Premier League Enterprise Academy
We visited St. Mary Magdalene Academy in Islington to find out about this competition for schools which mixes football and business education.
I had interviewed teachers Claire Thompson and Clare Forman earlier in the year when they had recounted their experiences of the Coca Cola Challenge. This time, I wanted to find out about a Term 2 activity where schools represent their local Premiership football clubs. St Mary Magdalene Academy is a stone’s throw away from the Emirates Stadium, home of Arsenal F.C.
The competition ran over 3 rounds. In the first round, St. Mary Magdalene Academy pupils would compete against 4 other schools for the right to represent Arsenal.
The challenge was to consider ways in which Arsenal could increase both support and revenues in the USA and Africa. The brief was announced in November and two representatives from Arsenal, Jack Ferguson and Samir Singh, visited the school and spent five lessons with the students to help them focus on the challenge. Students were given an overview of the football business and were asked to come up with ideas to help the club grow in the USA and in Africa.
The club provided market data on sponsorship, audiences and information on how Arsenal managed its marketing (including the summer Malaysian tour).
The school involved their industry link representatives to help students with the visual aspects and the detail of the graphic design required when producing promotional material.
They also helped with the marketing communication and the messaging of the presentation by working with the students and helping them to learn how to improve these.
Three more lessons were devoted to content from the specification: brands, risk management, promotional methods, market segmentation, financial forecasts, and returns on investment.
The power of the local team, the competition, and the real data motivated the students, so the school entered 6 teams against teams from the other schools for the first round which was held at the Emirates Stadium. The teams were all given a stadium tour before their presentations. The judges were looking for a realistic idea which was both feasible and ambitious and the school was delighted to see one of its teams win the first round and the right to represent Arsenal in the semi-final.
The reward for the winning team was a pitch-side presentation at the last match of the season against West Bromwich Albion and tickets to see the match. There were photo opportunities with the players before the match and the teachers and students were mentioned in the community pages of the match day programme.
Preparations for the semi-final began with a practice session at the Emirates with Arsenal's Director of Communications, Mark Gonnella as well as Jack Ferguson and Samir Singh.
Semi-final day was in March and it meant a very early start with the team leaving school at 6.15 a.m. The venue was at The Hawthorns, home of West Bromwich Albion and the team arrived by 9.00 a.m. The presentations were to be in alphabetical order, starting at 11.00 a.m., with Arsenal going first. The next 2 hours were spent practising the presentation.
Having presented first, the Arsenal team then watched the other 11 teams present their ideas and then were given a stadium tour while the judges deliberated. The results were announced at 5.00 p.m. and Arsenal, Crystal Palace and West Ham were through to the final! The atmosphere on the return journey was a mixture of jubilation, pride and tiredness as the players returned to school at 9.00 p.m. It had been a long day.
The final was held in London in May. There were 6 teams in all, 3 from each semi-final: Arsenal, Bolton Wanderers, Crystal Palace, Middlesbrough, Sunderland and West Ham United. The venue was the Department for Business Innovation & Skills in Victoria Street. The Department was the joint sponsor alongside the Premier League. The day before the final presentations, the 6 winning teams met their respective MPs and the Arsenal team met Emily Thornbury, MP in the Strangers’ Bar in the House of Commons (with a view over the Thames) where they presented their idea to her and she gave them valuable feedback on their ideas. Emily then gave the students a tour of the House of Commons. Early next morning, after a night in a hotel for those who wanted or needed one, it was off to Victoria Street for the Final.
Once at the Department, the students had to prepare and man a stand displaying their ideas, from which they presented informally to the judging panel (including Peta Bistany, Planning & Projects Director Premier League, Steven Coates, CEO ICT Refurbishment, Entrepreneur of the Year 2013, David Dinsmore, Editor of the Sun, Mike Keoghan, Director of Vocational Education BIS, Graeme Le Saux, Former Premier League and England defender) and Lord Young.
At the end of the day, the Arsenal team came second, beaten by winners, West Ham.
Teachers Claire and Clare were very pleased with the experience. They had used the competition for Year 9s because GCSE Business and GCE Business students were not permitted to compete. Both teachers saw a noticeable improvement in their students’ confidence and business acumen over the course of the competition. They had a much more thorough understanding of the business topics they had learnt in the classroom over the preceding 5 months. The students’ presentation and team-working skills improved noticeably as the team progressed through the different stages of the Challenge. Their horizons widened considerably and their personal ambitions grew.