Industry Insider is back for another edition and this time we’re sitting down with Dan Schofield, Stadium Operations Consultant for Soccer Aid Unicef and CEO of Play Fund Win!
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
Hi, my names Dan Schofield and I’m an event geek…. was how I once started a job interview, and it still rings true today. Ever since I was little I have loved going to sport and music events and I’ve been fortunate to make a career out of that passion.
I’ve spent the last 20 years working across events and sports in a variety of roles including;
Head of Venue Operations – Manchester United FC
Head of Operations – Manchester City FC
Head of Event Delivery – Tour de France Grand Depart
Advance Operations Manager – London 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Torch Relays.
I’m currently juggling a couple of roles, I’m retained as Stadium Operations Consultant on Soccer Aid for Unicef, and I’m focussing a lot of my time on my new venture – Play Fund Win, which is a digital fundraising platform we are launching this summer that grassroots sports clubs can use to raise vital funds to offset the operating cost of the club, and Professional clubs and event organisers can use to leverage crowds to raise thousands for the clubs Foundations or the charities they, or the Event Organisers support.
Can you tell us a little more about your new fundraising initiative?
The idea for Play Fund Win came to me when I was at Man City and we got approached by an American company looking to run a match day lottery. It struck me as crazy that they were wanting to run a manual process of printing off tickets through the catering kiosks instead of introducing a digital solution which allowed fans to buy tickets through the match day app. It planted a seed. Around the same time my nephew was badgering me to stage an event to raise money for his Under 10s Football Club and I got to realise how important fundraising was to grassroots clubs. I started thinking that if you could create a digital raffle product, and scale it across grassroots sport (there are over 150,000 sports teams across the UK) then we’d be able to help a vast number of people. From that acorn grew Play Fund Win.
It’s a really simple concept, you Play our draws, Fund good causes, Win cash prizes. It’s a digital raffle platform where grassroots clubs register to stage draws with us; they simply tell us when they want the draw to take place and how much the entry fee should be. We then generate the draw for them and send them a full digital marketing toolkit (which includes a bespoke webpage and QR code) to help them promote the draw. Players enter through the Play Fund Win site and our Random Number Generator selects the winning entry. 50% of the profits forms the prize pot and 50% is retained by the club. We know how hard fundraising can be for clubs and one of our main aims has been to simplify the process for them, to take away the time-consuming reliance on face-to-face fundraising and automate the licensing process.
In addition to grassroots clubs a whole host of other organisations can stage draws. One of our other big markets is the events industry where event organisers can stage draws with the benefactor being the charities that they, or the artists playing the event, want to support.
We’re launching this summer and are forecast to raise over £15 million pounds for good causes in our first 3 years of operating.
What do you do in your current role?
In my role with Soccer Aid I am responsible for the Stadium and Training Ground Operations which includes linking together the various departments involved in delivering the live event (Venue Management, Ticketing, Broadcast, Events, Football Ops etc…). The stadiums where we host Soccer Aid are used to delivering match days but a Soccer Aid game is slightly different to a normal match day and with a variety of different things to consider – not least the differing demographic of attendees and some of the challenges that brings. Before the game we get the teams together for a training week out at Mottram Hall where we purpose build a training facility which looks just like what you would see at a Premier League training ground. It’s a wonderfully eclectic mix of rock stars, celebs, athletes and footballing legends so you might normally expect to see some egos on show but the reality is that nobody has any airs or graces, they all just get on and have a great time together whilst raising millions of pounds for Unicef.
In my Play Fund Win role I’m the CEO so I’m responsible for the day to day running of the business. We’ve just received significant investment to help drive us to market and the past few months have been spent developing our platform and building strategic partnerships as part of our launch strategy. It’s a hugely exciting time to see something which started off as just an idea come to life and I can’t wait to see it realise its potential and to start making a positive impact. Our first draw is with the RFL where we will be staging a draw to benefit all community Rugby League clubs, culminating in the draw taking place at the Challenge Cup Final at Wembley on the 17th July.
What does a normal week look like for you?
I’ve got a very young family at home with a two year old daughter, Nellie, a nine week old son, Logan, and a very patient wife! I’m up with Nellie to have some time with her first thing in the morning, and home in time for her bath and bedtime – what happens between those times massively varies on a day by day basis. At the moment I’m doing a lot of calls with strategic partners building up to the launch of Play Fund Win and we are just working through the detail of where the next Soccer Aid game will take place which we hope to announce in the coming weeks.
You’ve worked in a number of different roles across sport, what are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned in each one?
One of the biggest things for me is to try and understand that everybody has objectives based on his or her particular remit and to try and respect and understand that.
When I started at Man City I had very little appreciation of the work that the ground staff do but as I got to know Lee and his team I saw how much knowledge goes in to every decision they make. Being responsible for the concerts and other events which could trash the pitch could have made me a very unpopular bloke with them but by getting to understand the work that the team do, involving them in the operational meetings for the concerts and (trying to) understand what we could do to minimise the impact to the pitch, was something which went a long way with that particular team. One of the things I enjoyed doing on a match day at City, when circumstance allowed, was to stand at the end of the service tunnel with Lee watching 5 mins of the second half and chatting about what was going on in his world (which was mainly him taking the p*ss out of me for being a Sheffield United fan!).
Tony Sinclair, the Old Trafford Groundsman used to say to me that the pitch at Old Trafford is his office where he does his work…. when I started at United I made a point of going down to meet Tony in my first few days to start to build a relationship. Old Trafford hadn’t staged concerts for over a decade so Tony was naturally nervous that I had been brought in to do things that might adversely affect his “office”, he has since told me that he respected me going down to see him and subsequently involving him in the process, using the knowledge that Lee had taught me at City.
It’s building relationships, even in areas where I have minimal knowledge, that I think has been one of the best lessons I have been able to apply across my career.
What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?
My focus has always been about ensuring the best experience for whoever is attending the event or venue I am responsible for. At Man City this aligned perfectly with the mentality and ethos that the club have introduced – the fans come first so if a project is proposed, and it is in the best interest of the fanbase, then it is usually approved and rolled out.
What’s been your favourite moment whilst working in sports?
I’ve been really fortunate and have got to do a lot of cool things and go to some amazing events over the years but my favourite was back when I was first starting out; I was doing my placement year from University, I did one of the first Event Management courses at Leeds Met, now Beckett, University. I got the opportunity to go out to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia to work on the second running of the Great Ethiopian Run. As a 19 year old pup it blew my mind how it felt like the whole of Addis was singing and dancing all the time, against the backdrop of poverty I had previously associated with Ethiopia. The event was a challenge, in part because mass participation running events were still a relatively new concept in Addis, and a race where you pay to enter, arrive at a set time then set-off when the starter fires the gun was… unusual..! We had about 10,000 official starters and about 100,000 actual finishers!!
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
The saying “fail to prepare, prepare to fail” rings massively true with me – I’ve let myself down when I’ve failed to properly prepare for something and I’ve done myself proud when I’ve spent time going into the detail of a project, so the best advice I could give would be to always prepare to the best of your abilities and that will shine through.
How to follow Dan Schofield and Play Fund Win…
Find us @playfundwin on Instagram, Facebook & Twitter or you can reach me on LinkedIn.
Thanks for reading our Industry Insider with Dan Schofield! If you want to read more from the series, you can do so by clicking here.