What can traditional sports learn from esports?

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What can traditional sports learn from esports?

The last couple of weekends have seen two massive esports events taking place. The inaugural Fortnite World Cup event at Flushing Meadows Tennis Centre in New York and the FIFA esports finals at O2 in London.

Millions followed the events across the world and British 15-year-old Jaden Ashman from Hornchurch, London won almost £1m for coming second in the Fortnite duos event.
Fortnite is now played by 250 million players and a vast roster of hugely influential streamers attracting massive audiences with their Fortnite broadcasts.

A number of major football clubs, such as PSG Paris and Manchester City now run their own FIFA esports teams, so some people in traditional sports organisations now understand the potential in esports. So has an increasing number of major brands who are becoming sponsors of these events, including Mercedes!

Thousands attended the FIFA esports finals at O2 in London

The Flushing Meadows Tennis Centre hosted the inaugural Fortnite World Cup

…and it’s not on free-to-air telly

What is also interesting is that this whole phenomenon is that only recently has SKY begun to show the FIFA finals, so the whole movement has been developed via Skype, Twitch and various streaming channels

So, while we do agree that free-to-air broadcasting of major sports events, can have a positive effect on getting young people into sport, we are also suggesting that there are many other channels which can should be used to spread the word. Some of those channels probably don’t exist today, but soon a 15-year old will have launched one from their bedroom!

More than 380 million people across the world watched esports in 2018 and that number is expected to increase to 550 million in 2021. Whether those audiences are watching Fornite, League of Legends or Counter-Strike, the numbers hold interesting lessons for traditional sports, where viewing figures among younger people are declining.

YouTube and Netflix are now UK’s third and fourth most popular channels, Ofcom finds

The four most popular television channels in Britain now include YouTube and Netflix, an Ofcom report has found, as the streaming giants eclipse BBC Two and Channel 4 in a drastically changing media landscape.
British adults now watch an average of 34 minutes of YouTube and 18 minutes of Netflix a day, beaten only by BBC One at 48 minutes and ITV at 37.
A study of young adults, categorised as being aged 18 to 34, placed the two video services as the most-watched viewing platforms, with one hour and four minutes dedicated to YouTube and 40 to Netflix per day.
The findings were reported in Ofcom’s second annual “Media Nations” report, which tracks the viewing and listening habits of the UK.
Nearly half of homes now subscribe to TV streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or NOW TV, with average daily viewing rising by seven minutes last year to 26 minutes.

Here’s what to do:

Here are some suggestions that most of you could do if you are not already doing:

Accept that the times indeed are changing (they always have) and move with them

Set up project group of 14-17-year-olds from the club of both genders, if possible. Preferably someone who are not that brilliant at your sport and who perhaps who would rather be playing Fortnite or do street arts. Ask them to look at everything the club/centre does with a critical eye, from their viewpoint. From the experience provided by the coaches to the language on your social media.

When they make recommendations, ask upon them, even those you don’t really understand and/or accept. If they want to arrange a midnight festival combining your sport, music and graffiti – do it…and so on!

Consider points like these

• Are you coaches regarded as welcoming, friendly and relevant to the people the coach?
• Are your social media platforms the most appropriate for your young people (one 15-year female said to me “Facebook is old people”)?
• What is the first impression people get when they come to your place for a session? Warm, welcoming, dirty, clean, cliquey…?
• What do your lapsed players/members say about online and offline?
• What do your current players/members say about you online and offline?
• Do everybody have to play in a league or join competitions, week in, week out? Or can they go to the odd session and take part in one fun festival?
• Do you run informal drop-in sessions
• Do you listen, engage and act.

Here at Sports Marketing Network, we are quite good at helping people to ‘think wrong’. If you want to have a chat, give us a call on 01423 326 660.
Svend Elkjaer


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 Thriving handball clubs a cross England



England Handball launch bespoke enterprise mentoring and support programme for handball clubs in England

Sports Marketing Network to help English handball clubs to become vibrant, visible and viable

We have many great handball clubs in England and a great deal of those are keen to develop further into more sustainable community-based organisations
Handball in England is growing. Enterprising handball clubs can benefit from this and become real community handball enterprises and be #MoreThanAHandballClub 

Examples from other sports demonstrate that when clubs play a bigger role in their communities, and in people’s lives, they:

• attract more players and volunteers
• generate more income
• generally, have a much better future.

