Mr Ian Stafford Founder/Chairman of The Sporting Club gives us an insight into the world of sport, business and networking. “Good people, good business, good fun.”
What is The Sporting Club?
Ian: The Sporting Club is the first national networking members club with permanent homes around the main cities of England and soon beyond. It is for primarily a business community who love their sport, providing various venues including the Ambler Club, Park Square, Leeds for members to meet, work, network and relax. “
The club also stages many events around the country where our clubs are involving big names from sport which are heavily discounted for members, a member special offers department with discounted brands, a wine club with discounted wines and events, a hospitality and lifestyle department and a proactive networking mechanism.
Where are you located and what facilities do you have on offer?
Ian: The Sporting Club has four venues in London, Mayfair, City, Soho and Victoria with a fifth in Canary Wharf coming later in the year. Manchester city centre on Deansgate, Wilmslow for Cheshire; Park Square in Leeds. The Sporting Club, Birmingham at Edgbaston and Liverpool Exchange Flags will both be opening in June.
They all have their individual perks and benefits. Collectively they are places for members to meet non member contacts and clients, network with other members, work and relax. These venues are a greater USP than ever before post Covid, with people likely to be working more remotely and using video conferencing, but still eager to get out and meet people face to face, without the larger commitment of an expensive office.
Who is The Sporting Club for?
Ian: The Sporting Club is for anyone who sees the benefits on offer. The age range tends to be as wide as from 25-65, and diverse in its full meaning. We are modern and vibrant and we cover a wide, cross-section of business, all connected by the world’s greatest common denominator, sport. Our mantra is “Good people, good business, good fun,” so we like our members to be doing good business with each other in a proper way, and to feel part of the wider, Sporting Club community. It helps if they like going to and entertaining others at our events. We like our members to embrace as many aspects as they can about the club. The more they put in, the more they get out.
What type of events do you hold?
Ian: We are known for our high calibre events, both big and small, with big sporting names. These range from breakfasts to lunches to book signings and drinks evenings for 80-150 people, to big dinners and lunches for 500 plus giving members the chance to entertain many clients. We will soon be launching a number of events connected to our Wine Society such as tastings with famous sportspeople at home and abroad. We also provide hospitality and lifestyle opportunities for those who want to go to big live sporting events as well as leisure around them.
What can attendees expect to experience at one of The Sporting Club events?
Ian: Let’s take our forthcoming lunch with F1 legend Sir Jackie Stewart in London in July. Guests arrive at 12.30 for a drinks reception. A professional photographer is all set up to take photos of each guest with Sir Jackie. This is optional for the guests, but 95% tend to take up this opportunity. The photos are then framed and printed and handed out during the event. We don’t do this at all our events but we do at our club lunches. “
This is also a networking opportunity. We then have a three course lunch which includes cameo interviews with one or two other sports stars who tend to be in the room plus some minor fund raising for local charities, a fun game of heads and tails, a silent auction and a very small live auction of 3-4 lots only.
Then, after dessert, we have the big interview, where I am in conversation with the star for 40 minutes followed by some questions from the audience. As a multi-award-winning former sports writer, broadcaster and author, I tend to know most of our guests well and my forte is live interviewing.
Then, when the official function ends at around 3.30-3.45 most of the guests tend to stay on to continue socialising, networking and having fun. Members can bring a plus one who is a non member at members’ rates to these events. For the larger dinners they can buy a whole table at members’ rates. Also, a great deal of business is achieved at these events through client entertainment.
How does networking take place in The Sporting Club?
Ian: Networking takes four main stages. 1: Events, the best kind of networking. We NEVER invite people to “networking events” where people in their suits hand out business cards like confetti to people they barely know. We believe the best form of networking is soft, social networking where you build up a relationship first in order to build up good business. So our lunches, which end at 3.30-ish, often see attendees still at the venue in deep conversation or having a laugh with a drink at 9pm!!
2: Personal intros at the venues. Whenever Sporting Club staff are around we make it a point to intro fellow members to each other. Good to know friendly faces in the room and, you never know, it can lead to business – as has often been the case.
3: On the Club website there is a section called “Members Area” which only the members can see using their password. This is a website within a website, with a full members’ directory with names, position, company and contact details, plus internal messaging, a club noticeboard and how to buy tickets at members’ rates.
4: We act as business match-makers, connecting members to each other as and when we believe it is relevant. We have countless examples of members achieving good business through this method. “
What upcoming events are you excited about?
Ian: We are working on announcing various events in Leeds, likely to be at the club in Park Square. Watch this space. I am expecting a minimum of three with good names. What I can tell you is that we have the 40th Anniversary Dinner of Botham’s Ashes being staged at Headingley on SEPTEMBER 15th looking back on that incredible 1981 test match. All the surviving members of the team will be there including Lord Botham, David Gower, Graham Gooch, Mike Gatting and, of course, Sir Geoffrey Boycott.
- A TONY BELLEW BOOK SIGNING AND LUNCHTIME INTERVIEW IN LIVERPOOL ON SEPTEMBER 8TH.
- GLENN HODDLE AND CHRIS WADDLE DINNER IN SEPTEMBER.
- A FRANK BRUNO DINNER AT DONCASTER RACECOURSE ON OCTOBER 6TH.
- DAVID HAYE DINNERS ON OCTOBER 7TH AND 8TH IN NORTHAMPTON AND BIRMINGHAM.
- A HARRY REDKNAPP DINNER IN LIVERPOOL ON OCTOBER 14TH.
- A LAWRENCE DALLAGLIO DINNER IN DURHAM ON OCTOBER 15TH.
Various London lunches confirmed such as:
- Paul McGinley ON SEPTEMBER 7TH
- SIR ANDREW STRAUSS IN OCTOBER AND
- LEWIS MOODY IN NOVEMBER, AS WELL AS A GLENN HODDLE AND CHRIS WADDLE DINNER IN SEPTEMBER. .
What makes The Sporting Club unique?
Ian: A combination of elements. It is a mix of a private members club with a networking club. It is modern and diverse, it has permanent venues all available to Sporting Club members no matter where you are based and which venue you mainly use has state of the art technology but believes in face to face meetings as still the best way to create relationships and business, and stages an incredibly high level of events with only the best names.
Then throw in all the other elements – wine club, hospitality and lifestyle, members special offers and, crucially, a very proactive networking mechanism and this makes the Sporting Club unique with no obvious competitors.
Finally, we have the fee. £1,000 + VAT, payable as a lump sum or in monthly instalments is all it costs, with no joining fee. For that you get 9 offices around England so far, cut price events, if you bought a table at the Ashes and Sugar Ray Leonard dinners you would save the cost of your membership as a member, as opposed to paying non member rates, all the other perks and being part of a fast-growing business community with a shared love of sport.
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