October 6th 2017

We have been proudly running the Leisure Leagues partner scheme for nearly eight years. In that time it has grown to the point where upwards of 20,000 players each week are playing in partner leagues in every corner of Great Britain, but also throughout the world.

But only one man can claim to be the first. Here, in this month’s partner of the month feature, Steve Hogan gives his unique perspective on being a Leisure Leagues trailblazer.

So Steve, you were our first ever Partner. What attracted you to the brand all those years ago?!

After spending most of my working life in the corporate sector as a Sales Manager with Walkers Crisps and Littlewoods Leisure, I got tired of driving 40K miles a year, and wanted something I could enjoy more on a local basis.

Also, you do reach that stage where you get fed up working for someone else, and I wanted more autonomy about my choice of job or career, not an easy decision in your early fifties.

My business partner and I attended a franchise exhibition at Earls Court in London in early 2010, as the franchise route was the safest option for new business start-up’s. After looking at various options, we opted for Leisure Leagues, as I already operated a six aside league in nearby Runcorn on a Sunday afternoon, and recognised the potential of small sided soccer as a growing industry.

Steve, eight years ago, when he first signed up

There must have been some highs and lows in that time?

As in any business, ‘expect the unexpected’. Very rarely, is any new business venture an ‘instant success’, but my broad business background really helped in overcoming some local operational problems. I made it a priority to get around to every one of the seven venues we operated at the time within the first two weeks of taking over.

In one location,I replaced the staff the next week with local guys I knew from being a  semi-professional referee myself for twenty five years, and any problems at the venue disappeared overnight.

If I had to give ‘new’ franchisees one piece of advice, it would be, don’t compromise on the standard of referee’s available to you. They will make or break a venue. There are good, competent referee’s out there, it may just take a little longer to find them.

As such, given the number of leagues currently up and running, we have very little or few discipline problems, which allows me to concentrate on  expanding the business model.

As for ‘high’s’, being able to sustain a successful business for nearly eight years is extremely satisfying in itself

Overall, what would you say about the experience?

The ‘experience’ has certainly been an interesting one. Dealing with a largely young, transient customer base is always a challenge. You have to be ‘firm but friendly’. Whilst welcoming new teams into the league, I also remind them with an email after two week’s, that should they fail to turn up for a game without the required notice, or leave unexpectedly, I will come after them for their full match fees!

A difficult one for you to answer perhaps, but when you signed that first contract, did you feel there would be so many partners 7 years later?

No I didn’t to be honest. This job’s not for everyone, but I can understand from Leisure Leagues perspective, that the franchise route is the only option. Trying to manage a venue 300 miles away was becoming increasingly difficult, from a practical or cost point of view and having a local presence is vital

Finally, on a more light-hearted note, some of your leagues are on a Sunday, you must hate it when your beloved Everton are in the Europa League like they are this season!

I’m not sure whatever day of the week Everton play is a particularly enjoyable experience at the moment!! But it’s in my blood and I’m still hopelessly addicted, even at my age.

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