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


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.


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.

Loyalty & Rewards – A Bright Idea For Sports

Loyalty and rewards are among a handful of buzz words on top of the sports marketers agenda right now. In our experience, loyalty has become the attractive front end of a CRM project.

One that’s showing some decent results. (Read our blog on loyalty becoming the sexy side of CRM here).

In other sectors, loyalty has become a proven concept. Fact. And it’s got the backing of marketing teams, with 65% of marketers saying that loyalty programme investments are essential. It’s easy to see why they say this, with customer spending shown to be 46% higher with companies that have a loyalty programme in place and the average person belonging to 7.4 different schemes.

People love collecting points and they want some reciprocation for their interactions with a brand. Get the incentives wrong however and people will switch off to the idea as quickly as they switched on.

In sport, we have a greater opportunity to truly engage with our audience and a hunger for consumption of experiences, both that money can and can’t already buy. We’ve already seen some successful implementations of rewards base programmes in sport, particularly in North America, and we think that it’s something that should be further utilised.

It’s a hot topic, and one that we’ve talked about a fair amount in recent months, but for good reason. Any tool that helps you to get greater buy in from both staff and fans is surely worth giving some serious consideration.

Take a look at the infographic below for the full run down of loyalty in sport.


Is Performance Related Pay the Way Forward?

Football finances are under more scrutiny than ever before as clubs across Europe get to grips with the UEFA Financial Fair Play rulings.

UEFA FFP phasing began in 2011 and it is only now that the full implications are being felt across Europe.

Earlier this month the FFP regulations finally made an impact on the transfer window as clubs accept they can only invest what they have 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 in figures released by The Soccerex Transfer Review by Prime Time Sport.

This in turn allowed for a record level of expenditure by FC Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Chelsea and Liverpool.

But according to Luke de Rougemount, Director of sports specialist insurance providers Hedgehog Risk Solutions, it is player bonus schemes that are likely to see the biggest investment in the future.

He commented; “We have received a huge increase in interest regarding the cover of player bonuses across Europe during the winter transfer window.

“As clubs aim to cut there wage bills to meet Financial Fair Play Regulations one way to achieve this is by offering performance related pay which can in turn be offset by a risk management programme.”

It has been widely reported that more commercial deals are following this pattern with Manchester United’s new kit deal with adidas subject to a 30% decrease should they fail to make the Champions League for two consecutive seasons.

The 10 year deal also includes a £4m bonus should they win the Premier League, FA Cup or the Champions League during the contract period.

It is a trend that Mr de Rougemont expects to continue across the game, he said; “The landscape is changing rapidly due to the implications of the Financial Fair Play and I am expecting to see a large increase in performance related contracts.

“We have worked closely on a number of projects to make sure this is a viable option for clubs, sponsors and suppliers.”

For more information regarding services provided by Hedgehog Risk Solutions go to www.hedgehogrisk.com

Professional players ARE human after all – Relocating is not a fun game

Yep it is that time of the year again. When the media is flooded with the latest news of this player moving from this Club to the other, this Club making the multimillion pound offer to the one abroad, the fancy new house this player has recently acquired,…,

I don’t recall I have ever seen among all those numbers, details and fancy stuff anyone saying on the news:

“Oh poor them what a life moving from one country to the other, dragging family along, not understanding the cultural change, the social cues, dealing with the massive pressure the Club and the fans are putting on this new player”

A professional player is a human being after all, right? Yep, some of them look like something out of this world, they do incredible things but they all struggle as much as any other professional relocating through work. Especially when partners and families are moved around too and these don’t have the right support from the very beginning of the process.










This is what we have approached in our latest article in the special Relocation issue at FC Business Magazine. If you want to read all about it just follow the link SecurelyBe is on page 24: http://www.fcbusiness.co.uk/eversion/fc79/index.html

Premier League to League Two, the coach, the physio,…, anyone involved in a relocation will need and should have the extra support to be able to “hit the ground working”, as well as being able to thrive during the transition.

Then and there is where SecurelyBe is the right partner. Before, during and long after your arrival.

Welcome to England!


