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Billy Celeski’s BootLab getting off on the right foot

Former Socceroo and Melbourne Victory star Billy Celeski says cleaning boots is important for players who dream of playing professionally.

The cleaning of boots has becoming something of a time-honoured tradition amongst seasoned professional football players.

For many who have scaled the heights of this great game, the memories of cleaning boots as a youngster was a humbling reminder of where they started, and considered an important lesson in the requirements of discipline and respect that grounded them on their way to the top.

In the modern day, it is not often you see elite youth players cleaning the boots of the professional peers, but former Socceroo and Melbourne Victory star Billy Celeski says cleaning their own boots is an important discipline for players who dream of playing professionally.

It was that thought process that saw Celeski identify a business opportunity and one that he has pounced on with the launch of his new boot-cleaning product, Bootlab 101.

“I wanted something that would teach kids about the importance of respecting the tools of their trade,” he told Soccerscene.

“And that’s what boots are. They are our tools, and as players we have to take care of them.”

The Bootlab 101 Boot Brush is a visually striking product.

It wouldn’t look out of place amongst the high-tech, high-design aesthetic of an Apple store.

But when it comes to Celeski’s Boot Brush, its ingenuity is in its simplicity.

A 300 ml bottle with a squeeze valve attached to a brush.

Simply fill the bottle with water, squeeze to release the water onto the boot and use the brushes to scrub them clean. Simple!

No more dragging muddy boots through the house to laundry and no more excuses from brining muddy boots into the clubhouse.

Celeski – who was a creative force on the field as a player – said however simple its application, the conception, design and manufacture of the brush was meticulously planned and carried out.

“Initially when we looked at what we could do, the research was based on looking at what kids get when they signup for a club or an academy,” he said.

“You get your kit, you get your drink bottle and maybe some merch, which is great, but what are we giving them to teach them about the importance of caring for the tools they use to play?

“I wanted to come up with a device or product that was going to trigger them to ensure they looked after those tools.

“At the end of the day, parents spend a lot of money on registration and boots and being able to take care of those boots is an important lesson for kids to learn about having respect for what their parents do for them, and a good discipline to get into when it comes to respecting themselves as well.”

Celeski employed the services of an industrial designer to bring his vision to life and said that with the product now on the market, the feedback has been great.

The brush is already in the hands of A-League and W-League stars and internationals like Jamie Maclaren and Melissa Barbieri, and Celeski said first impressions have been good.

“We gave a couple out to some professionals just to get some feedback and the flow on from that has been great,” he said.

“The feedback is good and we are getting professionals from overseas who are getting in touch with us and buying the product for themselves.

“Hopefully if we can show that it’s good enough for the professionals, then the clubs and academies and players will want it for themselves as well.”

Celeski said the Boot Lab 101 was working with a number of clubs to make the Boot Brush a part of the kit they provide players.

“We’re speaking to a couple of A-League clubs and there’s a lot of interest from NPL clubs as well, because they have players from under-7s right up to their seniors,” he said.

“We’ve cast the net far and wide and now that the product is out there and people are starting to get it in their hands and see how effective it is we’re getting good feedback.

“Players can clean their boots on the spot and leave all that mud and dirt on the ground where it’s meant to be and out of their clubrooms, their lawns or their laundry.”

With B2B a core focus of Boot Lab 101’s sales strategy, Celeski confirmed his company is looking at the best branding possibilities for the bottles, so that they can be branded with club logos and sponsors.

Boot Lab also offers wholesale pricing for clubs, academies and associations who place large orders.

“The brand is starting to get out there,” he said.

“I feel as it is early days, but the feedback is good and we believe we’ve delivered a quite innovative product that doesn’t really have much in the way of comparable products.

“Once we start announcing some of the clubs we’re working with, I’m confident we will see a domino effect and more will come as a result.”

You can purchase the Boot Lab 101 Boot Brush via the company’s online store. 

