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ACT 1: My experience

Let me start from scratch. I moved to Bishops Stortford in 2012. Little did I know about the town then. I just needed shelter. I had just emigrated from Poland in search of a better life elsewhere. Equally, I might have ended up in Harlow, Stevenage, Newcastle or Burnley. I like to compare my residential choice to the Harry Potter movie scene where the Hat of Wisdom decides about the educational fate of the main protagonists. In my case, it was not me who exercised the choice. It was my cousin who did it for me. She had lived in the town for some time, and it was an arguably educated guess to start my life in London’s dormitory town, under the supportive wings of a person who had given me a head start into the future. 

Well, £100 in my wallet were a limiting option too.

Step by step, I found my way into a new environment. Life become slightly more predictable, and, after long 9 months, I was allowed to reunite with my wife and our 2-year-old son. Those 9 long months of solitude allowed me to see the town through my own experience. To me, Bishop’s was a quiet, sleepy town. At least this is how I saw it then. Surrounding greenery, a river, a few cultural facilities, some hospitality venues, one main street…and that would be it. Modern Shire. Hidden from the fast-paced life of a metropolis. 

There is one additional adjective that describes the place: it is ‘posh’. It hinds its way in pricing, buying habits, people’s routines, the language and manners, cleanliness and hospitality services. Things I accidentally took for granted.

The town community is represented by the two sports teams. Bishop’s Stortford Rugby Club punches above their weight in the 3rd tier of Rugby 15s and Bishop’s Stortford Football Club currently occupies the runner-up spot in the 7th tier of English Football. I guess the clubs’ status has not changed significantly in the last 10 years.

As a father of a growing young man, I offered sporting activities to my son. So, the son could pick up a bit of language. And we could integrate with the local community.

Firstly, we tried rugby. The distance and training times allocations were the obstacle, but it was my son who had his final say. When he came home and said “Dad, I don’t find rugby interesting”, it sounded like a blessing in disguise. I looked for no alternatives and immediately introduced my son to my then beloved game. The beautiful passion of football. My son took it up in the local Bishop’s Stortford Football Academy. He was conscientious, and never missed the training. He could read the game and his passing was decent. The boy felt the ball. Yet, he lacked physique and pace. His biological age made him the youngest in his year. But I loved his spirit. He loved the game and tried all the positions. Let me not count how many times he came back home on Friday evening with a broken or a dislocated finger after his goalkeeping sessions…

Around 2018, I exercised the decision to improve my status and educate myself. I joined the ranks of the University Campus of Football Business in London. The university venue dazzled me. I was to study at the legendary Wembley Stadium. I chose Football Finance and Business as my BSc degree. 

Having gained a few placements and a basic understanding of the role of finance in sports, I volunteered to help with the Bishop’s Stortford FC club’s day-to-day operations, sponsoring search and fan engagement activities. Firstly, I wanted to give back to society. Secondly, I saw how the club struggled financially. I wished for the academy sponsor. The parents of young football adepts were constantly asked to pay significant amounts for training, equipment, and friendly games.

However, to my surprise, despite my will and eagerness to learn, Bishop’s Stortford FC never replied. Never. Not even when I handed my CVs to all staff members including the chairman himself. It was an eye-opener. I started to notice the parents were the cash cows to the organisation, and the children’s talents and their will were to be traded for a safe financial revenue stream. 

I started seeing things just the way they were. Limited rotation among coaches. Lateness for training sessions. Repetitive, not innovative drills. No will to educate among coaches. 

Beforehand, I had had illusions that they were  ‘one-off situations’. My reasonable excuses covered the club’s rotten culture. I could not believe the children were to become wasted, unfulfilled talents and traded for parents’ money. I could not believe my eyes that people who deal with children’s dreams, and hopes were so irresponsible, deprived of dignity. I could not believe that children’s passion lost to money.

OK, guys, I am not naïve, and I understand that there is a significant chance that none of the youngsters might have possessed superior talent. I truly get it.  Yet being a coach is not just about educating football players but helping them grow as better people. To my mind, Bishop’s Stortford FC failed significantly. The truth is I started looking at other clubs the same way. Incompetent organisations, with no ambition, fail to stand up to the task of bringing the best in the young adepts of football. Organisations that live in ivory towers of the past, being submerged in the local, small-town mentality and fading glory. 

Having been exposed to difficult truth, my thoughts circled around the concept of the value proposition from the coaches and the club. Fortunately, as with rugby, it was my son who decided football was no longer fun for him. He was the first in the year to quit. Other children followed his steps. 

Years have passed. I gained more knowledge and extra sporting industry experience. I tried my luck with the local team again and had been applying for placement several times. Unsuccessfully. No feedback. So, I simply gave up. Off the record, can anyone please tell me what is the background reasoning for a semi-professional club that recorded £300K in the last year against taking a local, experienced guy, for free (it is important) and giving him a chance to prove himself? Language barrier? Skills? Ego? Fear? I am all ears. Let me know. 

