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Author: Dom Hodgson

Dear @TheRFL (Part 3)

Dear @TheRFL (Part 3)

Dear the RFL,

Honestly, this is the last one but this one is a bit more controversial, We’ve discussed New Audience and Increased Revenue ideas, these last ideas are probably the least likely to happen but they do make a good discussion point.

A clear 12-month calendar of events and international games

With the current financial state, there is less disposable income going around, holidays and away trips must be booked earlier to get the best prices, We should know right now when and where the Magic Weekend is being played so hotels can be booked and travel can be organised whilst it’s cheaper and it’s much easier to get a group trip together at 12 months than it is at 4 months.

A five-year game plan

Following on from the 12-month calendar, let’s be open about where we want the sport to be in 5 years and have a plan in place to get there.

  • What is the long term plan with the Magic Weekend & Summer Bash
  • What is the plan for the build to the UK Hosted World Cup
  • What is the plan with the Super 8’s, Qualifiers and the Shield?
  • The current broadcast deal ends in 2021, We don’t know what the television market will be like at that time, we need to be prepared for the contract to be renewed but at less than the current one depending on viewership, the inclusion of digital rights, coverage of the championship.

Fill the stadiums

The Magic Weekend & Summer Bash make me proud to be a Rugby League fan, not many sports can have fans from all teams sat next to each other for a weekend of games from teams across a league.
However I’ve first-hand experience of someone new to the sport watching the coverage and the first thing they focus on is how empty the stadium is, it’s embarrassing.

Events like this and the Challenge Cup are a massive marketing opportunity to people new to the sport and we must look at filling the seats as much as possible even if it means sacrificing short term profit to ensure a good visual advert and atmosphere.

Create a culture of more openness.

Whilst the RFL is a business and is under no legal obligation to explain us the reasoning behind any decision. Confidence and support from fans in the decisions made is dependent on openness and explanation. Some of my personal points;

  • How successful was the streaming experiment with the England game, how many paid and viewed? Are there any more planned?
  • What was the reasoning for Bradford staying in the Championship with a –12 penalty other than ‘it was the for the good of the sport’?
  • Is there a plan for the championship clubs IF Bradford is relegated to League One, Toronto is promoted and Catalans replace Hull KR, I imagine the lack of away gate money could be seriously hurtful to some clubs.
  • I don’t much care for stories about the salaries of directors, the figure quoted didn’t seem unreasonable if it’s in line with other sports of our size (what does the head of curling make?) or if it’s based on job performance but we don’t know anything about that so of course the number sounds incredible to most of the fan base.
  • How was the Wigan home game in London seen internally, do we have more games planned in London or other areas.

Start slowly, get a blog that is updated regularly with some of the things going on at the RFL and grow into it.

I don’t expect a formal response from the ramblings of a fan, I’ve said before that the only thing a Rugby League fan loves more than Rugby League is moaning about Rugby League but I wanted to try and do something constructive and put some ideas out that I’ve not seen discussed before (Like Club Catchup).

Thanks to everyone who has tweeted, retweeted, shared on Facebook or engaged on social media with me to discuss ideas. 

This is the last part of the open letter to the RFL and with that, I’ll go back to shouting from the sidelines.

Thanks

Dom Hodgson

dom@hodgetastic.com

 

Dear @TheRFL (Part 2)

Dear @TheRFL (Part 2)

Dear the RFL,

Hello, It’s me again, back for Part 2 of my suggestions, in Part One we focused on a finding a wider and younger audience in this part I want to suggest things for increasing revenue for current clubs in the long and short term.

 

Club Catchup

I believe each club has the ability to record and release home game coverage and commentary 24 hours after the game. However, only some clubs take this opportunity  (https://tv.wiganwarriors.com/ and https://www.halifaxrlfc.co.uk/loginOrRegister)

What would be the scope in each club recording the home games but the RFL creating a subscription to access them all with the money divided between each club?

This should be separate to any broadcast partner

This could be a foundation for a possible long term streaming solution so if the contract renewal in 2021 doesn’t go as well as we all hope it does.

