Heroes of VIP Hospitality: Peter Hutton

Peter Hutton is Facebook’s director of sports partnerships and in charge of the group’s global relationship with sport across Facebook, Instagram, Whats App, Messenger, Portal and Oculus. He was originally a sports journalist on local radio, then moved via local TV, BSB and Sky, to IMG (where he launched Futbol Mundial). He accidently became IMG’s first employee in India, and lived in Delhi, Hong Kong and Colombo for 8 years at the time satellite TV was arriving in Asia. Peter helped start Ten Sports in Dubai in 2002 before joining Fox, and becoming MD at ESPN/Star in Singapore, which he re-branded as Fox Sports. Before joining Facebook two years ago he was co-CEO of rights agency MP & Silva in London, before joining Eurosport as CEO in 2014.

What was the first Live Event Hospitality programme that you attended, and what particular impressions did it make on you?

Tilcon Trophy county cricket in Harrogate in about 1980 at the age of 14. Somehow my Dad had persuaded his company (Sun Life Assurance) to take a marquee on the edge of the pitch [DAIMANI Journal: This was the scorecard for the day]. My main impression was how much adults can drink and bemusement that no-one wanted to go home hours after the game. First one ‘in the industry’ was probably the 1996 World Cup cricket finals in the sub-continent, where I watched my IMG colleagues go through logistical nightmares to create an experience that was both ground-breaking and a perfect product-market fit.

And what is your favourite Live Event that you would encourage everyone to book when it goes on sale, and what makes it so special?

I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy some great ones. UEFA Champions League football always stands out, because of the quality of the experience: from the delivery to the venue, the seating, the quality of the company, the food and that sense that you want to be there for hours before hand and at least an hour afterwards. There’s no temptation to just arrive for kick off.

My favourite though is probably still going to Derby County where I go with family in hospitality once a year. Taking an inside view of something you spend your life obsessing about is always a treat. In my role offering hospitality in the last few years I’ve always bent the guest lists to find ‘genuine fans’, who will really value the experience.

[For more information on Derby County’s official VIP Hospitality options please click here.]

Who do you consider to be your business mentor or mentors, and what particular examples did they imprint on your business values?

I’ve been lucky to have had some great mentors – notably IMG’s Bill Sinrich, who gave me the space to make things happen and showed great patience and support.

Bill Sinrich, who transformed TWI, now IMG Media, into the world’s largest independent sports producer and distributor, with a string of prestigious clients including the International Olympic Committee, Wimbledon, the R & A, and Rugby World Cup.

Vic Wakeling brought me to London in 1989 for the launch of BSB and was brilliant on focussing editorially. In early days in radio Harry Gration and Tony Delahunty gave me chances as a radio commentator when I was only 16, and their confidence in cheap labour was very important.

[Sky Sports News pays tribute to Sky Sports head Vic Wakeling after his death in 2017 aged 73.]

What was the most significant ‘Sliding Doors’ moment in your career, and how did this impact you?

In 1994 I went in to TWI to give in my notice after a year working as a producer of Futbol Mundial. Bill Sinrich asked me if I fancied six months in India producing domestic cricket. Eight years later I finally left India after some of the most important experiences of my career, from cricket to Bollywood, running one of IMG’s biggest offices worldwide and production for TWI across Asia. Right place, right time, right group of friends. India gave me the basis to do all the managerial jobs I’ve done since.

If you had access to your lifetime stats in any area, what would you put forward as your most interesting statistic, and what should be learn from this?

Unbeaten record as captain of Shadwell Cubs football team. Chose your teammates wisely.

[For those not in the know, Shadwell is a village six miles north east of Leeds.]

Impressionable moments

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?

Matlock 4 Scarborough 0 - FA trophy final 1975. Dad, Uncle, Grandad and the whole town alongside me on Wembley’s wooden benches. Everything that a great sporting moment should have, and we all shared joy at a huge upset after years of struggle.

[Peter’s father has a footballing blog that documents the build up to the 1975 FA Trophy Final, with the Matlock ‘Gladiators’ seen very much as underdogs.

