Report from Enterprise and Collaboration in community sport and physical activity in London conference

How community sports providers can meet the challenges and benefit from new opportunities created by changes in people’s lives, the political landscape and new technology was on the agenda when almost 100 people from across community sport met on the 8th December 2015 at the ArcelorMittal Orbit, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London.

This innovative and engaging event was run by Sports Marketing Network in partnership with London Sport, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and CIMSPA.

What the delegates said

“A superb, well, organised event”

It was great to learn of the innovative and exciting work being done by some truly inspiring people in community sport”

“a massive well done to you for what it seemed like a well-received day!”

The conference was opened by Peter Fitzboydon, Chief Executive Officer at London Sport. who spoke about a new context for community sport. Peter started out by highlighting that once a week sport participation in London has increased over the last 10 years from 35% to 38%.

The vision is to make London the most physically active sporting city in the world and the five objectives are:

  1. Make it easier for Londoners to find the right activity
  2. Get more resources
  3. Support grassroots organisations
  4. Develop a bigger and better workforce
  5. Harness the power of elite sport

He asked the question: What would Google or Amazon do if they ran sport? He then went on to focus on the change that ‘Big Data’ could have on the sector and that sport should earn from shopping, entertainment and socialising sectors in terms of customer engagement and ease of access.

His final key point was that the sector needs to collaborate in a seismic shift in thinking. We will all benefit if the overall market grows.

Professor James Skinner of Loughborough University London spoke about fostering an innovative culture in sport organisations. New trends are emerging and creating exciting opportunities for sport organisations. Innovative advancements in technology have led to its use in football and cricket, the emergence of wearable tech and the use of social media as a form of fan engagement. These innovations in sport technology continue at ever increasing rates. With this growth, however, comes greater competition and new challenges for sport organisations to maintain their competitive advantage over the new market entrants. Sport organisations must address these emerging trends and create new opportunities. It is suggested that such a culture gives rise, on a sustainable basis, to the best technologies and business models. Fostering this culture allows people to develop new ideas, and take the risk, in turn maintaining a competitive edge.

Bevis Allen, Boxing Development Officer at London Sport discussed how we are going to create community clubs that are going to still be around 50, 60, 70 years (and beyond) from now? This presentation explored ways in which clubs can grow their membership, reach out into their local community and be self-sustainable. It also discussed why some clubs may be fearful to embrace change, passing up the opportunity for growth and having a bigger impact in their local communities.

He provided real life examples of what works well and how community clubs/organisations can influence the community around them.

Born Barikor, Chief Executive Officer, Our Parks spoke about how Our Parks went from pipe dream to 20,000 users, or as they call themselves, ‘Parkers’.

Our Parks was founded by Born Barikor, a former athlete from a council estate in Tower Hamlets, who found himself with no money to join a gym. He wanted to keep fit, so he came up with the idea of creating an accessible pathway to exercise for people from lower incomes by working with councils and development agencies to offer the public free outdoor exercise classes.  After graduating with a degree in pharmaceutical science and a career in sports development and personal training, Born left his job to realise his vision.  Starting with the aim of getting 500 people #FitForFree within the founding borough of Waltham Forest, he has grown Our Parks to cover 18 boroughs across London plus Central Bedfordshire with over 100 coaches and five members of staff.  The strapline is technology and sport unite to allow Londoners to exercise for free.

He then discussed the challenges he faced along the way, learnings from different experiences on what did and didn’t work, and how he grew the Our Parks community from a pipe dream to having over 15,000 users who attend over 150 hours of exercise each week in year one.

The stats are indeed very impressive:

  • 20.000 Parkers in 16 months
  • 87% female
  • 65% between the ages of 25 -45 years
  • Targeting inactives
  • Born finished his presentation with three key pieces of advice

Define your audience and then add value to that audience

  1. When you listen, things become obvious
  2. Humanise your brands

Cory Wharton-Malcolm, Chief Executive, TrackMafia. Founded on the principles of *MADNESS, TrackMafia™ is a band of like-minded souls on a quest to assist others in exploring the area just outside their comfort zone. The place that, for whatever reason, intimidates people. The place that, for whatever reason, 85% of our participants had never been to.

As Cory pointed out “It is and has always been our aim to change the mind-set of those who believe that the running track is a place where only the strong survive and those in search of that strength are left to fight alone. Not only do we provide an environment where people feel safe to embrace discomfort. We offer what some deem to be the most important aspect of any sport, something that many often forget, the reason why they return:

*MADNESS – Motivation Attributed (to a) Desire (and) Need (to) Explore Super Speeds.