Follow on Twitter: @SecurelyBe

How Digital Signage & AV Boost Sales Across the Football Spectrum…

Firstly, it’s great to contribute to the fcbusiness blog, what a privilege. Secondly, did you enjoy the World Cup and did you notice the magnificent digital signage globe that graced the opening ceremony?

Although a new Sky Bet Football League season has begun, and the Barclays Premier League kick off is on the horizon, here at Armagard the World Cup is still stuck firmly in our heads with two things in particular refusing to disappear from our thoughts:

1)      Surprising score lines! Namely the Netherlands beating Spain & ‘that’ unforgettable Germany-Brazil game. The results certainly raised eyebrows in the office among our international account managers, resulting in a bit of harmless banter.

2)      That awesome digital signage globe. Quite frankly, it was unmissable, taking centre stage at one of football’s biggest events and causing a trending storm on Twitter.


Digital Signage Globe, World Cup Opening Ceremony, Brazil 2014.

It’s the latter that got us thinking. How far have digital signage & AV solutions come in boosting sales for club and country during major international tournaments & domestic competitions?

The answer! Very far. It will come as no surprise to you that the fastest growing market for digital signage deployment in 2014 is Brazil. Football tournament organisers are recognising the influence of digital signage at major competitions, renting out systems to power house brands, such as Adidas and Nike, who reaped the rewards of fantastic digital advertising campaigns.

Adidas alone saw a 41% increase in the sale of soccer products as a result of widespread digital advertising throughout the World Cup.

Digital Signage – Driving Sales throughout Football’s Hierarchy

Arguably, digital signage has enjoyed the most success in football as part of retail strategies. Club shops, stadium food outlets, concession stands & concourses have become key, digital signage installation hotspots. Why? Because they influence fans at the ‘point of sale’. In particular, digital signage enhances sales of football paraphernalia during major club and country tournaments.

The great thing about digital signage is that it’s not only the upper echelons of football benefitting from its impact. Clubs at grassroots level are also reaping the benefits, widely using it to promote their brand.

In fact, digital signage has become a common feature at grassroots events, such as the Grassroots Football Show, staged at the NEC in Birmingham.

Even football coaching schools are cashing in, renting space & digital signage stands at schools and sports centres for advertising purposes.

Where’s the Evidence of Digital Signage Impact in Football?

An article, recently published by Armagard, refers to information provided by Essential Retail regarding the impact of digital signage at two of Europe’s leading clubs, Arsenal FC & FC Barcelona.

FC Barcelona recently invested in a 16-metre-wide LED screen, which now provides the focal point of their club shop. The store was also fitted with digital signage kiosks, giving fans an interactive buying experience. Since the refit of the store, Barcelona has reported a 22% increase in the sales of personalised shirts.

Meanwhile, Arsenal’s director of retail, Simon Lilley said: “Digital signage has been hugely beneficial in promoting our stadium tours. The stadium tours now start and end in the club shop – with the retail team confident that around 50% of those who take the tour throughout the year will purchase an item in-store.”

What can Digital Signage and AV Solutions do for you?     

The evidence speaks for itself. They can drive sales, improve customer service and speed up transactions, delivering an excellent return on investment. Digital signage and AV solutions are long-term, there’s no shelf-life for advertising, content can be quickly changed keeping your message current.



Armagard LCD enclosures update customers at Euro 2012.

They reduce the pressure & congestion on tills. One of the biggest benefits noted by stadium staff at major tournaments or domestic games is that digital signage, used as a transactional unit, gives customers a quick service option.

This has proven to be particularly beneficial during halftime, when stadiums have just 15 minutes to serve potentially thousands of customers.

Digital signage broadens the number of people that can be reached to the extent where teams, both club and country, can open up new revenue streams that were not possible before or never existed.

Ask Armagard

So, you’re probably thinking you want a piece of this digital signage action, but who do I consult?

Well, Armagard is no stranger to providing digital signage and AV solutions for major football tournaments. 485 of our LCD units, a mixture of 42” & 52” sizes, were installed across stadiums for Euro 2012 in Poland & Ukraine.


Armagard at Euro 2012, Poland & Ukraine.

