Sport Management student raises funds for kids in Africa

The variety of programmes to choose from and the fact that classes are being taught in the evening have long established Birkbeck College as a preferred institution for professionals seeking higher education. But while most professionals usually prefer to take on one of the possible part-time programmes, Preeti Shetty, graduate from the 2011-2012 student cohort, has managed to combine her professional career as a Sports Marketing and Fundraising Consultant together with a full-time Master’s Degree in Sport Management and the Business of Football, offered by the Department of Management at Birkbeck College.

For Preeti, a lot more can always be done and despite her being operating to an extremely tight schedule she was trying to think of ways to help people in need, through the game she loves most – football. She decided that she would like to organise a football tournament, where money raised wiould be donated to charity – particularly kids – now an annual event called: ‘Kick4Life All Star Cup’. “The charity uses football as a tool for development and a lot of its supporters are football fans so it was a no-brainer in terms of a fundraiser. To add to that, I know a lot of avid footballers so getting teams together from the onset didn’t seem like a big challenge.”

Preeti had been working before for the charity organisation Kick 4 Life, and therefore was able to use the organisation as the donation channel. “Kick4Life is a UK registered charity that uses the power of football to tackle the issue of HIV/AIDS in Lesotho, Southern Africa, which has the third highest HIV prevalence in the world,  Preeti says.”They deliver a range of projects aimed at supporting vulnerable boys and girls including health education and HIV prevention, voluntary HIV testing, life-skills development, mentoring, support towards education & employment, and the chance to enjoy sport.”

Football, as we all know, is not a complicated game, but organizing a tournament can be a challenging task for a young professional, and as Preeti points out, the participating team’s goodwill wasn’t always enough to make the tournaments rather easy to administer: “The biggest challenge was getting the teams to raise and pay their money in on time,” she says. “While there is always a lot of interest and teams sign up quickly, they often lose momentum and do not pay the registration fees and their donations don’t come in until the last minute. This causes a lot of organisational challenges. For example, I still have to pay for the venue, facilities etc. in advance, whether I have the funds in or not.”

Preeti also advises event organisers of the future to always be ready for the worse: “The other big challenge is the same as with organising any event: everything that can go wrong – will. For instance, this year, I got a phone call the morning of the event from the venue saying someone had set the place on fire! Not exactly something I could have prepared for. But you have to be resilient and find solutions. We used only the outdoor football pitches in our situation and asked a neighbouring community centre if we could use their changing rooms and toilets on the day. It all worked out in the end as people are usually more understanding when it comes to charity.”

Having already organised two tournaments, were you able to you fulfil your expectations?

“Well, in terms of money raised – yes. We raised about £3000 – £3500 each year just from registration, donations and raffles, but we could always do better. We more than cover the costs and make a large profit for the charity but having more teams sign up, getting kits sponsored etc. could raise a lot more.

“In terms of reach, we have had eight teams each year but I always aim for twelve. We always have 10-12 teams sign up but a lot of them don’t get their players/funds together in time. Next year the plan is to go a lot bigger to 16 teams.”

As a sport management student, Preeti has learnt some useful lessons from the theoretical concepts being thought in the programme. “Sport Marketing and Event Management were particularly useful modules as they gave me a lot of ideas on how to successfully brand and advertise the event, what marketing principles I should be following when trying to get sponsors and teams and they gave me a better insight into what my target audience should be,” she says. Preeti also highlighted Sport Economics module as very interesting, “especially when trying to decide what tournament format I wanted. The academic literature on league formation and tournament organisation was a god-send and I felt I knew what would work best to ensure competitive balance as well as [for the tournament to] be the most visually engaging for spectators.”

But most importantly, Preeti felt it is impossible to talk about her studies without discussing football’s social value, a key theme in the programme: “Never underestimate the power of sport to make people feel generous! Tournaments are a great way to fund-raise as people are intrinsically competitive and this brings out the best in them.”

If you were an outside observer who knew all about your work in organising this annual event, how would you rate it?

“I think I would rate it quite highly (though I’m obviously biased!); for a one-man event, it’s a great day out and well organised according to feedback from both participants and spectators. The quality of football is competitive, there is a good sporting spirit and everyone leaves feeling satisfied that they have raised a good sum of money for a great cause.”

What is your key achievement from organizing the tournaments?

“Getting a great group of like-minded people together to show their support for a fantastic cause. People leave not just having had a fun day out but also knowing that they have made a difference – just by playing a few hours of football.”

And what would you like to improve?

“More teams, more money and more sponsors! I would also love the participants to get more involved with the charity after the event, whether it is through volunteering or going out on a tour to Lesotho that kick4life organises each year.”

What lesson can current or future Sport Management students learn from your experience as someone who took theory into practice?

“Take the initiative to do something different and use the skills you have learnt. The programme as well as Birkbeck in general give you access to a wide network of like-minded people that you can use to get your event off the ground. Events like this give you a chance to test your skills and prove your worth. You never know who is watching and this might be your chance to get noticed.”

Lastly, Preeti wanted to offer this advice to students who wish to follow her steps in the future: “Organising a sporting event of any kind is hard work. Use the people and resources around you – local businesses, friends and family, colleagues.
And always have a plan B … and C and D!”.


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