Encourage Toronto & other ventures

Toronto opens up a massive new market of fans, sponsors, and television distribution deals, if they can get a fanbase of 7000+ to a game then we must encourage the team to grow and bring some of the fanbases to away games.

Take a Super League game out to Toronto and have it as a double header with one of the Toronto games, the fans get to know 2 new games and see some Super League Quality and if / when Toronto get promoted, the teams that went to Canada are likely to be the away games that people go to as they will recognise the names.

Segment the email database

The emails that are sent out from the RFL are generic mass mails, you have so much data based on ticket habits, location, quantity and price band.

The segments for targeting with this data are pretty wide with scope for increasing ticket sales;

  • If someone buys challenge cup tickets every year but has never bought a grand final ticket, send them an offer.
  • If someone has been to Magic Weekend but not the summer bash, introduce them to it with highlights and introductions.
  • If someone regularly buys 5 or more tickets at a game, send them a group deal
  • If someone hasn’t bought a ticket in 3 years, ask them why and collate the information

Use the 18th Man monthly newsletter to promote all games of all levels in that local area starting with SL, Championship & League 1 and then allowing Amateur and other clubs to submit games for listing.

 

Thanks again for reading these, the feedback yesterday was great and yes I know I’m ‘probably just talking to a brick wall’ but at least I can say I gave it a go, the final part of this letter will be tomorrow and it’s more internal rather than external.

 

This follows on with Part 3

 

Dear @TheRFL (Part 1)

Dear @TheRFL (Part 1)

Dear the RFL,

As we begin to close the 2017 season, the press and fans are focused on ‘what we can do to improve Rugby League’ and the inevitable answer from the fans is Marketing which leads onto TV advertising.

I disagree, I think we can do other things to help market the game that doesn’t involve TV advertising and would fit within a small < £100,000 marketing budget.

Like any marketing proposal, it needs a clear goal, I’d like us to have a larger and younger viewing audience.

Cultivate an online audience

TV Advertising is the biggest response to the question ‘what can we do when it comes to marketing’ but when, where and why? a 30-second spot in the middle of X-Factor can cost £200,000 and what exactly are you selling in those 30 seconds? Rugby League, Super League, the Challenge Cup?

The season opener advert with Jonny Vegas (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zAqZxQIqu1g) is a good advert, but it’s a good advert for fans of the sport already.

My suggestion is in three parts;

Youtube advertising.

We look at a selection of sports that have either a similar game structure (grass field, ball, teams, concept of goal) or passionate and large fan base;

  • Rugby Union
  • American Football
  • Football
  • Ice Hockey
  • Basketball

We produce a 2 minute youtube video for each sport that starts with some of the best clips we’ve got from the last few years and explains the similarities between the sports and how certain positions match up, this could be interlaced with video clips of tries, cheering fans, beautiful fans and hits so hard you can hear them in the cheap seats.

This video will run as a video on the end of videos of the specific sports, so after I’ve just watched “rugby union best tries” it’s followed up by an introduction to Rugby League for Rugby Union fans which opens Ryan Hall’s try at Huddersfield for instance.

Upon clicking the video the visitor is taken to a rugby league resource dedicated to the new fan.

Help with introductions to the sport

The first result in google for Rugby League explained is http://www.rugby-league.com/the_rfl/rules, that’s not very helpful.

We need an official area for new fans, introducing basic concepts of the game and answering questions with both text and videos

  • What is a fullback / halfback / winger
  • What is a 40 20
  • What is the Challenge Cup

One of the best explainer videos produced by the RFL has been the Introduction to the Super 8’s – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7bRG_Tg9aI (I go back to every now and then just to remind myself how it works!) but the domain name linked to on that has expired and so there is no follow on to help with further questions.

Make one game regularly available for free

We need a legal way for new fans to be able to see quality full game content without resorting to piracy, it’s too much to ask someone to take out a Sky or Premier sports subscription who isn’t fully sold on the game.