Our units can also be found at football stadiums throughout Europe, including the Rubin Kazan Stadium in Russia and the National Arena in Bucharest, Romania.

You can wall, stand, ceiling or floor mount units from our range of next generation digital signage solutions. Better still, you can customise them to suit your needs and to match the aesthetics of the environment.

Get Involved

There’s no escaping it, digital signage & AV is driving business across the beautiful game. The commercialisation of football continues to grow at a rapid pace, effecting all levels of the football spectrum.

You’ve seen it here, statements from retail directors of Europe’s leading clubs, digital signage lighting up the world stage and making an impact at grassroots level. It’s time you got involved, digital signage should be part of your football club or country’s marketing plan. For digital signage that delivers, tour the Armagard website or call 0121 608 7208 to request a brochure…

Thanks for reading and happy new season. Let the drama begin!

Follow Armagard on social media >>> Facebook.com/Armagard      @Armagard

Financial Fair Play in football has given marketing and data management a major boost

sa_blog_header_0 The FIFA World Cup is now a distant memory and we’re back to the domestic merry-go-round as we head towards the new season. Which players are your team signing? How much are they spending? How much are they allowed to spend?

FIFA’s legacy to the club game, Financial Fair Play (FFP) is shaping a new approach. FFP is a rule which prohibits clubs spending more than they earn. For some it’s an unnecessarily restrictive practice that only football could bestow upon itself, while for others it’s a justified, protective napkin placed in the lap of clubs who can’t feed themselves properly. Fans (naturally) don’t like it, teams are (predictably) wrestling with it, but for the marketers, I think it presents a tremendous opportunity.

The focus, of course, is on transfer budgets, player salaries and overall accountability, but has anyone stopped to consider how FFP will impact upon a club’s day-to-day diet of customer relationships and one-to-one marketing?

The demand that spending should be balanced by operational income means the link to data management is, for me, fairly obvious.

FFP drives the whole issue of income beyond the owner’s pocket and into regular revenue streams. If approached correctly, FFP is not restrictive, it’s a massive marketing opportunity.

The need to generate income is reflected in everything a data management company like Sports Alliance, does for its clients. Product and business development is a process which effectively ‘talks’ to the true supporters who follow the club and spend money. The club wants more of that type of fan of course, but the fan is also a vehicle to support wider income generation. At the top level, massive TV exposure brings in shirt sponsors and kit manufacturers who love the guaranteed visibility. Clubs sell the branded shirts to the fans and visibility feeds popularity – popularity feeds visibility.

TV revenue is wonderful in its own right but the bonus-ball is that live games project your ‘brand’ across the globe to all those who can’t come to the ground. Based on ‘eyeballs’, it’s a tremendous deal all round and yes, it certainly helps the shirt-selling business.

But what if the TV companies become less interested? For starters, if you don’t continue putting ‘bums on seats’ and the stadium looks empty, the product becomes diluted. The conundrum is that TV provides an opportunity to watch outside the stadium in homes across the world, but the stadium still has to be full to make it appealing. While it is, you have a marketing opportunity with the billions who are watching across the oceans so it’s in your interest to ensure the mystique of a competition that’s played thousands of miles away doesn’t dissipate. It’s the fans that give it gravitas, so the fans must be embraced. Good CRM conducted by clubs can safeguard that process and actually support growth over the long term.

Behind the FFP headlines, it’s clear that clubs are now looking to tap into good data management and customer relations and thus, increase their longer-term earnings. It works for clubs at any level too because the local market is still vital and one you ignore at your peril – even if if you’re world famous. This is exactly where data control comes into play – whatever level you play at – and where the next step, Propensity Management then comes into its own.

On a supporter database, the propensity for a fan who watches on TV in Asia to actually buy a season ticket for their favoured club, is clearly going to be less than a supporter of any club who lives locally. But the fan in Asia can still buy merchandise. Good CRM will afford greater earning power over the longer term and Propensity Management identifies the likelihood of a fan anywhere in the world to engage in a certain way. Understanding what they’re likely to want – or not want – then develops a communications’ relationship that is enjoyed by both sides of the deal.