However, England Handball appreciates that for many aspiring clubs this development, exciting as it is, requires inspiration and support.
This is why we are announcing our new support and mentoring programme.
However, England Handball also appreciates that for many aspiring clubs this development, exciting as it is, requires inspiration and support.
This is why the governing body for handball in England, England Handball are announcing our new support and mentoring programme where handball clubs from across England are invited to benefit from participating in a 12-month programme where they can develop the skills and programmes which can help transform their clubs.

Stacey Andrews, National Partnerships Manager at England Handball

Stacey Andrews, said:

“We are delighted to have teamed up with Svend Elkjaer of Sports Marketing Network who will be delivering the support and mentoring programme. 

Following the positive response to his presentation at our 2018 club conference, England Handball has teamed up with Svend Elkjaer of Sports Marketing Network. Svend will be delivering the programme along with the England Handball partnerships team.
Svend has worked with community sports clubs across most sports across the UK and has a proven way of helping clubs to grow and become vibrant, visible and viable.

All handball clubs in England will be invited to apply to become involved with this 12-month programme, developing the skills and programmes to help transform, their clubs”, Stacey said.

She continued, “If selected, Svend will visit your club and run a workshop with as many people from the club as possible and help you identify your goals, opportunities and challenges. He will give you ideas and support on how to attract more players and volunteers, generate more income and become a bigger part of your community.

He will then work with you for 12 months, providing motivation and inspiration, and helping you overcome those unavoidable hurdles. Yes, there are always challenges, but most can be overcome”, ends Stacey Andrews.

This opportunity is only open to a small number of clubs. The selection process will be competitive. The clubs will be selected based on their desire and willingness to change and grow, and not on size or league position.

To apply to become part of a truly inspirational programme for handball clubs in England, complete and return the Application Form.

You are also welcome to send a video as your application, or to support it.

Just write why you want your club to be involved and about:

• your goals
• your challenges,
• your opportunities
• your skills
• your culture
• your capacity and capability
• what support are you looking for

To learn more about this programme contact Stacey Andrews on or Svend Elkjaer on or go to England Handball’s website

Sport for Change and Social Good – a different approach, not a separate sector

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Sport for Change and Social Good – a different approach, not a separate sector

A massive opportunity for community sport and physical activity to reach new groups and grow your impact.
Across the UK we are experiencing an increased focus on the wider role that sport and physical activity can play in our communities and our lives. In some quarters that approach is called for sport for social good, some call it sport for change and others call it sport for development. In the end, it is all about the wider benefits that sport and physical activity can bring to individual and communities.
Until now there has almost been a separate sector covering this work and in England, the Sport for Development Coalition and in Scotland the Sport for Change Network has been the ‘home’ of providers and funders sport for change/social good.
In particular, many of our governing bodies of sport and our community sports clubs have taken a sport for sport’s sake approach, believing that sport is living in splendid isolation from the rest of society. Increasingly, they are waking to the fact that if their sport and clubs are to prosper in a more connected world they will have to play a bigger role in people’s lives.
So, we are gradually getting away from two separate sectors, which is great and we are experiencing bodies such as Cricket Scotland and their #MoreThanCricket conference and the Football Association of Wales Trust and their #MoreThanAClub programme. Through our work here we have come across a number of community clubs which are growing because their engagement with people around goes way beyond just the sport, so both parties benefit.
How you then develop the Sport for Change and Social Good approach is something we cover at three one-day workshops which take place in Stirling on the 21st November, London (Ealing) on the 28th and Birmingham 30th November. For the full programme and booking details click here).

