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Company Profile: Sport on Spec; Tim Underhill is giving the UK sports scene a jab in the arm

tim underhillThe old adage has never been truer; the Brits prefer sports that you can do sitting down. Well, ok and boxing, basketball, badminton, tennis and golf. But let’s face it, it hasn’t been much fun watching the nation’s football, rugby, and cricket teams of late. Another truism is that we prefer our sports to be played in the right spirit, and there’s no doubt we have all become bored by sitting in front of the telly watching a bunch of overpaid peacocks and posers huff and puff with no end result. We already have EastEnders and Corrie, after all. So who can the true sports fan turn to? Tim Underhill thinks he has the solution.

Dinner is another kind of sport we all enjoy, especially when it’s at Google Campus, and organised by the excellent Kate Jackson, co-founder of TableCrowd, the social networking and dining club. I happily accepted an invite from Tim, or “the jab” to his friends, to accompany him to this unique event for Event Tech start-ups, where every founder was encouraged to bring a journalist / blogger with them, and discuss Sport on Spec in more detail over a few glasses of wine and some well thought out food.

Haven’t heard of Sport on Spec? Then you probably don’t hail from Glasgow, where the product launched in August 2013; a wise move on Tim’s part to test and incubate the product somewhere that is sports mad, but away from the media glare of London. Sport on Spec aims to be the most comprehensive what’s on guide to sporting events in town, an A-Z of spectator sports over a 7 day period, and an online portal from where you can go direct to a ticketing agency, venue or sports club to buy tickets, either at the face value price or better, with an occasional promotional offer thrown in exclusively to members of the Sport on Spec club.

A huge fan of sport, and, as his nickname suggests, boxing in particular, Tim’s argument is that there is a vast untapped market for local sporting events, that are cheaper, just as competitive and just as much fun to attend than the majority of televised sporting events, it’s just that people aren’t aware of them, mainly because the market for smaller scale event promotion is so fragmented. How many times have you passed a poster in town advertising a local sports event; a title fight, perhaps, or a horse racing meet, promised yourself you’d go along, maybe take the family, and by the time you have got home, unpacked the shopping and settled down in front of the TV, you’ve forgotten all about it.

In today’s media savvy world we all need a prompt before we spring into action; Sport on Spec provides it, via a weekly newsletter which not only gives you the inside line on what’s happening, but an extra bit of detail and history about the event, that engages the reader and captures their imagination.

Every 4 years, when the Olympics comes around, we, as a nation, are astonished to discover that the UK is crammed with talented athletes, world beaters from home and abroad doing pretty amazing things, but we shouldn’t be, because they are doing it every week up and down the country. We’re like rabbits dazzled by the headlights of Sky Sports coverage; there’s never been a bigger game than this week’s derby up at Sunderland, they tell us, but more often than not that simply isn’t true. Many locals, of course, know better, but the cameras shy away from revealing the rows of empty seats. Meanwhile world champions in sports such as squash, netball, speedway and swimming are performing miracles in front of small but engaged crowds, and access to star performers is unprecedented.

gridironTake Glasgow, for example. Nearby Gleneagles will play host to the Ryder Cup this year, one of the most hotly anticipated events on the sporting calendar, but did you also know that Scotland is home to Gridiron teams competing in the BAFA, the UK’s equivalent of the NFL, a baseball league formed back in 2007, an Elite League for Ice Hockey, and a Basketball team that made it to this year’s British Basketball League Trophy final?

Tim chose Monday night to reveal exclusive details of a longer term plan to roll out the Sport on Spec service to London and the home-counties, likely to happen in early 2015, once funding plans have been finalised. Confident that the offering has been successful across the border, and after 2 years of hard graft, the database will be rolled out to cover events such as horse racing, boxing (natch), badminton, volleyball, and lower league football, rugby, and cricket, where the players still look as though they are enjoying themselves!

It was a good time to make the announcement, in front of fellow event managers, who towards the end of the evening, and led by Julius Solaris, the “godfather” of Event Tech blogging, began to discuss some of the issues faced by smaller players in a market that can be sometimes be dominated by social media giants, or in Tim’s case, the likes of Ticketmaster, or major sports promoters.

Julius spoke about differentiating your offering, and aiming to solve problems for customers rather than creating new ones, and his views were echoed by all present. Don’t run before you can walk, or, as one diner colourfully put it, don’t try to be Hitler, be a Churchill! World domination is unachievable, but if you can secure a beachhead, use it as a platform from which to launch further campaigns. For his part Tim will be looking to leverage his contacts in the sports world to increase exclusive offers, help promote smaller events, via a platform that is scalable and fast becoming a trusted gateway for sports fans and event promoters alike.

sport on specSo sign up to the newsletter, which this week contains details of #HeWhoDares, featuring Rickie Burns, the boxing match all the locals in Glasgow are talking about, take a look at the blog, and get ready to return to a time when watching sport meant being entertained, and feeling involved!


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