Premier League Fulham is aiming to graduate off the field with flying colours after signing up matchday staff for a university course.
The West London club are believed to be the first top-flight football team to offer such a management diploma to develop its matchday staff and other frontline staff and improve the experience for visitors to Craven Cottage.
It is being piloted with 30 matchday and frontline staff who are on course to graduate ahead of the next football season and could establish a Centre for Learning at the club.
The university-accredited course will be free for staff, which includes around 80 per cent casual workers, and focuses on customer service, personal effectiveness, and management and team leadership.
The Professional Development Diploma has been devised and is being delivered by business development organisation Acua, with accreditation from its parent organisation Coventry University.
It has been tailored by Acua to reflect the core values of Fulham, synonymous with Club Chairman, Mohamed Al-Fayed, formerly the owner of Harrods, and in particular service excellence.
Acua went undercover at a home game to assess customer service standards and held a focus group with matchday staff working in areas such as catering, ticketing, retail, security and hospitality to help create the diploma.
Robert Ordever, People Development Director at Fulham, said: "Football clubs have traditionally shied away from investing in matchday and frontline staff because they are predominantly casual workers.
"We recognised the significant role they play as ambassadors for the club on matchdays and decided to lead the way in providing high-level training to ensure service excellence is maintained for our supporters and visitors."
The club hopes it will help overcome the common challenge of retaining casual staff by rewarding their loyalty with a qualification which would normally cost around £2,000.
Alistair Mackintosh, Chief Executive of Fulham Football Club, said: "Investing in our people is something we are committed to. This initiative will benefit a number of key individuals, all of whom play a vital role in creating a matchday experience we can all be proud of."
Michael Costello, Business Coach at Acua, said: "The aim is to increase levels of engagement with those workers, helping to retain their services, along with improving their knowledge and skills, and connecting them to the club's core value of service excellence."
Professor Simon Chadwick, director of the Centre for International Business of Sport at Coventry University, was involved in developing the programme and believes it will be a win-win for the club, its matchday staff and visitors.
He said: "It is an innovative and important development for football and sport in general, and is unique in that it will underpin and promote loyalty among casual and part-time staff who play such an important part in the matchday experience."
Acua Solutions Limited provides a range of leadership development and capability improvement programmes to public and private sector organisations to improve performance. Acua’s innovative approach is tailored and flexible to the needs of an organisation with commercially-experienced business coaches embedding themselves into the workplace to deliver relevant learning and results. Programmes designed and delivered by Acua, along with established courses devised by organisations themselves, are accredited through Coventry University.Read more...