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What is Sporting Club Isle of Man? An interview with Chairman, Tony Keating

Sporting Club Isle of Man was officially launched on February 27, but the concept and organisation has long been in the melting pot. Our media team sat down with Sporting Club Chairman, Tony Keating, to find out a little more about its structure, objectives and ambitions.

Sporting Club IOM:
Tony, firstly congratulations on the launch of Sporting Club. We know an awful lot of work has gone in behind the scenes to get this up and running. Can you tell us a little bit about the objective of the Sporting Club and what its function is going to be?

Tony Keating:
The function is to promote and support island-based teams competing in off island leagues and competitions. These teams will need to fit and work within the Sporting Club model.

The Sporting Club’s objective is to provide a pathway, that perhaps isn’t currently available, for young people and the teams they represent, to move to the next level of their sport.

How will the operating model be structured?

The Sporting Club itself will be a members’ club. There’s a membership fee which allows anyone 18 years old and over to join. Part of your membership fee will go to Sporting Club and you will be able to indicate whether you want the remaining element to go to a specific sport that you as an individual want to promote, be involved in, or just have more interest in.

As you know our first sport will be FC Isle of Man, which is 100% owned by Sporting Club. We’re already in negotiations with other sports and we’ll be making a pretty big announcement regarding the addition of another team to the Sporting Club fold in the coming weeks.

You’ve touched a little on the membership fee there can you tell us a little bit more about that and how the fees will be used and what benefits members can expect to enjoy?

The membership (fee) is good value in terms of its £20 (per annum).

Ten pounds of that will be retained within Sporting Club for a central allocation and the other £10 can go to one of your chosen sports. Alternatively, you could choose for the whole fee to remain within Sporting Club, but you will have an option, when you sign up, which associated sport you’d prefer additional funding to be distributed to.

One of the key benefits for members will be the ability to vote and play a part in the running of the club.

We will not be going down the route of voting on every matter, but we will be engaging with members on a frequent basis. So, once you’re a member, we’ll have an obligation to update you regularly of our plans, and you will have the ability to have your voice heard. We want people to understand where we’re trying to go, how we intend to get there, and we will need help to take it forward. So, we’re looking forward to receiving members and members who are willing to play an active role in the club.

Other benefits that members can look forward to will be exclusive opportunities from Sporting Club, it’s teams and partners. For instance, there will be discounts available on some exclusive merchandise that will be available to Sporting Club members and much more which we will announce in the coming weeks.

And to be clear, Sporting Club will be the owners of any associated sports teams under the Sporting Club umbrella?

Yes, Sporting Club will own all the associated teams under its authority. Our constitution says that we will not dilute our shareholding below 51%, so we will always be a member owned organisation.

Ultimately, we hope to get to a stage where our teams, become self-sufficient and not have to rely on Sporting Club donations to sustain daily and weekly operations.

FC Isle of Man’s a good example. We’re hoping through sponsorship, donations and gate receipts that the club will ultimately become self-sustainable.

The remainder of any monies raised via the Sporting Club will go towards building a core central talent base of personnel such as physiotherapists, sports scientists, sporting administrators, and so on. Also, any surplus would go toward ensuring that on-island facilities and infrastructure are able to sustain each team’s progress.

We hope once we’ve done it for one team, it will become more efficient for the next team we introduce. We will be using the same people (within Sporting Club) who can provide the right level of expertise and take those teams to the ‘next’ level.

An important function of Sporting Club will be the role of attracting funding and to manage the onward distribution of that funding to the associated clubs.

Yes, Sporting Club is very much there to sit there as a body that will attract the central funding and to allocate accordingly.

Our model is very much based around sporting teams, not a national team and not individuals. That’s the key differentiation for us. We really are working towards having teams competing at a higher level.

You’ve talked about the membership, that will bring a certain amount of capital, but I take it there’s a desire to get some corporate partners on board also?

Definitely. The more funds that come into the club, the more the club can meet its objectives to provide opportunities through team sport to our community so donations and sponsorship will be gratefully received.

We’re keen to explain a different outlook in terms of how we’re operating though the Sporting Club model. Hopefully, once the brand is out there and Sporting Club starts to build a portfolio of teams then we can demonstrate how we operate, and we’ll start gaining more sponsorship and donations over and above memberships.

A key message from Sporting Club is that there will be many opportunities for Manx residents to get involved in the organisation no matter whether the individual is a participant or has other skills that they can bring to the club.

The ethos across all clubs under the Sporting Club auspices is going to be that it will create opportunities for Isle of Man based sportspeople, Isle of Man based administrators and so on. It’s all based around creating opportunities and a pathway for people based on the Isle of Man.

We have no intention of going outside the Isle of Man to find the right people, although we may look to use off-island expertise in the short term to develop our own people. The purpose behind Sporting Club is to drive and create opportunity for people in the Isle of Man and to develop their skills that will hopefully drive them all on to the next level.

Will Sporting Club have any influence on who runs its associated teams? So, for instance, let’s take football as an example, did Sporting Club have a say in the recent appointment of the FC Isle of Man Team Manager?

The Sporting Club will have a representative member on the board of the underlying club to make sure that the ethos, values and the aims of Sporting Club are maintained. However, it’s the underlying club that will make decisions, such as the appointment of team managers, administrators and so on. Then the team manager will make all the decisions on squad selection, who plays and so on, as would be the case in a regular club.

Finally, how crucial is the branding and being able to demonstrate a core process across a multiple of sporting teams to the success of the venture.

The aim is to have the sporting club brand as a big name. We don’t want to get too caught up in comparing ourselves to Barcelona and a lot of other similar sporting club structures. It’s about the whole ethos of having one central core that follows several similar processes across a number of entities, so you save a lot of time and cost for all the teams associated with the model.

Administration is massive in any sport, whether it’s data protection, HR, sporting regulation and so on. There’s an awful lot of work to do and it’s important to get it right. So, if we can provide a central platform and put the right skills in place, it should start to provide an ability for those on the sporting side, that is competing and coaching, to spend time actually focusing on what they do best.