Active Inclusion makes a significant difference to business
Bill Waterson, Account VP for GE Aviation and GE Healthcare in Europe at Capgemini, has recently taken up a challenge outside of work, as Director at Altrincham Football Club. Here he discusses the relaunch of the club’s diversity agenda, and how it has helped to turn the business around.
Ten miles south of Manchester, Altrincham Football Club had suffered back to back relegations in recent years and as a lifelong fan I offered my services to the board to help turn the club around.
Like any business, we must remain relevant to our stakeholders – the spectators and the broader Altrincham community – so as part of our long-term inclusion plan, I forged a partnership with anti-racism organisation, Kick It Out, with Women at the Game and more recently with Football v Homophobia to do just that.
The driving force of our diversity strategy was to change the perception of Altrincham FC as a destination. So, to celebrate Altrincham’s inclusion in the Football Association’s annual Non-League Day, we laid on facilities you wouldn’t normally expect to find at a football club – from live music to children’s face painting – and invited female footballers, religious and community groups, and LGBT supporters to come and watch the game.
It was important to us that people who don’t normally come to the ground were made to feel welcome. And that meant making some fundamental changes; creating dedicated areas for tea and coffee (moving away from the stereotypical alcohol-fuelled environment of a football club), building a disabled shelter and assigning a prayer room for Muslim attendees.
Since reassessing the club’s environment and making it more inclusive for all, we’ve seen a sustained increase in attendances across the season. Yes, the team is performing better on the pitch, but you can see from the faces in the crowd that our strategy is working – there are more women and more ethnically diverse people coming through the turnstiles than ever before.
We’ve seen first-hand that Active Inclusion can make a significant difference to a business. It isn’t a fad or fashion. By catering to all potential customers, Altrincham FC has increased our relevance in the community. We have won the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League this season, and our reputation is growing as fast off the pitch as we become a truly inclusive venue for everyone in our community. Poignantly, our Head of Diversity, Jacqui Forster, a lifelong campaigner in football lost her long battle with cancer hours after our lifting the title. We will redouble our efforts in her memory next season.