Sportcal Global Communications celebrates 10 years of supplying media information to the sports industry today.
A recent television documentary which concluded that no UK ‘dot com’ is making money was wrong. Sportcal, the exception to this rule, would like to take the opportunity to thank its clients and friends in the sports business industry for making the company a success in this landmark year.
Sportcal, which was founded in the UK in 1991 by its chief executive Mike Laflin, has become one of the leading business websites for sport and provides a wide variety of services through its web site Sportcal.com.
Laflin, who was working as a consultant for the International Amateur Athletic Federation, the International Sailing Federation and the International Tennis Federation at the time the company was founded had seen the need for a centralised calendar for sport and in his spare time started building the concept of Sportcal.
‘The idea for Sportcal came from working for three international sports federations all of which wanted to know what the others were doing,’ said Laflin. ‘It quickly became clear that broadcasters as well as federations could benefit from a computerised calendar, and through conferences like Sportel, we gradually built up a strong following.
‘We started off very simply producing a computer package that we provided on diskette. The first version was bought by people in Australia, Norway, France and Italy as well as the UK. Among our first clients were Reuters, the National Sports Information Centre in Australia and the BBC, so I knew there was a demand for the product.’
In 1996 Laflin decided that if the company was to succeed he needed to concentrate on it full-time. ‘One of my co-founders, Beverley Smith, moved on to other things so I needed to make a decision as to what to do with Sportcal. We had a lot of interest but not enough resources to really develop the product. So I decided to recruit some extra staff, and was very lucky to get some great people, including our IT director, Alex Clay.’
Sportcal went from strength to strength, growing from five staff in 1996 to its present level of 22. In 1998 John Williams stepped in as marketing director to help Laflin drive the company forward. Williams was instrumental in re-branding and re-designing the new web site which was re-launched last November.
‘I am very proud of what we have achieved at Sportcal. We have evolved very gradually and not gone for the big bang, as many other sports media companies have done,’ said Laflin. ‘We are able to cover our costs and invest what’s left over in improving the product. Since we re-launched the site last November the response from the industry has been fantastic.’
Sportcal launched its own business news service last year when Callum Murray joined Sportcal from TV Sports Markets. ‘Callum was able to transform our news from a press release service to the best business news service in sport,’ said Laflin. ‘It has added a great deal of value to our product and has greatly increased our client base.’
Sportcal now offers seven different products through its website. The international calendar, which has been the backbone of the company throughout, covers over 25,000 events a year, dating back to 1994 and running through to 2013. It contains information on over 175,000 events that have either taken place or will do so in the future.
Laflin said: ‘Sportcal has been quite a roller-coaster ride, but I believe this year we have reached a new level and the investment that we made last year in improving the product has really paid off.’ Laflin who retains 73 per cent of the company attracted some private investment last year to expand the company to a point where it could comfortably produce the product it had always promised to deliver.
‘I believe the idea I had in 1991 is coming to fruition. It has taken a long time but I am as enthusiastic about Sportcal today as I was 10 years ago. We have built a great team, with a great product and I think the industry is really taking note of what we are doing,’ enthused Laflin. ‘The industry needs a product like Sportcal and I think many people now realise that’.
Ten years is a long time in sport and a lifetime in the internet but Sportcal has developed a great knowledge of both and is well placed to reap the benefits well into the future.
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