TrackMafia aim’s to provide an environment where people feel safe to embrace discomfort whilst changing the mind-set of those who believe the running track is not a place for fun and enjoyment.

Ten years ago Cory Wharton-Malcolm made a decision to transform his life through running. He never knew where this journey would take him. He spends his days advising others on engaging the inactive and the pursuit of speed.

As he said: “What better place to be slightly uncomfortable than a track where you are only ever 400 metres from safety? People are also now starting to understand that if you want to get faster you can’t just run faster. You have to improve your technique; you must be more efficient, more consistent, stronger and more importantly willing to fail. What has evolved is our social media presence and in this day and age its key to success as you could have the greatest session in the world, if no one knows about, who will come?

It’s all in your MIND





His final statement was: Do not let what you do become lost in the same system you set out to defy…

Robby Sukhdeo, Chief Executive, Pavilion Sports and Cafe is the community sports entrepreneur behind The Pavilion Sports and Cafe, which has been in existence since 2002.

Robby said: It has achieved a great deal in this time working in partnership with Haringey Council, Friends of Albert Road and the Community. By engaging the community they have dramatically proved that we can bring people together in so many ways….and reduce crime. At Albert Road they went from over 250 incidents against the pavilion in 2005 to one in 2009 and only a handful since, but we are much more than that. We offer tennis, basketball, football, table tennis, netball and bowls all linked to a vibrant cafe, free and affordable sport for all. The have many awards along the way and the model is now a showcase model for the LTA and is copied across the country and Australia.

I believe that local parks should be for everyone, they are the perfect place for people to mix and relax, and by offering first class facilities the experience is far more enjoyable. The Pavilion Sports & Café engages with all ages and groups within the community. It  runs 6 full size tennis courts, 4 mini tennis courts and 2 basketball courts in Albert Road Recreation Ground in the London Borough of Haringey.

By engaging the community we have dramatically proved that we can bring people together in so many ways……. and reduce crime, at Albert Road we went from over 250 incidents against the pavilion in 2005 to 1 in 2009 none in 2010 none 2011 and one in 2012, we did this by engaging everyone, the teenage group that were bored and causing trouble soon became part of the plan, we offered them the experience of working in the cafe or getting involved with sport, we have now brought on over 60 teenagers qualifying them in basketball, football and, or tennis. The youngest members have now grown up with the Pavilion and respect the facility and park.  We took over the lease of a derelict building used as changing rooms and these underused extremely poor courts in a run-down park eleven years ago.

The link between café, sports and recreational facilities guarantees that the community could merge, engaging the community in a wider range of activities.

 Eugene Minogue, Chief Executive, Parkour UK leads one of the newest, most innovative and most idiosyncratic ‘governing bodies’ of sport, Parkour UK. He shared his thoughts and ideas on the ‘governing body’ of the future. Setting out his thoughts on the current sporting landscape, how/where people consume sport, the role of an ‘NGB’ now and in the future.

While one can discuss whether parkour/free running is a sport, a physical activity, an art or a philosophy the role of Parkour UK is both to provide proper governance and coaching and help run the ‘parkour community’.

So, the balance is to provide robust and quality coaching, accreditations, awards, CPD and qualifications while also reflect the artisan nature of the ‘sport’. Eugene highlighted the composition of the Board, which includes directors in their early twenties and a large number of independent directors as an example of how Parkour UK is bridging that gap

If sport is increasingly being delivered in, and by, our communities, then NGBs will have to innovate and adapt in a number of ways/

Nathaniel Cole, Founder/Partner, SwimDemCrew told how Swim Dem is a community built around swimming. Trying to engage and encourage others who would not normally swim, to get into the water. By challenging conventions, we demonstrate to others that the unimaginable is possible.

Swim Dem Crew is the first youth cultural movement that aims to teach young people – some of which have never learnt to swim – to compete a decent length and feel at ease in the water.

Swim Dem was founded by Peigh Asante, Nathaniel Cole and Emily Deyn, in the summer of 2013. An offshoot of Run Dem Crew, the three had a keen interest in building a similar community around swimming. The crew would meet every Saturday at different pools around London and invite others who shared a similar interest to come and join them. The Saturday sessions were often followed by food. The social aspect for us is just as important as the swimming itself. Naturally it progressed from being three friends with an idea to a whole community. Using our own experiences from swimming, we were able to facilitate a project that saw group of non-swimmers learn how to swim in just five months.

