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A Decade at the Forefront of Football Hospitality and Events
The network of stadium venue providers Stadium Experience celebrates its 10th anniversary this year at the Annual Football Hospitality Awards at Brighton and Hove Albion’s brand new Amex Stadium in May.
When it formed in 2002, Stadium Experience broke ground as a unique and exciting concept that put the spirit of collaboration between stadium hospitality providers above the match-day rivalries of the clubs. In the decade since Stadium Experience’s inception, the stadium hospitality industry has expanded and developed, with Stadium Experience leading the way by prioritising high quality service targeted at all aspects of non-match-day event facilities across its 41 member clubs.
From an initial idea whereby members could share information and opinions with each other, Stadium Experience has grown into a structured organisation that provides support, centralised booking and marketing services to its members, to the benefit of all member stadia. One of the founding members and former chairman Terry Powell remembers the early days of Stadium Experience from his time at Tottenham Hotspur’s White Hart Lane: “The fact that business rivals could share information was exciting, then to get fierce rivals from the football world to do that is amazing; the bravery and foresight of that first small group was incredible!”
Terry also stresses the importance to Stadium Experience’s development of the involvement of clubs across the different football leagues: “The growth across the leagues is truly of great benefit to all and the acceptance that you can learn from a team in the lower divisions should help keep the concept fresh and exciting for all the members. The fact that it continues to grow is down to the people that are inspired by the concept.”—Terry Powell, formerly at Tottenham Hotspur.
At Bolton Wanderers, founder member Roland Ayling had the unique perspective of being at a football club which had a DeVere hotel as part of the Reebok Stadium. He remembers feeling that some of his experience from the ethos of the hotel may have been behind his initial enthusiasm about the collaboration. His main objective in getting involved in Stadium Experience was to meet other people in the industry, in much the same way that professionals would in other sections of the hospitality industry:
“It was a good opportunity to communicate with each other and open up the possibility of referring business to other members. That was difficult initially because there is usually a specific reason why someone chooses a particular stadium as a venue for their event or conference, but nevertheless, we were able to share ideas and information with each other. It was exciting and it was definitely good fun.”-- Roland Ayling, formerly at Bolton Wanderers.
The early days of Stadium Experience were exciting, and the organisation is just as vital a force in the football hospitality industry ten years on. The current chairperson is Lisette Maas from Notts County F.C. Excited about the growth and development of Stadium Experience, Lisette highlights the website as a great opportunity for clubs to centrally showcase what they can offer potential hospitality clients.
“I’m really excited that at Stadium Experience we’re being more proactive than ever in attracting business for all our members. For example, we’re attending exhibitions, and of course, the stadium directory is a fantastic marketing tool for our members.”—Lisette Maas, Notts County F.C.
Lisette’s approach appears to be working, with Sue France, from Wigan Athletic’s DW Stadium particularly enthusiastic about Stadium Experience’s contributions to her club’s business portfolio: “We have been able to build our profile in the competitive events arena through road shows and national exhibitions. This fine example of co-operation has enabled all Stadium Experience members to source quality suppliers and ensure best practice across the industry” – Sue France, Wigan Athletic.
One of the most long-standing members of Stadium Experience, having been there from its inception, Alison Plant from Aston Villa’s Villa Park Stadium, shares Sue’s enthusiasm for its current incarnation: “I think it’s the strongest it has ever been. It works well as a venue-finding agency and it has very strong marketing collateral in its website and literature. Looking to the future it could consider including other sports stadiums such as rugby and cricket. As long as we have active members and strong leadership, I can see Stadium Experience continuing for many more years.”—Alison Plant, Aston Villa FC.
The latest high-gloss Stadium Experience Directory is now available. Showcasing the unique selling points of each member stadium while highlighting the benefits of stadium hospitality and events in general, the directory helps its members to maximise the potential of opportunities across the full range of banqueting, conferences, weddings, product launches and other hospitality events. In combination with the website and use of social media, the directory forms a crucial link in the effective marketing solution that Stadium Experience offers its members.
Now in their eighth year, the Football Hospitality Awards have become a highly-anticipated event in the annual calendar and an important aspect of Stadium Experience’s program. The awards recognise excellence across all aspects of the Football
Hospitality industry, with awards voted for by the media and by representatives from Football league clubs. Prizes include best club in each league in England and for the Premier Division in Scotland, as well as overall awards for Best Matchday Experience and for Chef Team of the Year.
Last year, the event took place at Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Molineux Stadium and Glasgow Celtic emerged as overall winners.
Heading to the impressive facilities of Brighton and Hove Albion’s new Amex Stadium in May this year, the ceremony is set to be more eagerly anticipated than ever, given that it falls in the 10th anniversary year of Stadium Experience. With many of the founding members intending to make it for the event, it is set to be a recognition of what Stadium Experience has achieved in its first decade, as well as a celebration of its vibrant future through commending the excellence of its current members.