Leicester Tigers
show image

Sooraj Shah

Contributing Editor

Sooraj Shah is Contributing Editor of New Statesman Tech with a focus on C-level IT leader interviews. He is also a freelance technology journalist.

How Leicester Tigers complied with GDPR and boosted its 4G connectivity

Phil Everitt is the management information systems (MIS) and projects manager at rugby club Leicester Tigers, and holds the unique position within the organisation of being the only full-time IT employee. The club outsources its IT to a local company that manages its network, helpdesk and other areas of core IT, but Everitt is the person that deals with all IT queries, including liaising with that local company.

“I look after management information and IT for the club, both managing it and looking to the future and what is coming out, what is becoming available and how we can make our business work smarter and faster,” he says.

He also manages the rugby club’s IT on a match-day, which involves the big screens for the referees, the turnstiles, Wi-Fi network and day-to-day network enquiries. Leicester Tigers had a data protection officer (DPO) who was due to retire, and when GDPR came out, the responsibilities got handed across to Everitt.

“GDPR helps us to better look after our company and customers, and looking after our customers’ data is essential to reinforcing trust between ourselves and our customers more than anything else,” he says.

Prior to embarking on a specific GDPR project, Everitt spoke to various IT leaders within sports organisations including rugby clubs, football clubs and jockey clubs to get a grasp of how everyone was thinking of dealing with the new regulations.

“We thought we might be able to manage it ourselves, but what became quickly apparent was that we had a lot of questions to which by reading the regulations you can’t get a definitive answer because they are a bit grey in some areas; there’s a lot of best practice where it says ‘you should do this and that’ rather than saying ‘you must do this and that’,” he explains.

With all of the questions that the club needed answering, it decided it needed some expert advice. Cyber security thought leadership company ThinkMarble was recommended to Leicester Tigers by other sports clubs, and Everitt says that the reason the business was chosen ahead of others was because they had a track record of dealing with data protection, and they had an in-house data protection lawyer.

“This meant that we could get definitive answers to questions as near as you can from a lawyer and this is why we chose them. A lot of IT companies have just jumped on the bandwagon of GDPR and claimed to be specialists but when you look deeply it’s only something they’ve added to their portfolio recently, whereas ThinkMarble had been working in data protection for a long time,” Everitt states.

Leicester Tigers was also impressed by ThinkMarble’s overall staged approach.

“The first thing they had at a reasonable cost was an online questionnaire which takes you through every aspect of GDPR and from that they produce a report which highlights all of the areas you need to look at; so red is something that needs to be rectified straight away, green is something you already have in place, and amber is something that needs tweaking,” Everitt explains.

“That initial report gave us a starting point because it allowed us to see where we were and where we needed to get to and helped to clarify exactly where we sat with GDPR. It enabled us to go to the board of directors and explain where we’ve fallen short and where we’re doing okay,” he adds.

Then, Everitt was able to put a business case forward for getting work completed to ensure the rugby club fully compliant with GDPR.

“This doesn’t mean we weren’t compliant before, but GDPR has tightened things up as there were areas where we could do better and that’s where we got ThinkMarble involved from a consulting basis to help bring us to that standard,” he says.

4G ahead of Wi-Fi

Another recent project at the club involved putting in a 4G system around the ground to give everyone a 4G phone signal on match-days, through a company called Shared Access.

“It’s like putting in a Wi-Fi system in the bowl where everyone sits on match-day; some people put in a Wi-Fi system but we decided not to go down that route and instead put in antennas which feed back into a central system,” Everitt explains.

With between 22,000 and 24,000 fans on match-day, the phone masts around the stadium can’t usually deal with the demand, leaving fans unable to get a decent signal.

Leicester Tigers wanted to boost connectivity, so that it could also better engage with its fans through its mobile app.

“The app gives them various additions to the match-day entertainment, enabling them to send photographs and messages to the big screen, and voting for the man of the match – while moving forward we want to be able to show things like instant replays, and this requires everyone’s phone to have good communication,” he says.

The rugby club decided to go for 4G over Wi-Fi because large data bundles and allowances were becoming the norm for customers.

“We believe that 4G and 5G will take over from people looking for Wi-Fi,” Everitt says.