Pitching it right

Jamie Foale, co-founder of MyLocalPitch explains how technology is helping to revolutionise the way consumers are booking and getting involved in sport and physical activity.

Modernising the way people search and book a recreational activity with technology is helping to open up sports to the mass market. Innovative approaches to the ordering process in services like takeaways, taxis and accommodation has grown these respective markets exponentially - learning lessons from these examples will have a big impact on the grassroots sports space.

Sport England spoke at London’s Elevate event about its new strategy Towards an Active Nation, which centred on how sport changes lives. Focus has shifted away from simple participation to concentrate on the benefits of leading an active lifestyle. These benefits revolve around physical wellbeing, mental wellbeing, individual development, social and community development and economic development. We believe that technology is vital for getting more people into sport by removing barriers to entry and altering how society thinks about physical activity. 

Delivering an intuitive grassroots sports search and booking product means people can get into sport with just a few clicks or swipes. Exercise suddenly becomes more accessible to the public as an easier search and booking process can reverse declining participation numbers in sports like squash and badminton.

Results have been positive with the amount of squash enquiries increasing on average by 46% month on month since August 2015. In the same period squash bookings have grown on average 48% each month since November 2015.

In comparison, badminton enquiries have been increasing on average by 59% each month since January 2016 and bookings by 68% each month. Since MyLocalPitch’s inception there have been over 14,000 bookings placed across all sports.

Opening up gateways to sports like squash means a fresh wave of players are exposed and they bring rich data with them that can be analysed for trends. Advanced CRM tools enable the booking process to have access to information which can be analysed to study the number of bookings, frequency, most popular time and boroughs that received requests but cannot accommodate due to a lack of courts.

Another tactic to reverse falling participation numbers is to educate the public about the benefits of playing squash. A fully functioning platform will draw users numbers to the portal to provide the perfect environment to regularly communicate with users about new courts, competitions and health rewards.

These advancements in the booking process means we can alter the way society thinks about exercise in the future. If all it takes is to pick up your phone to search for the nearest court or pitch, then playing sport has the potential to become second nature.

In MyLocalPitch’s case, over half our enquiries come through mobile and tablet and the app allows users to compare prices, search for their favourite surfaces, and book venues. Apps let users search for pitches nearest their current location.

We’ve seen mobile technology bring about many positive effects to society and having a sports search and booking app means more people can regularly and meaningfully enjoy sport. Better access to sports can get the inactive, active again.

From the venues perspective the more people visiting facilities means increased revenues. It’s clear the sector has been slow to adopt new technologies to help the way people find and book venues and there is huge potential.

Going the extra mile to help venues is integral and this can be from offering free management software and marketing services to delivering a web and mobile platform for players to search and book pitches.

Integrating with third party platforms means venues benefit from online bookings which allow them to fill slots limiting the need to handle enquiries by phone or email. All data and bookings history are collated making storing records simple.

Smaller sports events and pop-up initiatives who implement technology in the booking journey are able to make the most of their opportunity. Being able to seamlessly integrate a bookings platform for a project enables organisers to efficiently manage enquiries and gain returns on investments immediately.

Revolutionising the way people search and book sports is having far reaching effects for sporting bodies, sports players and facilities. Technology is an incredibly powerful tool and has enhanced the user experience across a wide spectrum of industries and the grassroots sector is perfectly positioned to reap the benefits.

A more convenient way for people to find local facilities and book slots enhances the experiences for those already involved in regular sport, but perhaps more importantly grants access to an untapped audience. The vast majority of people appreciate the positives of leading an active lifestyle and the pivotal point is making it as simple as possible.

Sport bodies aiming to increase participation numbers can work with third parties like MyLocalPitch to welcome people into the sport. Investment needs to be accountable and rich data provided about user habits and the impact of money at a grassroots level.

The MyLocalPitch role is to act as the link between the user and the facility by providing streamlined access to sports. This makes venues easier to manage and boosts footfall, which adds to revenues. As venues become more profitable, their longevity increases and that means more people can find space and time to lead active lives.