Exclusive Interview with Angus Martin, CEO of The Asian Sports Foundation

Angus Martin is a sport for development extraordinaire who has previously worked across community sport with a hint of advertising. He’s a pivotal figure in promoting opportunities with the Asian community to get more physically active alongside supporting several charities with producing an impact across the grassroots sports landscape. Angus touches on how the sports industry journey began, the ambitions he has for Asian sport alongside his killer piece of advice for the next generation of industry leaders.

Question 1: Angus, it’s brilliant to have you on Ash’s Sports Talk. Let’s start this off by understanding how the sports career journey began for you?

It began by studying sport and media at Leeds Trinity University. While I was there, I did a placement at the National Coaching Foundation (NCF-now sports coach UK), which helped build up valuable skills. I also undertook a placement at an advertising agency in London. It didn’t have much to do with sport, but I worked there during the Euros in 1996! After graduating in 1998 something called Brazilian Soccer Schools was becoming introduced across Leeds, a new football coaching way. I gradually got involved as a coach which led to running a school as a franchisee. On the side, I worked as a fitness instructor for a year which gave me the flexibility to build up my involvement with Brazilian soccer schools.

I did some fantastic things with Brazilian soccer schools which headed my sports career towards the English Football League Trust (EFLT) as their regional manager for the Yorkshire and North East. My role involved developing partnerships and linking sport and education with degree programmes.

My sports career passion began to grow more towards the grassroots side of the game. I started having conversations with networks I built during my time at the EFLT and produced ideas of starting my own company, which now see me as the Director of The Name of The Game and supporting the Asian Sports Foundation as CEO.  

Question 2: Revisiting your education, you studied a degree in Law but pursued a sporting passion. How beneficial was your law degree from a knowledge perspective for your sports industry career?

Studying Law was interesting as I did it while I was at the EFLT. The driver behind it was the EFLT being highly reliant on the Premier League for funding. One day, we were sat in a room and were told we would be made redundant, and I remember the feeling that I never wanted to experience again.

This circumstance inspired me to take on Law, particularly with financial fair play being an instrumental factor in establishing equality in the game. Plus, it’s been helpful to step up the support my company can provide for charities as understanding legal processes aren’t the most comprehensive things to pick up in the grassroots game.

Question 3: I’d love to hear more about your role at The Name of The Game. What does the organisation represent, and what does the future ambition hold for the company?

It’s run by solely myself, and it came across as I identified after my work at the EFLT, I needed a new challenge. As I said, I enjoyed being a regional manager, but my passion began to grow for the grassroots game. Hence, I’ve formed this organisation to focus on charities attached to sports clubs to grow those organisations to become more sustainable. I enjoy getting heavily involved with supporting others to achieve their ambitions. I’m a big believer in the stronger a partnership, the easier the funding opportunities are.

Question 4: What does The Name of The Game do differently to other sports capacity builders, and could you share some of the impacts you’ve created in community sport?

I’m eagle-eyed at spotting opportunity. I don’t see limitations, regardless of whether the sport may be engaging, the possibilities are already endless. Some time ago, I received funding from the Houses of Parliament, and I was told that they initially wouldn’t be interested in my proposal. Still, I managed to convince them that sport could be an effective mechanism for getting their message across.

I have a comprehensive idea about things taking place around community sport in the UK. This helps me bring concepts to the table to improve the chances of funding for several organisations. For example, I linked up a sports organisation to work with armed forces veterans to deliver sporting interventions to support their training regimes. This has proved useful on multiple levels and is part of the way I work; I try and support both the development of the ideas and concepts and sourcing the means for these organisations to deliver the projects eventually.

Question 5: I’m keen to hear about your work with The Asian Sports Foundation. Where did the inspiration stem from and how proud are you of the achievements made within Asian sport?

Not long after starting my own business, I had come across The Asian Sports Foundation’s work and their chair Jug Johal. I thought there could be some links between some of the clubs I was supporting and the ASF, most notably Bradford City, so I arranged to meet with Jug to find out more. Jug had done a great job of getting some high profile and influential people on board as trustees. Still, Jug has a senior role in the NHS, and there was no one actually to drive forward the ideas daily, and equally no funds in place to pay anyone to do this.

Long story short, Jug asked if I wanted to be the Chief Executive and whilst there was no pay involved, I was happy to help as there are lots of links between my work with The Name of The Game and I could see massive potential in what Jug was trying to achieve. I was convinced there was a real need for an organisation like the ASF.

Our work is aimed at getting more people active and taking part in sport, and physical activity and whilst the main focus is on South Asian communities, an essential aspect of our approach is also on bringing communities together to break down barriers and promote better cultural awareness and understanding.

The ASF has three key pillars to our work – research and insight, training and the delivery of impactful projects through our partnership network.

We’re always trying to gain more insight into why particular groups or communities aren’t participating in sport as much as others. This work continually contributes to how we design projects. We’ve made good progress each year, including increased support from Sport England and more funding from the health and wellbeing sector.

Question 6) What further ambitions do you have for Asian sport and what has been the biggest learnings you’ve gained about the Asian sporting community?

The most significant learning has been that one answer doesn’t fit all. We need to listen to those on the ground level to optimise physical activity participation. We’re taking baby steps at the moment, but there are lots of concrete interventions taking place. We’re working on a substantial project in Bradford targeting distinct areas which can break down barriers to strengthen community engagement and promote physical activity and sport as the norm.

Income is another priority for the future as we want to increase our collaborative partnerships but don’t have enough funding to deliver these aspirations. Plus, optimising our equality and diversity training is essential too as we want to be a part of the solution for sport for development.

Q7) Angus, reflecting on this discussion and your career, what is your killer piece of advice for someone wanting to pursue a career in sport?

It’s tough to work in sport which I’ve shared when I’ve delivered guest presentations. For sure, it’s an attractive industry to work in, and most people become tied into thinking they’ll get rich by pursuing any role in the sector. This isn’t the case, you’ve got to work very hard, I know its cliched, but not many people do this long-term. Learn about your competitors, stay prepared and develop an outstanding work ethic, and you will stand out.

Incredible, it’s always refreshing to speak with someone who has produced a substantial amount of impact across community sport. It’s quite unbelievable how much work Angus has going on across the sporting landscape, but I could tell he loves what he does, which is the key message I took away from this chat. Once you find out what you love to do; you’ll be okay with going the extra mile to make an impact.


Published by Ash

I'm a First-Class Graduate in Sports Business Management who has worked across Local Government, Sport and the Third Sector. Throughout my career, I've developed a thriving passion to promote sport being used as a tool to bring positivity to the world we live in. This ethos has inspired me to create a website which champions this value through comprehensive online content for you to gain value from. Join me on this journey of discovering what sport can do to enhance society.

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