FFP dictates that in the coming years, the level of equity investment an owner can make to offset operational losses will diminish, so something has to give. Operational income is being given far greater emphasis by FFP than before, because non-compliance can result in competitive sanctions or even tournament bans.

Of course, there is always the short-term option of making the most of your current contract-driven popularity and adding another nought to the next sponsorship deal. All you do then is shove the players on yet another plane for one more exhibition game. But what about all those eyeballs finally viewing the players at close quarters? If you can tap into their potential, you can use a solid CRM approach to develop a long-term income stream that eases the path towards FFP compliance.

In which case, why wouldn’t you?


We Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside

After a busy few months catering for all manner of events, from concerts to graduations, Sunderland AFC subsidiary 1879 Events Management is expanding even further with the launch of a new bistro.

The Beach House, at Marine Walk, Roker, will serve as a contemporary café and bistro, offering seaside eating with an upmarket twist.

This includes a modern lunch menu, showcasing locally-sourced produce and fresh seafood, along with an array of burgers, hot dogs and freshly-prepared sandwiches, as well as a bespoke children’s menu and a unique ice-cream, popcorn and candy bar.

Former SAFC players Jimmy Montgomery and Kevin Ball officially open the Beach House alongside members of the Sunderland-Ladies

Former SAFC players Jimmy Montgomery and Kevin Ball officially open the Beach House alongside members of the Sunderland Ladies football team.

It’s been a hectic few weeks trying to get the venue ready to open in time for the Sunderland International Airshow, which will bring thousands of visitors past its front door, but I’m pleased to say we did it.

The Beach House officially opened on Saturday (July 19) with a family fun day attended by hundreds of guests of all ages – and will now open from 10am until 5pm Monday to Friday and until 6pm at weekends.

The official launch was a great day and I’m sure the venue will make a great addition to the portfolio of 1879 Events Management, which already manages catering and events at the Stadium of Light and National Glass Centre, Sunderland, as well as contributing to the overall diversification of the services being offered by SAFC.

You can read more about it at www.facebook.com/thebeachhousesunderland or www.1879events.com.

My day as a pro athlete with Michael Johnson Performance & Perform at St. George’s Park

In my blissful little world, I’m a super fit Adonis that can run ultramarathons on a whim and laughs at the burger munching loafs that inhabit most town centres. But then I arrived at St George’s Park for a training day at the Michael Johnson Performance (MJP) centre and Perform.

Home of the elite, everything here seems precise and toned…except me!

After an early drive from Durham to Burton Upon Trent, I arrived at St George’s Park where I was handed a MJP tech t-shirt and sent to get changed. First point of call was to watch some of the footballers signed up to the Michael Johnson Performance pre-season training camp.

Lance Walker - MJP Global Performance Director

Lance Walker – MJP Global Performance Director

Out on one of St. George’s Park’s pristine pitches, a group of footballers that includes Burnley’s new recruit, Marvin Sordell are being put through a routine that includes running and jumping and stretching. It looks like any other football training routine but overseeing this is session is Lance Walker, MJP Global Performance Director shouting orders whilst Michael Johnson himself patrols the field assessing the athletes.

Michael Johnson watches over the pros as they're put through their paces.

Michael Johnson watches over the pros as they’re put through their paces.

The session looks tough; the players look not tired but suitably warmed up, the assembled media look nervous as we’re here to be put through our paces in the same manner. After a brief time we’re ushered into the Perform Centre where we’re split into groups and put through a round of exercises that will test our strength, balance and all round fitness. First up is the jump test which can, apparently, determine how well you are likely to perform in a sprint. Literally how high you can jump can tell so much about your athleticism explains our instructor.


Squat then a count of three and jump – 27cm is my first jump and I’m impressed. Second attempt is squat then jump, this will give an indication of my explosive power. 23.3cms, surely this should be higher? Apparently, I lack strength in my legs so I would be advised to hit the gym and work on this. I’m not happy, I run up and down big hills for hours on end each and every week. then we’re told the elite athletes can jump as high as 50cm and higher. I best hit the gym!

