’re not talking about jumping into bed straight away with the first company that expresses an interest, as that is unlikely to lead to a happy long-term marriage.

Moreover, there is nothing more off-putting for a brand than to be interrogated only about what it can do for the club.

So it is about finding the right fit. Both parties need to find out what they can do for each other – financially and in terms of value-in-kind benefits – and a company that shares a club’s values and ambitions will enable the value of the partnership to be maximised for everyone involved.

At Miller Sports Consultancy, our client base has more than doubled in the last year, and we now work with numerous clubs and brands that are ready to invest in the game. We have sourced major deals for our football club clients, and we could find the right partner for your club too.

If you kick things off before the winter really kicks in, you will be giving yourself the best possible chance of future commercial success beyond the 2014-15 season.

However, responsible clubs must act quickly before that pool of potential partners begins to dry up come the springtime.

For more information about Miller Sports Consultancy and its services for football clubs and brands, visit http://www.millersportsconsultancy.co.uk, email info@millersportsconsultancy.co.uk or call 01482 644414.