A Coventry man who spent more than 20 years working behind the scenes in professional football has launched his own sports consultancy firm to bring businesses and sporting organisations closer together.
In his time with Coventry City, Watford FC and Glasgow Rangers Raj Athwal built up a wealth of experience in both the English and Scottish Leagues – from Premiership to League 2 in the English League and all bar the Premiership in the Scottish League.
Now the 45-year-old, a former President Kennedy pupil who lives in Coventry and who spent more than 14 years at Coventry City, has set up Arena Red – a platform allowing him to use his experience to help sports clubs forge links with local businesses for mutual commercial advantage.
Raj, the well-known and popular former Commercial Manager at Coventry, said: “I believe I am in a unique position with my new venture as there are very few who can say they have the same breadth of experience across the English and Scottish Leagues, and very few starting out with the same number of contacts. It is my USP…
“The idea is to work with the companies and their staff, implementing new structures and processes to fit their business model and designed to motivate and add value. I will also be looking to work with local businesses outside of sport showing them how they can maximise a sponsorship opportunity – helping them to identify a good deal for a measurable return. The overall objective is to improve the bottom line.”
Fluent in Punjabi and Hindi, Raj is working closely with a senior government official in the UK to take a Premiership football club over to one of the largest states in India, to help set up a footballing academy for children and young people aged nine to 19, helping them to achieve sporting excellence, whilst at the same time giving them an education.
He has also recently been invited as a keynote speaker to major universities, giving undergraduates an insight into a career behind the scenes in football.
Raj enthused: “During my time in football I have disproved the misconceptions that off pitch activities in football are largely reliant on what goes on over 90 minutes on the pitch. By challenging the mindsets at the clubs I have worked for we reached unprecedented levels of commercial success. As a product, it is not always stable and yet we’re aiming to sell on the back of it. It is an interesting and certainly challenging career but perhaps one that might not be a student’s first choice. The aim of my presentation is to demonstrate to the students exactly what they can expect from a career in football or sport generally, the pitfalls and of course the advantages.”
Raj has received backing in his new venture from a number of nationally known sports professionals and high-profile business leaders who have come on board as elite partners.
Among the sports personalities are Cyrille Regis, Graham Taylor, Sean Dyche and Ally McCoist.
Port Vale FC is among the organisations on his client portfolio.
In a bid to give something back to the local community, Raj has joined the board of Positive Youth Foundation – a charity which works closely with children helping them to realise their potential and aspire to a better future.
Raj added: “Coventry City, Watford and Rangers have been great for me and for my career and although still in its relatively early stages I have received some fantastic support for Arena Red. I perhaps wouldn’t have come so far as this already without the support of friends from both the sporting and business community.
“Joining Positive Youth Foundation is my way of saying thank you for helping me on my career path and hopefully making a difference to the lives of these youngsters by always giving back some of my time to the community.”