The BBC does an excellent job with the rights they have but that’s less than 10 games a year in most cases and after 30 days that content is never seen again.

I’m not suggesting live streaming of a game for free (at the moment) but is there a deal to be had with Sky for them to have one of the games available for free on a sky sports branded page (with links to buy sky sports of course) from the previous week or two (whereas that game would have little value for them)

Having a match with full high-quality coverage available to the public without a subscription can provide an easy to reach taste of what rugby league is.

 

This is part one of a small collection of ideas I have that I believe can be practically achieved with a small to medium budget.

Obviously, this post is written without any deep knowledge of budgets and long term partnership contracts 

But Money in the sport is limited and to get the level of sponsorship we’d like, our base needs to become wider, the sponsors look at viewership numbers, demographics, and probable ROI, there is a reason that the Rugby Union is sponsored by Land Rover and 02 whilst Rugby League is sponsored by Dacia and Mushy Peas.

 

Thank you

 

Dom

 

Why not read part two? and then part three

Oh Look, It’s Little Warden!

Oh Look, It’s Little Warden!

tldr; I’m launching a new website today called littlewarden.com to help website owners, agencies and domain portfolios keep an eye on the domains they are responsible for, but may not control.

A few months ago I got the itch to start coding with some new technologies and techniques that were not applicable to my daily role Kerboo.

So I took a look at the big book of semi finished hackday projects and ideas and found one that I liked.

The project had to meet 4 criteria;

  • It had to be low maintenance It had to be small, easy to use with little development and support overhead
  • It had to be fun to work on No explanation needed
  • It had to be something which Kerboo wouldn’t do The point of this was to do something separate away from the day job, so it had to be something that was nothing to do with Links! (or an area that Kerboo would do)
  • It had to have commercial viability (You’ve got a baby now Dom, you’ve gotta do more stuff which makes money and less stuff for shits and giggles)

After a few days of reviewing and throwing out ideas, there was one left…. Warden

Warden

The idea behind Little Warden came from a few posts on some of the online groups I’m in;

  • “Last week our client moved servers without telling us”
  • “Our staging environment got indexed in Google because someone removed the robots.txt!”
  • “We forgot to renew our domain and now a broker has it”

Posts like this appear every month or so and that got me thinking that classic entrepreneurs thought

There has to be a better way!

So after a few months on evenings and weekends (and a boat ship across the Atlantic) I had a pretty good build of Little Warden ready to go and get some test users up and running.

 

4 Months and still waiting for an answer from @Virgin_TrainsEC

4 Months and still waiting for an answer from @Virgin_TrainsEC

As usual with my blog posts, they are a bit long, wordy and full of grammatical errors, if you’d like to skip that just read TLDR; Virgin Trains have redone the first class  toilets in Leeds and only put baby changing in the ladies toilet, I asked them why as there is plenty of space in the gents in November and almost 90 days later, still no response.

On the 30th of November, We have a family trip to London and with an 8 month old and a  Weekend First Class upgrade we were in for some excitement. As usual Heather makes sure we get to the train station mega early so we ended up in the newly refurbished First Class Lounge at Leeds Station.

During the delay it became clear that someone needed a change and it was Dad’s turn, so I grabbed the baby and changing bag and headed to the bathroom, there was plenty of space in the gents for one so this annoyed me a bit, I tweeted Virgin Trains

 

And after a bit of confusion I received

 

After a week or so I tweeted that I hadn’t received a followup or anything and was told they don’t do responses, to get a response I’d have to email

So I did

Hello Virgin (East Coast) Team!

I tweeted your team the other day about an Issue I have with the toilets (https://twitter.com/TheHodge/status/803917099685003264) and was told that the issue would be ‘passed on to management’ 

However when I asked for a response, I was told that, it wasn’t available unless I emailed.. 

So I’m emailing, I was really disappointed to see this, I travel with my daughter alone a lot and yet again this is an example of dads being treated as 2nd class parents. 

If I wanted to change my daughter I’d either have to leave the room or awkwardly use the women toilets with a sense of shame and embarrassment, no father should field embarrassed to change his child. 