Y Balance Test

Y Balance Test

Next up is the Y balance test. This tests a person’s risk for injury as well as demonstrating functional symmetry. Pete Lansley from Vauxhall’s media team shows off his perfect blend of unbalance and lack of symmetry. I don’t get to go on this as time pushes on.




As I leave the Perform Centre, the wall is adorned with the quote, “It’s just hard work and grafting. Then anything is possible!” by some bloke called Mo Farah.

mo quote

We make our way to the indoor arena with its 3G replica Wembley sized pitch. In the centre circle the England Women’s Under 19 squad is going through a few drills under the watchful eye of senior team manager, Mark Simpson. The gathered media and I wait nervously as Brock Christopher, MJP-GB Performance Director walks in with his gang of enforcers. They’re quite clearly not a bunch of heavies in the traditional sense but each is bulked up to the max and takes no prisoner when it comes to executing each and every drill in the correct manner.

Michael Johnson whipping us into shape!

Michael Johnson whipping us into shape!

We begin the session under the watchful eye of Michael Johnson who’s made his way down from the session with the pros to have a laugh at us moaning and groaning as we’re made to stretch and move limbs in ways that are unnatural to us. After half an hour of running and prancing and squatting and jumping and loads of odds things we’re not used to we then start the drills which will make us efficient, powerful and explosive sprinters. It all seems a little absurd but with each individual drill serving a specific purpose, when combined as a whole each of us feels like an Olympic champion sprinter. Just a little slower!

After a much needed break for lunch we head to the hydrotherapy suite for a rehabilitation and recovery session. In the pool we’re took through a few routines aimed at stretching sore muscles under the resistance of the water. Lots of giggling and floating around in no particular fashion ensued. After being made to work hard in the pool, we were ushered over to the Hydroworx pool.

Recovery and Rehabilitation in the Hydrotherapy Suite

Recovery and Rehabilitation in the Hydrotherapy Suite

For those that don’t know, Hydroworx designs and builds rehab and exercise pools with built-in underwater treadmills and I’d been particularly looking forward to having a go on it. The are only eight of these in the UK and this one at St George’s Park is the only one available for public use so when our instructor for the session asked for volunteers to give it a go I was straight up.

Standing on the deck, I and another guy were lowered into the pool to just above our waist. Straight ahead sat a bank of monitors, screens and other technical equipment that wouldn’t look out of place in a NASA control room. The treadmill was then set into action at a pace equal to a light jog. Running at this pace for a few minutes the instructor ups the speed whilst explaining the technical capabilities of the equipment and physical benefits to an athlete. Then the jets are turned on to add some resistance. Despite the water taking away some of the relative strain running places on the joints it’s still hard work to run and the extra effort the jets are adding is making it more and more difficult (along the air that is collecting in my shorts).

After about ten minutes the speed is lowered on the treadmill and we’re returned to dry land. Following my efforts on the treadmill we’re then led to the plunge pools for a cold/hot treatment. The single most awful thing about intensive training and the need for rehabilitation and recovery has to be the ice bath. Not quite frozen over, but cold enough to bring a tear to your eye we’re told to get into the cold plunge pool for two minutes. For me, the depth is just above my waist for some of the shorter members of the press pack it’s upwards of their chest.

This is the longest two minutes ever in what is designed to make the blood vessels contract pushing the blood full of toxins and lactic acids up through the heart to be dispensed of. After what seems a lifetime were offer the ultimate luxury of two minutes in the divine warmth of the Jacuzzi to let the blood vessels reopen and allow clean blood to return to the legs and aid recuperation. But these two minutes are short lived and its back into the cold pool – I’m beginning to believe the devil is in the room!

After a further two minutes in the warmth of the Jacuzzi, that’s it, our day at St. George’s Park is done. I’ve been stretched and twisted and contorted by the excellent staff at MJP and Perform, I’ve marvelled at the seemingly different language these guys use – a indication of the level of expertise they have in their field.

I’ve been given taste of life as a pro athlete and their quest for that bit extra that makes them, in the words of Lance Walker ‘Version 2.0′ from when they walked in.

Aaron Gourley – Deputy Editor, fcbusiness mangazine

Follow on Twitter @aaronfcb

Images courtesy of Macesport