At these workshops, we will cover how to benefit from and how to implement a Sport for Change and Social Good approach. We will provide you with thoughts, tools and to-dos on how to develop and deliver initiatives which can make a real difference. We will also cover how to

  • build a team of committed, passionate and inspirational staff (and volunteers)
  • acquire an understanding of community and individual needs
  • develop the ability to work jointly with others
  • grow consistency and sustainability of the approach
  • develop a clear strategy and action plan for accessing funding
  • link with key priority areas such as community cohesion, playing a role in reducing crime and anti-social behaviour, helping to improve education and employability, and health and wellbeing and other
  • build a sustainable organisation – building capacity, working with staff and volunteers, finances
  • develop the right an organisational structure – to ensure that quality of delivery is high and aligned to the desired outcomes
  • build evidence – how to align with outcomes and report against these effectively, providing guidance and tools for different settings, how to measure outcomes and not just outputs

All this will be provided in an engaging and interactive way, using jargon-free language and case-studies from                    sports and community organisations of                             ll shapes and sizes.

Who should attend this workshop:

This workshop is aimed at people who are involved with sports and physical activity organisations interested in developing sport for change and social good initiatives such as governing bodies of sports, Community Sports Hubs, Country Sports Partnerships, community sports trusts, sports clubs, leisure trusts, funding bodes, school sports partnerships and activators

People who are involved with community organisations interested in using sport and physical to engage with people and communities such as housing associations, Police, social enterprises, health and patient organisations, Local Authorities, voluntary organisations, funding bodies, NHS and Public Health

We look forward to hearing from you and to help develop a Sport for Change and Social Good approach

Community Sports Enterprise: what’s it all about?

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Let’s start with having a look at social enterprises:

According to the Social Enterprise Coalition, “social enterprises are business organisations that trade with a social purpose”. They are enterprises which are developed and constituted to fulfil a particular social or community purpose. Their profits are reinvested towards those social or community purposes, and they are normally owned and managed by the members of the community in question.

It is important to recognise that ‘social enterprise’ is not a legal term, but a business model; a culture and mindset, then a skill set and the legal structure could then be a Company Limited by Guarantee, a Community Interest Company or a Charity. Social enterprises don’t make money for the sake of making money, they make money in order to do good and sometimes in the process of doing good. There are five common characteristics for social enterprises which could be of great value to community sports clubs:

Social enterprises don’t make money for the sake of making money, they make money in order to do good and sometimes in the process of doing good.

There are five common characteristics for social enterprises which could be of great value to community sports clubs:


They are enterprise orientated (the focus is on developing a culture where customer service, business planning and innovation is at the forefront)


They are customer and community focused


Profit is NOT a ‘dirty’ word because when they make a profit, that profit is put back into the enterprise


They are liberated from other organisations’ policies, bureaucracy and procedures


They are recognised as entrepreneurial and dynamic

Where there’s a will, there’s skill… the challenge is how to add enterprise culture and business skills into our community sports clubs

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change”                                                                                                                                                 Charles Darwin

So what is a Community Sports Enterprise?

In sports enterprise someone recognises a sports problem or opportunity and uses entrepreneurial principles to create, and manage a venture (internally or externally) to solve the problem and/or exploit the opportunity. Whereas a business entrepreneur measures return in profit, a community sports entrepreneur focuses on creating sports, social and community capital whilst producing a surplus (the four S model, see below).

The four S model –

the key to successful sports enterprise is to balance and optimise the four Ss

These four components must be completely interlinked if sports enterprise is to be successful.

In comparison, only on the odd occasion has traditional sports development focused on financial sustainability, yet somehow it has expected that somebody should stump up the funding for activities which are almost always free at point of delivery.

Therefore, a big challenge is to develop sports provision that users will want to pay for.

The Sports Club as a Community Sports Enterprise – the eight key strands

To be really successful, a CSE must focus on eight key strands and treat them with equal importance:

1. Vision and strategy – what are you for?

2. Develop strong leadership and management

3. Provide great sporting and consumer experiences

4. Be for the community

5. Be welcoming and vibrant

6. Engage and communicate better internally and externally

7. Generate income

8. Getting things done through people

Yes, I do appreciate that perhaps only the third strand ‘experience’ is directly sports-related, but this highlights a key point:

Community Sports Enterprises are really about getting away from a culture of ‘grant-addiction’, ‘sport for sport’s sake’ and ‘the way we do things around here’ and moving towards a community-focused and enterprising organisation which uses sport as a lever and at the same time helps community sports clubs to become, and stay, welcoming and sustainable.