Who was playing at the first concert you attended, where and when, and what do you remember of the experience?

I would love to say it was the magnificent Clash at Leeds University 1982 but actually it was Haircut One Hundred a couple of years earlier at the same refectory where I spent a good chunk of my teenage years because it was walking distance from school. My main memory of that concert was ‘Don’t think I’ll buy the album’.

[Recommended listening]

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?

Hillsborough – I was working there that day as a journalist and I worked then every day of the enquiry. Still makes me angry.

[In 2012 British Prime Minister David Cameron apologised to the family of the 96 Liverpool fans killed at Hillsborough at an FA Cup semifinal in 1989. His comments followed the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel report which found that as many as 41 of those killed could have been saved if the match had been better organised, and that over 160 witness statements had been altered by South Yorkshire Police.]

What was your childhood or earliest ambition?

To be a sports journalist – I was writing match reports from the age of nine.

Which experience had the biggest impact on your life and how you see the world?

Living in India between 1994 and 2002. Changed career, got married, lost hair, and gained a bank of stories.

If your 15-year-old self could see you now, what would he think and what advice would you pass back to your younger self?

‘What the hell happened to my hair?’ My advice to my younger self would be: Maybe see more of a country than the airport, hotel and football ground.

Tell us something even your colleagues might not know about you

I was lucky enough to be there for some of recent history’s most important moments. I was in Johannesburg for the Mandela election, in Berlin shortly after the Wall fell, in Hong Kong for the Handover, and in Moscow for the opening of the first McDonald’s.

What’s the best, most useful word from another language that you aren’t fluent in?

Inshallah - occupies that useful space between promising and not promising.

What is/was the new technology or device that you immediately understood was going to be life-changing?

I reported on a ‘Cellnet’ brick-sized mobile phone in 1986 when covering the Hockey World Cup – mobile phones changed radio reporting overnight. Most of the previous year I’d been reporting on Yorkshire cricket from telephone boxes.

Bloomberg Business looks at the first mobile phone ever built through the recollections of Motorola’s Dr Martin Cooper who is credited with inventing wireless phone communication.

Who have you been confused with and how did it end up?

The security woman at Facebook headquarters calls me Matthew every day I come in. It’s gone past the point of me correcting her and I now just answer to Matthew quite happily.


What are the best books you’ve read in the past year?

Endurance by Rick Broadbent - the extraordinary life and times of Emil Zatopek.

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami.

Who is your favourite new artist?

Angèle – the Belgian singer (credit for the introduction goes to our 16-year-old son Sam).

Angèle’s music video / consumer spoof 'Oui ou Non' was launched in November last year and already has 33m views on her official YouTube channel.

What are the three most rewarding accounts you follow and why?

Derby County forum - for the knowledge that it's not just me.

The Facebook group Cricket Grounds of Britain a reminder of home, particularly thanks to my Dad’s enthusiastic contributions to the group.

Rich Greenfield on Twitter - excellent analysis of the media world.

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 over?

We miss home and family – I am absolutely sure both my wife and I will be on flights as soon as we can.

It’s also very apparent how much sport is missed every day of the week, and not just on match days.

What is something your generation did that you regret most your children’s generation will never get to experience or understand?

The excitement of waking up on FA Cup final day.

[ITV’s Dickie Davies previews a full day of sporting action, including the all-important wrestling super star Big Daddy, leading into the 1982 FA Cup Final between Tottenham and Queen’s Park Rangers. The two teams would draw 1-1 with Spurs winning the Cup 1-0 in the replay.

What is the darkest, most unsatisfactory thing you have seen or experienced in our business?

My daily reporting on the inquiries into the Bradford fire and the Hillsborough disaster. It mixed that awful sense of the familiar grounds that I’d grown up in, with the horror of what happened those days.

Author image
Charlie Charters is a former rugby union official and sports marketing executive turned thriller writer whose debut book Bolt Action was published by Hodder & Stoughton in 2010.
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