Any Given Sunday

As the weekend is approaching, I am getting ready for my weekly football match. Like me, thousands of amateurs play regularly a sport. According to statistics, there are 16 million sports players in the UK. Yet, the recreational sports industry is far behind the digital expectations of consumers, who are keen on social, active elements of playing sport, but face the barrier of facilities being difficult and time-consuming to book.

Promising to make it easier for everyone to play sport and to help venues fill spare capacity, Playfinder has just raised more than £700k on Crowdcube, a leading equity crowdfunding platform. We got in touch with its CEO and Cofounder, Jamie Foale, to find out more.

Oliver*: Where did you come up with the idea for Playfinder?

Jamie: Once I had completed my degree at Leeds University, I was desperate to keep my football team going in London but would struggle to secure football pitches for our 11 a side team.

It was immensely frustrating that I could never find contact details for grassroots venues and when I did, getting hold of the correct person was another mission altogether.

Our solution was to build a platform with all of London’s sports venues and give people a simple way to book them.

We quickly realised there is a huge market out there of people who love to play sport regularly, thousands of sports facility operators ill-equipped to provide a digital experience up to date with consumer expectations, and a national health crisis which highlights the need for people to stay active.

O*: What’s your favourite sport?

J: The sport I play most is football, I have always loved playing it, and despite not being technically brilliant (old-fashioned centre back) the enjoyment remains the same. I still play in a weekly game with friends in London and it’s the ideal way to keep those friendships strong as my weekends are a little busier with my new born son.

However, I really enjoy playing several other sports and think variety is important. I love squash after work and playing tennis on Parliament Hill with friends in the summer. I’m also a keen climber but that’s not a sport we currently list.

O*: How many people work for the company today?

J: We have 22 full-timers who make up the Playfinder team, perfect for an 11-a-side game! Our main departments are marketing (4x), tech development (10x), sales (4x) and operations (4x). We are planning on growing our sales team as we look to capitalise on early success of our booking software.

Playfinder Team. Source: @Playfinder

O*: What is the main motivation for keeping your business going?

J: I think of whenever I use apps such as Trainline, how they are now ingrained in the national infrastructure and I think Playfinder could be that for sports, both in the UK and abroad. I think this business could be huge, I have complete belief in what we can become and I’m itching to get there. We have a plan to position the business for sale and I’m enjoying working towards that.

O*: Why are you crowdfunding?

J: We launched our inaugural crowdfund to give our community the chance to be part of the company’s future and inspire society to be healthier by investing.

Over the summer we rebranded from MyLocalPitch to Playfinder to showcase the pure joy sport brings and reflect that we now offer 19 different sports on the platform. It also better aligns our position as the UK’s leading booking platform for sports facilities.

Thanks to our passionate fanbase we have smashed our fundraise target to reach over £710,000 and are 109% overfunded.

O*: What’s next?

Our fundraise means we can kick on business growth by expanding our sales team and establishing the service across the UK with a goal to reach 1,000 bookable venues in 2020.

J: We began life in London, but we’ll be accelerating our expansion to 14 UK cities, aiming to become part of the national infrastructure in the same way Trainline is for booking trains.

A big focus for us is opening up clubs and schools with our booking system; the largest market with 32,000 venues, but the least online access. On top of that we will be introducing the booking of activities and sessions on the platform during the next year, giving us access to a £2.7bn market. 

Playfinder has already been able to help 2.3 million people play sport and we have an 83% repeat booking rate, showing the product really does provide a solution to boosting sports participation.

We want to encourage more people to get active and feel the power of play through Playfinder.

Find out more here.