If you’ve ever tried to organise a local sports team or tried to get your child into playing football or netball, you’ve probably brushed up against some difficulties in the process.
Whether the communication mode of choice is WhatsApp, Facebook or even email, there’s the constant pinging of notifications when a person confirms or drops out, actual attendance can get lost in the flurry of other chatter, that by the time it comes to match day, no one is really sure what’s going on.
Per-Otto Wold felt these issues keenly when trying to take his sons to football games in his native Norway. “It is an overload of information, not focused information,” he says. Thanks to his background in energy and analytics, Wold decided to find a way to solve this problem, which eventually became Spond.
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Spond is a platform with an integrated chat function which aims to simplify the process of organising grassroots activities. Though it was initially designed for organising youth sports and games, it can be used for any activity, from football to netball, or choirs and marching bands. Perhaps, unsurprisingly, football is the number one sport on Spond for both Norway and the UK, with handball taking the second spot in Norway, and cricket and rugby coming up high in the UK.
It aims to make life easier for the coaches as well as the parents or participants in a team. According to Spond’s research, 25 per cent of UK coaches are spending around seven hours or more per week on administration. “There’s three million coaches in the UK, putting in their spare time and most of them are not paid for their service,” says Wold. “We can save them more than two hours a week.”
Using the app, coaches can invite members to practices, games and other team activities, and it's easy to keep track of who is coming and who isn't. Guardians can reply on behalf of their child, though if a child does say they're attending a game then a guardian gets an instant notification to check it. "My son is 13 and wants to be able to tell the coach he's coming to the match. But at the same time, I need to know, and be able to monitor the conversation as well."
You can share information, files and photos, chat in group conversations or over private messages, and use the platform across its mobile apps or in a web browser.
As you can imagine, coaches love it. Around 30,000 invites are sent out via Spond every day. There’s 45,000 active users in the UK alone, whilst more than 10 per cent of Norway’s population uses the platform every month. The feedback from both countries is fairly similar, with people reporting that it saves them a lot of time and it serves the purpose better than, say, WhatsApp.
“Now they’re in an environment that works for them. WhatsApp is a fantastic service, it’s well put together, but it’s not purpose-built for organising sports. This is.”
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Though Spond set out to solve the problem of organising group sports, it’s come across some other issues in the space along the way, such as around the money side of things. The app makes it easier to collect subs so a coach knows who has paid to play and who hasn’t yet, to ensure the team remains funded – Spond takes a small cut of each transaction, though the app is free to use.
In addition, the platform runs monthly competitions in both Norway and the UK for clubs to win vouchers for things like equipment in order to help give back to the teams. The first time competition saw around 8,000 teams competing for £500. “It wasn’t that much but after we did some research, we realised all over the world that the funding of youth sports or grassroots activities is very challenging,” says Wold.
So what’s next for Spond? The platform wants to grow more in the UK, as well as expand into Germany and France. It also wants to ensure that the coaches are recognised for their work, so this could form a new feature on the platform. “[We want] to give them something back so they feel recognised,” he says. “Organising youth sports is a huge challenge and just recognising the volunteers means they're likely to stay in the job they have.”