Monday, 22 Jul 2024

Mark Kelly: Managing Director, Bristol Sport

Mark Kelly is the Managing Director of Bristol Sport Ltd and Ashton Gate Ltd, overseeing the ‘off the pitch’ operations for Bristol City FC, Bristol Bears, and Bristol Flyers. With his expertise in managing multiple sports, Mark’s role is both demanding and rewarding. In this interview, he shares insights into the operational set-up of Bristol City FC, the development plans for the land adjacent to Ashton Gate, and the importance of supporter retention. As someone who has worked in the sports industry for seven years, Mark also offers valuable advice for individuals aspiring to pursue a career in football.

A Multifaceted Role for Bristol City FC

As the Managing Director of Bristol Sport and Ashton Gate, Mark Kelly plays a crucial role in the success of the sports teams under his purview. The structure, implemented around seven years ago, aims to optimize performance by allowing each team to focus on their respective sporting aspects. Bristol Sport takes care of essential operational elements such as ticketing, merchandise, commercial and hospitality, sponsorship deals, media, and marketing. This unique model enables the clubs to concentrate on their on-pitch performance while Bristol Sport works behind the scenes to increase revenues and grow the brands.

Building Strong Connections

One might wonder how Mark Kelly manages to stay emotionally detached from Bristol City FC despite his pivotal role. While acknowledging the significance of passion for the club, Mark emphasizes the need to strike a balance between emotions and sound decision-making. In his words, “It’s important to manage the rollercoaster that comes with sport and take the emotion out of decisions.” Although different sports have their distinct characteristics, Mark recognizes the importance of catering to the unique needs of each sport’s fanbase while maintaining a cohesive organizational culture.

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An Enhanced Matchday Experience

Under Mark’s guidance, Ashton Gate Stadium has undergone significant improvements to enhance the matchday experience for supporters. Previously considered outdated, the stadium now boasts modern hospitality areas catering to thousands of fans. Further developments include a sports bar, a pizzeria, and various retail and food concessions. With a focus on local suppliers, Ashton Gate Stadium aims to connect with the community and provide an enriching experience for all fans.

Expanding Beyond the Stadium

Besides the stadium, Bristol Sport has acquired adjacent land to embark on an ambitious development plan. This plan includes the construction of a sports and convention center, a 4,000-capacity venue, a branded hotel, accommodation, offices, and retail spaces. The goal is to create a vibrant community hub known as the Sporting Quarter, generating employment opportunities and offering wellbeing facilities such as outdoor gyms. Through these initiatives, Bristol Sport aims to make a positive impact on the surrounding area while adding value to the city.

Championing Community and Wellbeing

Mark Kelly recognizes the importance of wellbeing, especially in light of the pandemic’s impact on mental health. Bristol Sport has recently organized a wellness week, emphasizing the need for employees to take breaks and engage in activities that promote their overall health. Looking ahead, Mark envisions redesigning the office space to create a relaxing environment that serves as a sanctuary for employees. He plans to invest in people and ensure their wellbeing is prioritized.

Recognitions and Career Highlights

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Bristol Sport’s commendable efforts during the pandemic earned them the Covid-19 Business Hero award at the Business Leader Awards in 2020. Mark recounts the experience of supporting the community through food distribution and providing space for a vaccination center, attributing the success to the hard work of the NHS and volunteers. Opening the stadium and witnessing the joy on fans’ faces remains a highlight of Mark’s career. Additionally, he finds fulfillment in the organization’s focus on supporter retention, particularly among young fans, and the positive impact it has on the community.

Advice for Aspiring Football Professionals

For individuals hoping to pursue a career in the football industry, Mark encourages them to embrace opportunities to learn and broaden their skillset. Gaining experience across different areas of a football club, along with a willingness to adapt to future changes, is crucial. Mark advises aspiring professionals to understand the fans, immerse themselves in the club’s culture, and grasp the dynamics of the training ground. By embracing diverse experiences and perspectives, future industry leaders can contribute to the continued growth and success of football.

A Promising Future

Reflecting on his journey in the sports industry, Mark Kelly anticipates continued growth and development for Bristol Sport. He envisions Bristol Sport becoming a major player in hosting Premier League football, Premiership rugby, and top-flight basketball. With a commitment to constant improvement and community engagement, Mark hopes to be an integral part of this exciting journey.

In conclusion, Mark Kelly’s role as the Managing Director of Bristol Sport entails managing the operations behind Bristol City FC, Bristol Bears, and Bristol Flyers. His insights provide valuable perspectives on the unique structure and interlinked roles within the organization. With a focus on enhancing the matchday experience, expanding beyond the stadium, and prioritizing community and wellbeing, Mark exemplifies the qualities of a successful sports industry professional. His advice to aspiring football professionals emphasizes the importance of adaptability and a comprehensive understanding of the different aspects of a football club. As Bristol Sport continues to thrive and make a positive impact, Mark Kelly remains committed to driving growth and success in the sports industry.

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