Are you wise²

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Are you wise² 

Welcoming, Innovative, Community-focused, Engaging and Enterprising


Through Sports Marketing Network’s work and contacts with literally hundreds and hundreds of sports providers from across all sports and different types of organisations, we have identified five key factors which we believe are key to delivering enterprising and sustainable sport and leisure activities.

We don’t believe there are any material differences too between a professional sports club trying to develop support from its fans, a leisure centre wanting to increase usage, a community sports club wishing to attract and retain more members and volunteers or any other sports provider.

We all provide sport in different ways, for different people and in different places but nevertheless, we strongly suggest you focus on how you can be as WICE² as possible. Please view this through the eyes of the outside world and not how you and your mates within the club perceive it. (I am yet to find any sports organisation which does not regard itself as being ‘welcoming’ even though it may be full of Victor Meldrew look-a-likes!)

This is designed to help these clubs develop better practices in terms of how they follow the WICE² principles and become sustainable hubs for their communities.

It may not be rocket science but SMN is convinced that if our sports providers, over time, become more Welcoming, Innovative, Community-focused, Engaging and Enterprising then we can deliver better sport in a sustainable way.

A few words about the five elements of WICE²


Remember, you are in the Experience Industry, competing for people’s leisure time and spend. You, your coaches/instructors and the rest of your team must focus on providing the best sporting and customer experiences possible and remember: we are all different, so what you think is a great experience, may not be the same as a 26-year-old recreational player or a 42-year-old ‘returner’.

Help newcomers ease into the place, so the initial ‘like-first-day-at-school’ nerves disappear and they become advocates. Your best marketing tool is a customer who has just had a great experience at your club/centre.

So why not ask a few people who have never been in contact with your sports club and never been there to give you an objective view of how ‘welcoming’ they feel your club is. Of course, if you are happy with the status quo and just being for your members and don’t want all these new people in your club, I am terribly sorry I bothered you.


More than ever before people involved with sport and leisure are being asked to do more with less. It isn’t easy.

Many organisations are tackling this challenge with cost-cutting initiatives without really making any changes to the way they operate. What’s the net gain? Not much in the way of unique added value for your customers. At the same time too many people are too busy solving the everyday short-term problems that they ignore the important medium and long-term opportunities and therefore they rarely get ahead. With fewer resources available this then becomes a vicious circle. If you only come up with solutions when the problem is ‘blocking the road’ you will always be panicking and fire-fighting.

The trick is to spot practical opportunities everywhere in your organisation and to explore them. Some people and organisations/ in the sport and active leisure sector have been very successful in spotting and exploiting opportunities whereas others, often from within top-heavy, centralised organisations have found it very difficult to be innovative. Informal, commercial and self-organised sport and physical activity is growing because they listen to people’s lives and speak their language.



“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new”

Albert Einstein



“A ship is safe in a harbour, but that’s not what ships are for”

William Shedd, US Theologian, 1820-94

Innovative organisations and people make mistakes and have failures. Analyse and learn. This also applies to your successes. Then you will gradually increase your success rate with your innovations.

Remember, the status quo is not an option.


The notion of ‘sport for sport’s sake’ which implies that sport sits in glorious isolation from the rest of the communities it is supposed to serve simply is no longer valid (I doubt it ever was).

Whenever I come across great sports providers they work for and with their communities, and as a consequence, both parties benefit. They are in reality Hubs for their Communities.

So how well are you connected to your community? The Police, the schools, the Womens’ Institute, the Sea Cadets, the faith groups etc. ? Do you know them and do they know you?

Draw up a list of your Community Connectors (people in official/unofficial roles within your community). Invite them to your place, show/tell them what you do, ask them about their needs and see if there are overlaps. Can you work together, benefitting both parties?

