On Thursday, Jen and Enola headed to Manchester for the Business of Sport Conference at Lancashire Cricket Club. Hosted by Downtown in Business, the event featured discussions from business leaders and sports professionals on various topics. The main focus of the conference was on the economic impact of sport on cities. The Business of Sport Conference was sponsored by VSI, Sedulo and BDP and hosted in partnership with Everton Stadium and Escape Chauffeur Services.
Highlights from the conference
Mental Health and Sports
Frank McKenna was joined by Trevor Steven, Anders Borg and Natalie Atkinson for the first session of the day. Their discussion focused on the legacy of sporting events for cities and the positive impact of sports on communities. It was fascinating to hear from former footballer Trevor Steven, currently working with Causeway Technologies, on his work as a mental health ambassador. His role focuses on enhancing mental health awareness in the construction industry. There is a high suicide rate among construction workers, but the culture present in the industry means that mental health remains a taboo subject. However, there is a well-established relationship between construction workers and football. To address this, Trevor has been working with Everton in the Community to provide a safe space for people struggling with their mental health, creating an open, accessible place in a familiar environment.
Sport and Community
For the second session, Manchester United legend Gary Neville sat down with Frank McKenna to share insights on football. This included the importance of community voice and spirit and its impact on the industry. Gary highlighted the effects of the Premier League on smaller clubs, particularly when it comes to funding and moving up in the leagues. Overseas investment and poor management have had a detrimental effect on this, taking away the fair and competitive nature that the sport previously offered. This has led to towns losing historic football teams and communities calling on the government to support regulations that prevent this from happening in the future.
As a business based in Liverpool, it was exciting to hear from Tom Higgins (Laing O’Rourke), Richard Kenyon (Everton Stadium) and Andy Capewell (BDP) about the new Everton stadium and the impact of stadia on cities. From their perspective, it is imperative that communities remain a priority throughout the development stage. This includes preserving heritage, creating community spaces and embracing the city’s culture. The Everton stadium, in particular, is being developed with a “football first” mindset: it will have improved views, an intense fan atmosphere and deliver a modern experience. However, while football has been the priority, Tom and Richard highlighted that the stadium will offer more than football experiences, such as music and other sporting events. The stadium is also part of the Liverpool Waters regeneration scheme, transforming the city’s northern docks and creating a sustainable, mixed-use waterfront to bring life back to the area and drive economic growth.
Women and Sport
CEO of Women in Football, Yvonne Harrison, joined Andy McIntyre to discuss her career and work to enhance women’s development in sport. One of the main takeaways from the conversation was the importance of working together to call out discrimination, with a particular focus on the recent events with the Spanish team at the Women’s World Cup. Yvonne also shared how Women in Football offers leadership courses for women to develop their careers in the football industry, building confidence and enhancing their personal skills in an inclusive, supportive environment. This will allow for better representation throughout the industry and challenge the discrimination women currently experience in football.
The final session was with Montell Douglas, the first British female to compete in the Summer and Winter Olympics. It was inspiring to learn about Montell’s journey, from sprinting at the 2008 Beijing Olympics to the brakewoman in the bobsleigh team at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. She also discussed how businesses can help amplify women’s voices in sports, as well as the importance of women mentoring other women.
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