Paul Smith has worked in the sports industry for the last 25+ years and been a consultant for the last four. Working across many disciplines of the sport industry from PR/Comms to Event Operations and Sponsorship, he specialises in Host City engagement & operations, Spectator Experience and Fanzones is currently working with clients Birmingham 2022 & RLWC2021 to deliver world-class programs in those spaces.
Paul's impressive resume includes consultations on the UEFA Women’s EURO, MLB London Series and the Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan. As well as working on three Olympic Games (Athens, Beijing & London), Rugby World Cup 2015 and the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 & ICC Men’s World Cup 2019.
He's currently the Managing Director of his own sports consultancy business, LCS Sports.
What was the first Live Event Hospitality programme that you attended, and what particular impressions did it make on you?
In my first sports industry role I worked for the agency APA (now CSM) and attended a Champions League game in Turin with my then client Reebok. It was early days of the Champions League, but the level of the offer and service was obviously something UEFA/Team had thought about in great detail and this was only a group stage game. That level of planning, thought and immaculate delivery was something I’ve carried with me since then.
Other than your own, what is your favourite Live Event[s] that you would encourage everyone to book when it goes o sale, and what makes it so special?
I think there is something very special about a Rugby World Cup and with the next one being in France in 2023 I think it’s the perfect opportunity to experience this great event. The mix of competing nations, the fact that so many international fans travel, the accessibility to the players and overall positive attitude around the event make it great to work on and amazing to experience.
Who do you consider to be your business mentor or mentors, and what particular examples did they imprint on your business values?
A long term mentor for me has been Alun James, who was my manager in my first job at APA and really showed me what it means to work in the sports industry and what is required to succeed.
What was the most significant ‘Sliding Doors’ moment in your career, and how did this impact you?
I worked for the International Tennis Federation from 1999-2009 focussing on sponsor activation and event operations for Davis Cup, Fed Cup and the Olympic Tennis Event. It was an amazing experience with loads of international travel, but after 10-years I was keen to re-engage with the UK sports industry and network. Through an old ITF colleague I was introduced to the recruitment agency hiring the role of Sponsorship Manager for Cadbury at London 2012. Getting that job changed my career path, enhanced my skill set and opened my eyes to so many elements that would be become staples of the sport industry in the last decade such as digital marketing, client journey planning & programme management. It was the stepping stone to the next phase of my career and I’m forever grateful for that introduction!
If you had the option to experience/live in one music video which would it be and why?
Learn to Fly by the Foo Fighters, just looks like constant fun and Dave Grohl is an incredible human being.
What was your favourite televised live sport event or moment that you remember from childhood, why did it make such a lasting impression on you?
The most vivid memory is the 1980 Moscow Olympics when I was about 10 years old. It was such an appointment to view with Coe/Ovett, Alan Wells, Daley Thompson etc and all of the talk of boycotts in the lead up. I was fascinated by the scale of the Games and sport being on TV all day every day which is pretty normal now but was unheard of back then. I also remember looking at those bits of plastic/lanyards everyone had round their necks (later to find out they are called Accreditations!) and thinking how cool it would be to go to an Olympics and have one of those badges.
Who was playing at the first concert you attended, where and when, and what do you remember of the experience?
It was a Ska music gig featuring bands like The Selector at the now closed Hammersmith Palais. I love live music and being down the front in these small venues and that was my first experience of that atmosphere.
What do you remember — across all genres — as the most emotional moment in television or film or a sporting event that has brought tears to your eyes
Derek Redmond trying to finish the 1992 Barcelona Olympic 400m whilst injured and his dad coming to his aid.
What was your first paying job and what impact, if any, did it have on you?
I was a paper boy from the age of 10 until leaving school and I spent most mornings reading the sports pages of every different paper before I delivered them! It started my fascination with sports media and journalism and made me a results geek which ultimately led me to my first career role working in PR/Comms. I’ve also been a plumber’s labourer, removals man and barman.
How has your upbringing and family experiences shaped who you are today?
My dad loved sport and was always around to take me to various matches or training and my mum still plays regular tennis well into her 80s. It was just totally normal to play or be around sport and I’ve taken that on throughout life. I was never pressured to go into a specific profession or job, just had total support for my choices and I’m always grateful for that. I didn’t get my first job in sport until I was around 23/24 years old (hence the other jobs I had) but it was not something that my parents focussed on, they just wanted me to do something I enjoyed but hopefully got paid for!
What tough experience or time did you have to endure that taught you the value of money?
When I was around 10-years old my dad was pushed out of his job and didn’t work for many months as he took his employer to tribunal for unfair dismissal. As kids we didn’t totally understand, but knew something was up and it was a time where every penny counted and we really learnt the value of friends, family and living off very little.
If your 17-year-old self could see you now, what would he think and what advice would you pass back to your younger self?