Clubs, academies, federations and interested stockists can learn more about wholesale pricing via the Boot Lab 101 website.

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Matthew Galea is a sports journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy and industry matters, drawing on his knowledge and passion of the game.

A-League Set to Return on July 16

After months of inactivity, the A-League will officially be returning to action next month.

July 16 is the current date that has been planned out by the FFA. Melbourne Victory and Western United look set to kick things off again on that day.

Former Victory star striker Besart Berisha will face his old side once again after getting the better of them earlier in the season.

FFA’s Head of Leagues, Greg O’Rourke had this to say regarding the season restart.

“We have developed multiple draw options for the completion of the regular season”.

“All options commence with Victory taking on Western United at AAMI Park followed by a game between the table topping Sydney FC against third-placed Wellington Phoenix at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium the following day.

“The reason for having multiple draw options — which our clubs are across — is due to the fact that over the next few weeks there may be additional relaxations in border restrictions and travel movements in Australia, which may enable our clubs from Victoria, Queensland and South Australia to remain and play in their home cities, rather than relocating to New South Wales to complete the season.

“We are confident that we will be able to release the revised draw for the completion of the Hyundai A-League 2019/20 season soon.”

So although the season will definitely be getting back underway, there are still lots of variables at play.

As we already know, due to overseas travel restrictions, the Wellington Phoenix have been forced to play all games on Australian soil. Now, with New Zealand’s COVID-19 count basically at zero (which is great), it’s even more unlikely that the New Zealand government will allow any changes to that.

Furthermore, the Australian government would be silly to even propose the question.

Although the Phoenix have no choice but to stay in their ‘hub’, the FFA appears to be very strong-minded on avoiding the use of hubs across the country.

In the AFL, several clubs from Western Australia and South Australia are now being forced to temporarily relocate to Queensland. This is to avoid any potential exposure to COVID-19.

In the NRL, one player was found to have potentially been in contact with a primary school kid who had the virus, leading to suggestions that his side’s fixtures would need to be postponed again.

The impact that even one A-League player with the virus would have could be catastrophic for the FFA and their plans to restart the season.

Players are now allowed to start training as per usual, starting today Wednesday the 17th of June.

With other competitions around the country starting up again, now is an ideal time for the FFA to get the ball rolling. It will also be a good test of how well the A-League performs compared to its winter counterparts.

The A-League, as we all know is played during our summer and hopefully, with renewed interest, it can showcase itself well against the likes of the AFL or the NRL.

Nevertheless, we think it’s safe to say that we’re just glad to have live sports back as we start to creep back into normality.

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Celtic team up with production company Sunset+Vine

Scottish champions Celtic have gained the support of Sunset+Vine, a production company who will deliver live match coverage.

Scottish champions Celtic have gained the support of Sunset+Vine, a production company who will deliver live match coverage.

As matches are set to be played behind closed doors for the foreseeable future, enhancing digital content is at the forefront for the Celtic. The Scottish powerhouse are aiming to deliver coverage of their home games to fans via an online pass.

Sunset+Vine work with UK broadcaster BT Sport to cover the UEFA Europa League and Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL). The production company will provide staff and commentators to complement the current setup at Celtic TV.

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According to reports in Scotland, Johan Mjallby, John Hartson and Chris Sutton are all in the running to feature in the coverage.

Access to live match coverage both locally and internationally to fans is currently offered by Celtic and the addition of a production company will add extra benefits on top of post-match replays and extra programming.

Celtic’s idea of adding a more club-focussed virtual season ticket is in relation to the SPFL and pay-TV broadcaster Sky Sports agreeing to let teams air their home games for next season. It is hoped that this will allow clubs to source income from elsewhere.

Virtual season tickets will be sold by clubs who can decide on appropriate pricing models – and made available until fans are allowed to return to games.

“Clearly, current circumstances are totally out with our control, and while getting our supporters back to Celtic Park is our absolute priority, until this is the case, through our season ticket, we aim to give our fans the best access we can to SPFL matches at Celtic Park,” said a club spokesperson.