There looks to be plenty of space in the Blokes for a changing table, so I have to ask why wasn’t one added?

Thanks for your time so far.

A few days later I got an autoresponder

Dear Dom,

Thank you for your correspondence received on 06 December 2016.

Your correspondence has been received and assigned the reference number above. We review all our feedback, praise and complaints and if your case requires a response then we aim to send you a full reply within the next 28 working days. If you have any additional information in relation to this matter, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us by replying directly to this email.

Thanks again for contacting us.

Yours Sincerely

Customer Solutions Team

Virgin Trains East Coast

28 working days.. wow that puts us to about the middle of January with the Christmas period, that came and went and I gave them a few extra days and tried to call the phone number in the email…. it didn’t work..

and finally JW jumps in with an excuse

Someone ELSE operates the station,  we are just happy to take the credit about our new refurb and fancy seats and facilitates when it’s good stuff

 

Thankfully JW was on the case after a bit of pushing.

That was the 24th of Jan.. Here we are over a month later.. and even after a small poke

 

No response.

I realise in the grand scheme of things it’s a small thing, but it matters that when my daughter needs changing, I shouldn’t feel remotely embarrassed about any facilities available or having to ask permission to use another bathroom.

The Virgin Brand has always pretty good at customer relations and I use the train service most months without issue but this issue and the lack of accountability has really disappointed me.

 

What do I want?

  • I’d like a baby changing table in the gents for a start 😉 or at least to know why it wasn’t added originally
  • I’d like to know why my question has been ignored for almost 4 months even after someone taking ‘personal charge’
  • I’d like more services to run on the August Bank Holiday Weekend (this may be unrelated to the above post)

 

Update: 

 

Virgin have said that it will hopefully be done by April, I’ve asked why it’s taken 4 months to tell me that 🙂

1 Second Every Day

1 Second Every Day

I’ve had a lot of fun over the last year putting together a 1 second every day video of Scarlett’s First year.

I highly recommend it to any new parents, it’s a small glimpse into a year which flies by.

Trapped in my own house?

Trapped in my own house?

I’m writing this here because I’m hopeful that someone will see it and be able to give some advice.

TLDR

Last night the house next door was set on fire for the third time in three weeks. My family and I were out at the time, but we received a phone call from both the police and our neighbours, informing us that my door had been breached by the fire brigade as they thought someone was in the house.
This is the culmination of over two years of issues with the house next door and each government department I’ve spoken to has passed it on to other departments effectively saying ‘there is nothing we can do’.

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Virgin Holidays False Advertising?

Virgin Holidays False Advertising?

overview-disney-magic-00-fullWe did it, We booked our first family holiday! In May 2017 we will be travelling on the Disney Magic from Florida back to Europe in a two week adventure, we had to wait until Scarlett was 1 year old before we can do a transatlantic cruise but we are counting down the days.

Rather than book individually we decided to go onto the Virgin Holidays shop and get everything as a package, not have to worry about anything, especially with a 1 year old of unknown ability.

But so far there have been two instances where I’ve been let down (or misinformed) and I’m not getting anywhere with internal complaints so let this be a bit of a warning to you.

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Yesterday I went shopping for some baby stuff..

Yesterday I went shopping for some baby stuff..

I fucking love TK Maxx sometimes

A photo posted by Dom Hodgson (@domthehodge) on

Better get Scarlett’s new teddy home safe

A photo posted by Dom Hodgson (@domthehodge) on

Scarlett and her Guard Chicken…

A photo posted by Dom Hodgson (@domthehodge) on

I also bought some Baby Clothes but I figured I’d photographed those enough.

Leaving @LeedsHack

Leaving @LeedsHack

Hack-277

I’ve had a few emails this week asking me when the next LeedsHack is and now is about the time when I usually start organising this years event, The truth is, I honestly don’t know when / if LeedsHack is happening.

After more than 5 years, I decided last year (after saying it for a few years) that LeedsHack 2015 was going to be my last one. 

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