Tech start-up proves a fan favourite for grassroots clubs
Scores of grassroots sports clubs across the UK have been given a new lease of life, thanks to a pioneering app developed by a North East tech start-up.
Club Supporter, based in Houghton-le-Spring, helped community-run and semi-professional sports clubs raise over £35,000 last year, during one of the most difficult periods in grassroots history.
The app - which is the brainchild of former school friends Anthony Daglish, David Copple and Philip Cummings, along with colleague Paul Deehan – provides clubs with a free platform to not only engage with fans, but to secure the funding required to sustain their futures.
The trio devised the idea when Phil, who works in IT and is also chair of local side Chester-le-Street United, was tasked with building an app and website for the club and digitising its funding model, which like most other grassroots organisations, consisted of traditional games and lotteries.
After spending hours searching online, he was shocked to find that such a platform didn’t exist, and pitched the idea to Anthony and David of developing a free-to-use app that helped clubs and grassroots organisations in similar positions bring their fundraising efforts into the 21st century.
Phil said: “It was one of those moments when, as soon as we mentioned the idea of taking the club’s fundraising efforts online, we just assumed there would be a platform out there that we could download and plug-in to our site, but after hours of searching, we couldn’t find anything.
“I started building a platform of my own. However it soon hit home that we weren’t alone in this and that there would be thousands of other clubs across the country in a similar boat, and that’s how Club Supporter was born.”
The app officially launched in October 2019 after the trio were granted a gambling license by the UK Gambling Commission and – during the course of its first 12 months – helped raise over £35,000 for its member clubs.
David, who is also involved in grassroots football and runs successful Sunderland tech business Shine Interview, said: “The first lockdown left grassroots clubs across the country in limbo as all sporting events were cancelled and many still had huge overheads to cover.
“Whereas professional outfits were able to switch up their business models almost overnight and generate revenues through streaming, the majority of grassroots clubs are community-run, meaning they have limited funds and were sadly left to suffer in silence
“Thankfully, through Club Supporter, we found that we were not just helping clubs to engage with fans that would usually attend matches, but also their friends and families, helping expand their fanbase and increasing their fundraising reach, and we’ve been blown away by the feedback we’ve received so far.”
The platform is now helping to raise over £25,000 every month, with new clubs signing up weekly from across the UK, covering sports including football, rugby, cricket and golf.
One of the first clubs to adopt the app was Whitley Bay Football Club, which plays in the Northern Football League. The club signed up to the app in January 2020 and has since engaged with 150 fans and successfully raised nearly £2,000 to help safeguard its future.
Martin Kelly, director at Whitley Bay FC, said: “In an ever changing world we need to move with the times and promotional activity must be done digitally.
“Every club needs to embrace technology and I can’t recommend Club Supporter enough as a way to help clubs progress. It has been a really worthwhile move for us, providing another option to engage with fans and raise funds.”
Club Supporter is based at Evolve Business Centre - which is owned and operated by Sunderland City Council - and is one of a number of tech start-up success stories born from the hub.
Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “Club Supporter is yet another fantastic example of the important role business hubs such as Evolve, Sunderland Software Centre and Washington Business Centre play in supporting and nurturing the region’s innovative, high-growth businesses.
“To see the impact Club Supporter has had, not only on the clubs signed up to the platform, but the communities that they’re at the heart of, is absolutely fantastic and we are proud to have been able to support the guys on their journey so far.”
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