Meanwhile, UCFB’s experience started to pay off. I secured placements at international organisations (FIFA, NFL) as well as a top tier football club (Brentford FC). I literally touched the best practices of sports hospitality, fan engagement and post-game activations. The same practices that were taught in my postgraduate degree. 

My sports hospitality and event experience allowed me to secure a position in a fast-paced, multimillion company. I have been moving in the ranks of the organisation. The progress has been done at the expense of limited private and family time. 

My ways with Bishop’s Stortford FC have departed…until now.

ACT 2: Who am I?

The Gallup Institute Strength Finder test profiled me with those 5  personality traits. They are (from least to most important characteristics):

5. Empathy: I can see the world through the eyes of the other person. It helps to engage and solve the pending problems with customers (stakeholders). It also allows me to find the right words to express needs and emotions.

4. Analytical: as a former student of finance, I have learnt to say: “prove it, show me it is true”. It helps me exercise financial and marketing decisions. I like when my work is efficient and meaningful.

3. Context: despite looking into the ‘rear mirror’, past experience does not stop me from exercising rational decisions for the future. My mind tailors future decisions based on changing reality.

2. Futuristic: my mind is able to come up with futuristic projects and divide them into single, planned activities. It holds detailed pictures: mostly regarding a better product, better service, better team, and better me.

1. Deliberate: my mind is careful and vigilant, it identifies the risks, assesses them and applies different scenarios to minimize them. 

Why is it so important? I represent a type of person who, due to my life emigrant experience, tries to squeeze the maximum opportunity from each chance life throws at me. Workwise, operations must remain logical and bring significant revenue. People who know me will tell you I do not aim for immediate greatness -I swap it for constant progress. As a person with a diagnosed OCD and a strong sense of perfectionism, I value logical, well-constructed effort, especially in customer relationships. 

Football-wise, I love the game aesthetics. I love the crowd, their reactions and chanting in unison. When in Poland, I would have described myself as a highly loyal ultra-fan. As my club got relegated to the lows of Polish football (becoming insolvent twice in 15 years), I bring a deep understanding of what a football club means to a fan. I understand money is the root of existence and you need to become incredibly efficient to defy the status quo and bring extra revenue to secure the future. There is nothing worse than seeing the slow decline of the team and the organisation you love…

ACT 3: Value for money. What makes me a football weirdo?

Value vs Price by Vi Adamski

Let us put everything together. On one scale, let us place my previous negative reception of the club’s culture, let’s add positive input from placement experiences. Let us also mix it with personal traits of character. We get a TNT combo. On the other scale, as the counterbalance, let us put the current value proposition of a low league team? 

I keep asking myself the same question over and over again. Where can I possibly get value from a low league team? 

Before we rushed into the answer, there is one extra thing in our equation. It is the approach to life. Let me explain.

We may strongly disagree with the stance, but I firmly believe time is the most valuable asset in our lives. Some people are lucky enough to have a lot of free time on their hands. They might have created a passive source of income that guarantees them a decent amount of free time. Others, like me, are less fortunate or less talented, which means trading their time for money. Spending time at work equals being paid. I work around 60 hours per week. That leaves me with one day off which is…surprise, surprise…football Saturday. 

Whatever free time is left; I aim to spend it in the most efficient, most entertaining way. In a nutshell, I pay for the service with the money I earned by trading my past and current time. I just wish to make the best use of it.  

I believe we covered all the most important aspects. That leaves us no choice but to answer the fundamental question. 

Where do I position Bishop’s Stortford FC football entertainment on my value scale? 

And the answer is: At the very bottom of my expectation scale. Bottom of the bottom set.

Let me explain. Here is my truth…

  1. Club’s social media looks cheap and highly inconsistent. There seems to be no idea behind it. And the most important thing, it creates the perception of an organisation that does not wish to improve its operations.
  2. Pricing: £12 for a single game at the 7th tier of English football. Really? 12 quid? For that?  No offence, but I prefer adding an additional £38 to watch top football. The game may be boring as hell but at least I know I am paying for know-how and high operational consistency.
  3. Previous negative experience with the club’s bosses. You call it ego. I call it a reality check.
  4. My knowledge and experience that things can be done differently.
  5. My unwillingness to accept the status quo and mediocrity. Others call it ‘perfectionism’. I call it “the drive”. 

Every sports marketer will agree with me that ‘product’ positioning and previous experience are essential in a fan’s journey. And my journey has been rather negative. But as a part of my MSc assignment, for a short moment, I will lose all negativity and give it a shot. 


Maybe I have been mistaken and I have kept grudges for the wrong reasons.

Or maybe not…

I have decided to attend this week’s home game between Bishop’s Stortford and Potter’s Bar. Who knows, maybe I will get dazzled…

Let’s see if it was not a silly misconception.