Introducing Mike McSweeney

Wednesday 8 November 2017 17:00

We caught up with the Fulham FC Foundation’s new CEO Mike McSweeney on his role, his previous spell at the Club, and what’s coming up for the Foundation.

Tell us about your role as CEO, Mike.

One thing I didn’t realise was the breadth and scope of the Foundation’s work. We interact with 11,000-plus individuals on a yearly basis in a vast number of areas, including education, so we’ve been in Brixton Prison, we’ve been in Feltham Young Offenders delivering employability courses, and we deliver in over 40 primary, secondary and further education establishments. We do a lot of work on inclusion, so we’re out in some very tough areas with hard to reach individuals who we’re trying to engage to build better lives through sport and integrate these individuals better into their society. Our disability programmes cover a wide range of abilities and following the successful Cohen Fund we run regular health programmes, including Walking Football and Fulham Memories. So one of the day to day bits for me at the moment is fully understanding exactly every area we work in, creating a bit of focus for us to ensure we are delivering every programme with excellence. My main approach has been out seeing everything we’re doing, I spend a lot of time on the ground, speaking to coaches, parents, participants and our partners, getting a real understanding of what’s happening on a daily basis. We are delivering seven days a week from 8am to 9pm on over 30 programmes, so this is going to take a bit of time!

You’re no stranger to Fulham though…

I spent 10 years in the commercial team from 2004-2014, so I know all things Club-related very well. My main role was centred around sponsorship, ticketing and hospitality, but throughout that time I volunteered with the Foundation. I spent 10-plus years with the Fulham Badgers which gave me a really good insight into how the Foundation works, and from that volunteering we did some great pioneering projects in Hong Kong and Norway. That gave me a really passion for the sector. When I left Fulham in 2014 to join the Lawn Tennis Association – the governing body for British Tennis – I carried on volunteering because I believed in what the Foundation stood for and I wanted to be a part of the great work they were doing.

And you were heavily involved in our charity fixtures?

One of the things we did when I was previously at the Club was working with the Fulham Legends on creating the All Stars fixture, which I think has had three matches now, and is something we’ll look at again. Pioneering that type of project was a really good initiative for me to be involved with when I was at the Club.

What made you come back?

When the opportunity arose to explore the role I was clearly very interested. One of my reasons for that was not only my knowledge of the great work the Foundation do, but actually the relationship the Foundation have with the Club. It’s a very strong relationship, it’s an absolute partnership. The Club really value everything the Foundation do, so coming back I knew we’d have that buy-in from the Club to deliver on our mission, which was a big opportunity for me. Also, the reputation of the Foundation and its staff speak for themselves. I knew I would be coming into a workforce and environment where there is passion, dedication and a genuine desire to make a difference within the communities we operate in.

Have you noticed many changes since you were last here?

I left partway through the season we got relegated. Obviously I spent my decade here previously during the Premier League days, so coming back three-and-a-half years later things have changed because naturally they have to. But one of the great things is there’s a lot of consistency in the values and the approach that the Club has – it is absolutely a family-orientated club. There are lots of good people still here who I worked very closely with before, and again that’s another reason for me to come back.

The Foundation has received a lot of recognition recently, which must be pleasing?

In the last 12 months the Foundation won five awards and the main reason for that is the great work the people within the organisation do. The workforce are a huge credit not only to the Foundation but to the Club. Any awards we’ve won should be reflected on the excellent workforce we’ve got in place. They challenge themselves and the programmes they manage to continually be better. We want to create a culture of teamwork, service excellence, enthusiasm and empowerment. However, we can’t do this on our own and we have to thank a huge amount of partners in addition, to the Club, for their continued support, including sponsors, funders, local authorities and our own fans.

And what has the Foundation got coming up?

Our official charity game is against Birmingham City on Saturday 9th December. One of the big areas that we have to focus on is fundraising because otherwise some of our projects could become slightly vulnerable. We’ve coined a very simple term, which is ‘Bring A Pound To The Ground.’ We want to get the message out there that if every supporter brings a pound and we have, say, 20,000 people at the Birmingham game, then that’s a lot of money. We want to let our Season Ticket Holders and our fans know about some of the great work we do, so we’re going to showcase some of this work at the game on the 9th. So please bring a pound to the ground, before watching what will hopefully be a great match!