In It To Win It - The Sports Business Awards 2018

21st June 2018 11:57

Written by Christian Easdown, Senior Research Manager. Email Christian directly here.
On Friday 1st June, I had the pleasure of attending The Sports Business Awards in London. Only in its second year, the awards have already received the accolade of ‘Best New Awards Ceremony in Business’ (I know – who knew that there were award ceremonies for award ceremonies!).
Conceived to celebrate the work and achievements of businesses who serve the sports industry, it was a real opportunity for us to showcase our recent work conducted for Leicester City Football Club, and even, possibly, pick up a bit of silverware!
The Research Project…
So… what took us to the awards? In 2016 we were commissioned by Leicester City Football Club to undertake a programme of research with the objective to engage with disabled fans, stakeholders and experts and gain insight and understanding into the experiences of disabled fans to improve accessibility at King Power Stadium.
This fascinating piece of work involved focus groups with frequent match attendees and non-attendees as well as a number of ethnographic immersions involving researchers accompanying disabled fans to matches to understand first-hand experiences.
I know what you’re thinking – we just wanted to go and watch the football, but who I am kidding? I’m a Manchester United fan! That said, our Managing Director, Danny Sims, who is a Leicester City fan, was more than happy to ‘volunteer’ to do some of the research (purely in a professional capacity – of course!).
The findings...
The research threw up some interesting points for the club and provided valuable insight into the experiences of disabled fans, and how these could be improved. Stuart Johncock, Head of Supporter Engagement at Leicester City Football Club, said :
“The findings provided us with a clear action plan in terms of the areas that required most improvement and these changes have now been implemented at King Power Stadium. Thank you for all the hard work and passion that went into the work.”
A number of months later, Danny emailed me saying he'd come across The Sports Business Awards and felt our research was worthy of a shot. I emphatically agreed, and we started preparing our entry.
After all, you’ve got to be in it to win it.
The Sports Business Awards 2018 - the ceremony 
I attended the event with Danny, and Simon Driver, a Research Director at DJS, as well as the team we worked with at Leicester City FC - Stuart, Jim and Liam.
As we arrived, we were presented with our welcome pack which included the delegate list. Awash with representatives from several Premier League clubs, National Governing Bodies and some fantastic sports charities, it was, quite frankly, a sports fan’s dream. It also included a list of all the awards and finalists, of which we had been shortlisted into two categories, 
  • Best Fan Engagement Programme
  • Best CSR or Community Scheme
Following a brief drinks reception, we were invited into the main room where lunch would be served, followed by the ceremony itself. 
Now, my experience of award ceremonies is relatively non-existent, but I must admit I was pretty impressed. The event had an undeniable professional feel, with forty or so round tables sat at the foot of a large stage and a single podium placed prominently in the centre.
Move over BAFTA, this is the real deal.
We were served lunch, and then it was show time. First to the stage, and to a round of rapturous applause, was broadcasting legend, Hazel Irvine, announced by the infamous voice of Strictly Come Dancing and the National Lottery- Alan Dedicoat! (Google him, you’ll know who I mean.)
The stage was set; our categories were the fourth and twelfth due to be announced… 
And the result…
Given that each category had on average eight finalists, a bronze, silver and gold award was to be announced. 
As the turn came for Best Fan Engagement Programme, we sat stiffly in our chairs (not unlike conscientious school children) and let out a big cheer when our name was called out. But alas, for this category at least, it wasn’t meant to be. We valiantly clapped the deserving winners – The English Football League.
One more shot to go…
It wasn’t before too long that it was time for category twelve; Best CSR or Community Scheme. We were up against some really tough competition including Huddersfield Town, Newcastle United, Everton and West Ham, to name (drop) a few. Once again we cheered as our entry was read out -- perhaps with even more energy and intent than the first time!
“And in Bronze we have… DJS Research & Leicester City FC: Improving the Match Day Experience for Disabled Fans”
Cheers erupt from table 32! Bronze!  Result. 
Of course, everyone wants to win, but from our point of view, it is a huge honour to be recognised for our work, especially given the competition and the high profile judging panel (which included ex-pro athletes such as Colin Jackson, Sally Gunnell, Lawrence Dallaglio and not to mention a number of National Governing Body CEOs).  
We even got a piece of silverware…
We would like to say a huge thank you to the team at Leicester City and especially all the participants who took part in the research. 
Third place means a Champions League spot, after all.

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