When you start planning your great income generating programme (see ‘Enterprising’ later) always try and link up with relevant, local community groups. Share the proceeds in return for their support, know-how and reach. Remember the old edict: the more thou giveth, the more thou shall receive.


It has never been easier (and less costly) for sports providers to engage and communicate with their audiences, using texts, emails and social media such as Facebook and YouTube.

More than 500.000 people have viewed one of the numerous videos with underwater hockey (Octopussy) on YouTube – demonstrating the potential for even lesser known sports (sorry, Octopussy) to spread the word and show the sport in action at almost no cost) apart from the camera.

If you are of a disposition or a generation which is a bit baffled by all this, get some of your younger digitally savvy people to do all this for you. This is also a brilliant way of keeping people in their late teens/early twenties engaged with your clu
b (the age with the highest dropout rate).

So you can cut the print budget and create that ‘online tribe’ where people feel they are part of your club, even when they are not there.


At SMN we encounter many great, enterprising people in community sport on a very regular basis.
Many of them succeed outside the established ‘sporting landscape’ and do not wait for a policy or edict coming down from on high. They go out there and develop some great community and sporting events and raise money (often very impressive amounts) in the process.

Just look at Tony Carlisle whose Doggie Walk in South Shields has raised £3.2m over 15 years; the guys at Blaydon Rugby Club who generate £90,000 every year from their weekly car boot sale; Mandy Young and her incredibly successful indoor skateboard and BMX centre, Adrenaline Alley in Corby; Simon Plumb and his great panto which raises £20,000+ every year at Lymm Rugby Club; the great people at St Michael’s Hospice in Harrogate who generate £150,000 every year from their Midnight Walk or Dennis Robbins and his remarkable transformation of Hunslet Club in Leeds.

These people just went out there and ‘seized the day’, and did not come up with plenty of reasons ‘why it would not work here’. You could and should do the same, wherever you are.

The days of the ‘grant addicts’ are well and truly over. The future belongs to Community Sports Entrepreneurs who provide great sport and community experiences in a welcoming and sustainable way

Sport for Change and Social Good Workshop


How you can change people’s lives through sport and physical activity
in a vibrant, visible and viable way


A series of workshops for professionals and volunteers held across the UK


Providing thoughts, tools and to-dos in an inspiring and effective way


21st November 2018
University of Stirling


22nd November 2018
Sheffield Institute of Sport

27th November 2018
University of South Wales, Treforest Campus

28th November 2018
Trailfinders Sports Club, Ealing

30th November 2018
Deal Cultural Centre, Ladywood

The 5 Is – how best to find, develop and deliver initiatives that make a real difference to your sports club

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The 5 Is

how best to find, develop and deliver initiatives that make a real difference to your sports club

1. Insight

Not all ideas work everywhere. There is a difference in demographics, rural or urban and your club’s reputation and reach to name a few, so be honest and objective in your assessment of what will work and not work for your club, in your area

2. Inspiration

So go out there and learn from others in similar situations to yourself. There are several good ideas in this guide and also by browsing the Internet you can pick up some great ideas and then you select a shortlist

3. Ideas

It is always dangerous just to have one single idea, as you can become too focused on that idea and push it through, regardless of its viability. But if you are curious and out and about you will have generated enough ideas to select from

4. Impact

Now assess the potential impact that each of your ideas can have ie how much money you can make, the number of new players or volunteers or…then, of course, go for the one(s) with the biggest impact. That may not, necessarily, be the one you like!

5. Implementation

All these great ideas are not worth much if you can’t implement them. I could organise a Danish smorgasbord at my rugby club because both my wife and I are from Denmark and mother-in-law came over to help out. Gala CC was very successful with their Ladies Lunches because of they a lady at the club which was very well-connected in the community

= Improvement
Immediately after your event, sit down and evaluate, in an honest and objective way. Tynemouth Cricket Club lost money on their first Bonfire Night. They learned from that, they improved and now it’s a major revenue earner for the club.