“We will be making a significant investment in this project, partnering with one of the best production companies around and will deliver an experience, with top expertise and contributors, which will put our fans at the heart of the action from Celtic Park.”

The 2019/20 SPFL season finished up prematurely in May due to the coronavirus pandemic, where Celtic were crowned champions for the ninth season in a row. Attention now focuses to the next campaign which is due to begin in early August.

UK based Eleven Sports Media continues to evolve – where next?

Founded in 2009, Eleven Sports Media continues to have a huge impact on the world of sport, particularly football.

The UK company provides a range of in-stadium products, that give fans a better engagement experience at the stadium.

The company’s development team built both its StadiumTV and StatTV platforms, which are a big part of the match day experience for over 500,000 fans in the UK.

The StadiumTV platform has over 1,800 screens and is now showcased at over 50 sporting venues, making Eleven the biggest media network in UK sport.

Its StatTV and StatTracker channel brings live stats to stadiums and official club social media platforms.

While their products continue to garner widespread attention, brands associated with the company are allowed to engage with these huge audiences across the football landscape.

Eleven have provided various partners with comprehensive activations, including PR support, detailed campaign reports, social media amplification and organised marketing opportunities.

The company has had critical success with its Partner Programmes setup, with their model recognised as the best in the Football Business Awards.

Eleven have a partnership with the London Stadium as well as clubs such as Newcastle United, Rangers Football Club and Leeds United.

The company believes the expertise and knowledge they have is a huge asset in a commercial partnership programme.

“We realised that many brands failed to have a predefined activation plan when they were partnering with clubs,” CEO of Eleven Sports Media, Matt Cairns, told fcbusiness.

“They were spending money on acquiring rights but then didn’t have a plan in place to fully activate that sponsorship and make it work.”

Eleven identified that there was little structure to most commercial partner programmes, therefore they implemented an organised tiered structure.

The use of segmented LED with their proprietary inventory, as well as a strong focus on applying activation strategies, help brands pinpoint the commercial opportunities they can capitalise on.

“We’ve sold or facilitated over 300 partnerships in the last 12 months and everyone has had built in activation which has been delivered by Eleven.

“We advise each partner on the exposure to be gained from the media buy, but also ensure that their campaign is amplified by helping the partner celebrate the partnership and ultimately raise the profile of the brand by taking their association with the club beyond traditional football audiences.”

Many start-ups lack the resources to take advantage of commercial benefits in a partnership, so Eleven has tried to address this.

By arranging an end-to-end solution, Eleven takes accountability to ensure partnerships are fully activated.

“For a partner programme to have true commercial success, it goes well beyond having the correct list of assets.

“There are dozens of variables which will result in success or failure, at Eleven we believe that it is that attention to detail which sets us apart from anyone else in the industry,” added Cairns.

Eleven gives clubs access to in-depth insights, campaign analysis and sales training to improve aspects of each partnership.

The use of Eleven’s Insights department has already given clubs the opportunity to achieve their highest commercial numbers in a partnership.

“Although clubs have commercial teams, many don’t have that dedicated resource around insight that we have where they can really delve into that next level of commercial insight,” added Eleven’s commercial manager, Jordan Wilson.

“We found that we were delivering it so successfully for ourselves it made sense that clubs should get this too and they’re finding it really valuable.

“It also gives us that next level of insight when creating new partnerships, ones that are meaningful and built on something.”

Cairns adds: “When a company is investing in a high-level sponsorship it can achieve certain goals by a standard associated set of rights, but it won’t achieve the true value unless it is harnessed and leveraged by the brand to the point it becomes ingrained in every part of the organisation.

“We understand that and have got a proven track record in delivering this service.”

With over ten significant UK Clubs already using the model, the Eleven Partner Programme is looking to explore its possibilities in Europe and other areas.

Is this a viable proposition to those in Australian football circles?

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