My 17-year old self would never believe that such a career in the sports industry was possible and would be amazed to see the CV that I have amassed. At that time I didn’t even know what opportunities existed in the sports industry and having gone to an average (but fun!) state school/6th Form College was only thinking about the next day, let alone 5-years down the line. My advice now to my younger self is I think encapsulated in what I actually did as a 17-year old; work out what you want and then just don’t give up until you get there, even if you get to 24 and are still looking for that first break!
What's the best, most useful word from another language that you aren't fluent in?
My wife is Croatian so the word Moze is a good one to know. It means lots of different things depending on the situation, including Yes, Of Course, I Will or even Maybe and sometimes No.
What is your go-to karaoke song?
Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison.
What is a compliment that you really wish people wouldn't give you?
I get called laid back a lot, which I am, but that doesn’t mean I’m not passionate about what I’m doing or giving everything to get a job done.
What is the worst experience you have ever had on any form of transport?
I’ve been in two aborted landings on airplanes, neither experience is one I’d want to go through again! Being 50 feet off the ground about to land at Heathrow and then the pilot goes full throttle vertical in the space of a few seconds is a pretty scary ride.
What was the new technology or device that you immediately understood was going to be life-changing and how has it impacted your life?
I’m old enough to remember mobile phones coming in to work life, firstly those massive brick looking ones, swiftly followed by smaller and better mobiles we would recognise today. It just always seemed like they would change how we live, work and operate, but I don’t think even then people would’ve imagined the smart phones we all walk round with now and how our whole life revolves around them.
What should every person running for elected office be compelled to answer truthfully?
Do you understand the UK tax system and can you explain it to me?
What are the best books you've read in the past year?
I’ve got a History degree so a lot of my reading is around that genre. I’ve read Peace Makers about the 1919 Versailles Conference, Rat Line about Nazis escaping to South America post WWII plus Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell. From the sports side anything Malcolm Gladwell puts out I will buy immediately!
What are the three most rewarding podcasts, newspapers apps, or IG, YouTube and Twitter accounts you follow and why?
Anything Bob Mortimer does I will follow, be that the Athletico Mince podcast, his Twitter feed or Big Night Out with Vic Reeves. I have an app called Score Mobile that gives scores and info on sports leagues from all round the world including all the major US sports leagues so love that. Guardian app is my go to for news.
Tell us something even your colleagues might not know about you...
I played basketball for England U19s and in the National Leagues for Crystal Palace.
What non-curriculum subject(s) should be required for anyone leaving school or university to understand fully before they enter the workforce?
I would look at this the other way round and say what does the world of work need to change to make it more accessible to those people coming out of school and uni. Draconian dress codes, unfathomable meeting structures, inaccessible bosses, etc. Coming from a state school background I had no idea what office life was like and would’ve loved for someone to tell me some of the key information before I started!
If someone gave you a box that contained everything you have lost in life, what's the first thing you would search for?
I’m not someone who worries about lost items in that sense or holds on to things, all the memories I carry with me are in my brain and that’s good enough for me.
What is your worst habit?
Maybe I should ask my wife, but it’s probably how I can zone out from any conversation or interaction if sport comes on the TV.
To quote The Goo Goo Dolls, for you, '...the closest to heaven that I'll ever be...' is where, with whom, when and doing what?
Sitting on the beach on the island of Hvar in Croatia where my wife is from, having a sundown beer with her whilst the kids play in the sea.
During this lock-down what are the things you've come to value most by their absence from your life and how will you put that right when this is over?
I really miss live music, theatre and sport. When people said in the first lockdown to get a hobby I said I already had all of mine but they were not possible, so can’t wait for them to return. I especially miss visiting The Globe theatre for my fix of live Shakespeare.
Which person who you have met, or not yet met, will leave you feeling most starstruck?
I worked for the NBA for a time in the last 1990s and that included working on the Chicago Bulls games in Paris that are documented in the first couple of episodes of The Last Dance on Netflix. My job was to run the player press conferences and that included those with Michael Jordan. When he entered a press room the atmosphere was incredible and I was the person handing him the headphones and telling him how the conference would run & fielding the questions. I’ve never been so lost for words.
What is a major issue that over time you have changed your mind on, and why?
As someone who has flown a lot in his life I now understand what damage cheap air travel is doing to the environment so there does need to be a rebalance of how we travel and better management of its affects.
What is the darkest, most unsatisfactory and on-going issue you have seen or experienced in your business?
There is still too much of a “chumocracy” and people being hired because of where they went to school or who they know, especially at entry level, which means diversity is still a big issue for the sports industry.
You get to fly anywhere after the coronavirus to take a trip you've always wanted to make: Where are you going, with whom and what are you planning to do?
I would go to Chile to see the southernmost tip of the Americas and where the great oceans meet, followed by going to the Galapagos Islands to see Charles Darwin’s theories in action (with carbon footprint offsets in place!)