Not only did they learn how to swim, they conquered their fears of open water and compete in a 1 mile swim challenge in Manchester. This gave them the confidence to take part in other sports, such as triathlons.

By building on three steps: Create, creations that inspire others, create tools that empower others to create, Swim Dem Crew is aiming to open up the sport to a wider range of backgrounds, and to challenge its white, middle class image. Now they’re continuing to move forward in the same vein and by doing more projects and continue in encourage others that wouldn’t typically swim, to get into the water.

When the doctor told Julie Creffield, Founder of TooFatToRun she was too fat to run she left the surgery and cried for a while. Then she went and got the slogan printed on a t-shirt and ran the 26.2 miles of the Brighton Marathon anyway, just to show that doctor how wrong he was. Fat shaming exists at every level of society, whether it is headless fat bodies eating burgers on the evening news, or fat kids in PE being picked last or made to sit out by their teachers.

In this presentation plus sized athlete Julie Creffield challenged everything you know about the word FAT and showed you why she’s incredibly proud of the F word being at the heart of her growing health and fitness enteroprise.

In 2005 Julie joked with her colleagues that if London were awarded the Olympic Games she would run the London Marathon in 2012. She kept her word despite being a size 22 and unable to run for even 30 seconds at first. Since then she has competed in hundreds of races, including Tough Mudder billed as the toughest obstacle course on the planet.

Sincene 2014 The Fat Girls’ Guide to Running has had

  • Over 1 million hits
  • 20k followers on social media
  • 3000 participants in One Big Fat Run
  • 200 members of The (virtual/online) Clubhouse
  • 5000 ebooks sold
  • etc.etc.

Julie’s 5 Top Tips for Engaging Fat Women

Don’t assume they will just come

  1. Think about the first 3 touch point experiences
  2. Don’t assume Fat women are beginners
  3. Don’t assume Fat women want to lose weight
  4. Think about how you can make Fat women leaders in your workshops

Ben Lowe, Head of Growth, at Rugby Football Union spoke about creating a participation legacy – lessons from #RWC2015

RWC 2015 provided the RFU with a once in a generation opportunity to deliver the greatest participation legacy for the game in England for many years beyond.  The focus on building capacity and inspiring participation has been at the forefront of everyone’s minds for several years, across 7 legacy strands.  This encompasses

better facilities £10M invested into 522 rugby club projects with a total project cost of £38m


    • investing in people (coaches, refs, volunteers) 1350 Young Rugby Ambassadors
  • more schools playing 400 non-rugby playing secondary schools already introduced with 350 more to come
  • attracting back lapsed players Return to Rugby campaign
  • recruiting new players through Touch rugby 275 Os Touch Centres with over 12,000 regsistered players
  • wider cultural engagement and broadening rugby’s reach 1000 events with over 1 million participants
  • through expanding links and impact with other nations 30 constituent bodies linked with 15 European nations


Ben also told of the various initiatives run locally during #RWC2015 such as:

  • Trophy Tour – Placement
  • Fanzones – Rugby Activation & data capture
  • Team Welcome Ceremonies & Community Engagement
  • Volunteer Conversion – “Pack to Family”
  • Stadium Assets into Clubs He then also covered ‘what next’:
  • Continued Delivery on the 7 Strands
  • Focus on TransitionArtificial Grass Pitches
  • “Kids First” – Future Generations
  • Broadening Our Reach
  • Sevens
  • Henrik Brandt, Director, Danish Institute for Sports Studies spoke about enterprise and collaboration in community sport in DenmarkThe Danish sports model is based on a cultural and legal tradition that favours club/association based sport. This has created a very high rate of organised sports participation but the model is increasingly challenged by commercial operators, social entrepreneurs or innovative sports facilities, which are often more successful in reaching specific target groups and catering for individual needs than the traditional sports clubs. Henrik reported how sport in Denmark is (supposed to be) civil society and that the Danish state has no coherent strategy for the sports sector, but there is increasing ‘state interference’, but at arm’s length. The number of Danes playing sport or doing exercise is growing, but the way the do it is becoming more fragmented.So the questions for traditional sports organisations are:
  • Do we need sports organisations to get access top facilities and communities?
  1. Will we need sports organisations to certify, organise, sell and buy training?
  2. Do we need sports organisations to organise team sport and tournaments


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