To Ally Meredith an interest in sport seemed nothing more than a passing hobby, albeit quite a fanatical one. But an introduction to social media at the height of the London Olympics in 2012 launched Ally into the fast-paced world of sports media and what was a passion soon turned into a business model when athletes approached him to help them reach their full potential. Through the creation of his sports media outlet, SportsHUB, Ally now assists a number of aspiring athletes on the cusp of greatness.
For Ally the idea of ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ became the foundation of his business, boasting a little black book of contacts in the sporting world which extends far beyond the Island of Jersey, and may just contain a household name or two. It’s through this ever-expanding network that Ally launched his business SportsHUB in 2013, covering a myriad of sporting events whilst propelling teams and athletes he works for towards greatness.
From a sports mad family, Ally first recalls feeling the buzz of being a sports spectator while watching his father compete at the London Marathon. The thrill of the race and the power that sport has to pull a community together remains a lasting memory for Ally, and has shaped his love of all things sporting. “My mates joke that if there was competitive tiddly winks showing on the television, I would start watching it!”
It was at London’s 2012 Olympics that Ally first encountered Twitter. Exploring the medium, Ally quickly worked out how to access restricted venues, pick up tickets, as well as tweeting coverage of the events. Using his natural gift for social media back in Jersey, Ally started to publicise local sports event and teams, taking over their social media accounts and educating people on how best to take them forward. Having amassed a following of 3,000+ sporting contacts, Ally knew he had backed a winner when he started getting the attention of large social media outlets with 100,000+ followers and was being retweeted by the likes of Matthew Pinsent and the main Olympic twitter account.
Through SportsHUB Ally hopes to highlight the financial difficulties many elite and semi-pro athletes face, explaining,“…it isn’t widely known how much these athletes struggle to do what they do. Jersey’s Dan Hawksworth went to Kona with a one-way ticket and had to sell some of his sponsored equipment to afford the return leg home. For someone who is British Champion in their sport that just didn’t feel right.”
Financing isn’t the only struggle athletes face, as Ally discovered when he found himself drawn to working with parathletes. “When meeting with Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, she explained to me the sad reality that after London 2012 a lot of the Paralympians were dropped by their agents. Rio just seemed too far away for them to invest time into.” To Ally this seemed illogical as corporate sponsors, in his experience, are very keen to work alongside and invest in this previously under-supported community. Ally will be looking this year to build upon his strong links with the parathlete community and hopes to forge ties with 17 Sports Management Limited, a UK sports agency established by SportsHUB follower and parathlete Hannah Cockroft.
As his reputation builds in the sports industry, eyebrows are being raised by his competitors who have remarked on Ally’s unique business model.“They were shocked when I told them that it was just me, as I have the reach to cover such a large number of events without actually being at any of them. This is all achieved through extensive networking and having that body of people constantly feeding me stories, images and news.” Ally believes SportsHUB is a success because it gives a refreshing take on sports coverage. It’s the fan’s eye view, replicating that same thrill Ally learnt all those years ago watching his father.
Ally’s true sports management talent lies in plugging the gap between sponsors’ expectations and the promotion of athletes. “Most athletes we work with don’t want to release bad results to the media for obvious reasons, but from a sponsor’s perspective they want to capitalise on the relationship whatever the journey, so it’s down to me to make them understand the importance of social media throughout the highs and lows of their career.”
SportsHUB has eight athletes on their books spanning Jersey and the UK including Natalia and Giulia Harte, British Skier sisters and Jersey’s Zane Duquemin, who is now throwing discus for Team GB. SportsHUB provide them with athlete management, media coverage and essential business development as well as watching them compete with all the devotion of a true fanatic. “Aside from their families, I’m probably their biggest fan!” Ally truthfully admits.
So what does the future have in store for SportsHUB? Burning a hole in his back pocket is a press pass to attend the Commonwealth Games to be held on Australia’s Gold Coast next April. “The great thing about what I have built at SportsHUB is that it is completely mobile and the business model can be applied to any and every country.” World domination is not on the cards just yet though, as Ally is still keen to promote sport closer to home and clearly invested in Jersey. “My main objective through SportsHUB is to champion the rise of sport locally, shine a light on Jersey and to bring talent back to the Island as well as producing it.”
Photography: Glen Perotte
Read the full interview with Ally Meredith in Connect magazine here.
Follow Ally and SportsHUB through their website here.