Pitchbooking makes it easier to find and book a local sports facility

Gary Davidson, November 8, 2019 3 min read

Frustrated with the process of booking sports facilities for casual games of football, the founders of Belfast-based Pitchbooking set out to create an online platform for paying to play games in their home town.

They quickly realised that it was a much wider issue than first thought, and after initially intending to give away the platform for free, they discovered that facility owners and local government would be willing to pay for a solution that would meet their needs.

We spoke to Pitchbooking founder Fearghal Campbell to find out more.

What’s Pitchbooking’s story?

Fearghal Campbell: Pitchbooking launched with Oxford City Council is January 2018, and since then it has added more than 500 facilities across the UK and Ireland to its list of customers. Our founders (Chris, Shea and myself) are childhood friends and we now have a team of 10 working on making us the first choice scheduling and payment solution for sports facilities.

What problem are you trying to solve?

Sports facilities are vital to our local communities. But they are increasingly expensive to build and maintain. Increasingly, they have to be commercially viable in their own right.

Poor utilisation of sports facilities results on average in a loss of £62,000 per individual facility each year – that’s more than £3bn for sports facilities across the UK. The current process of finding, booking and paying for a suitable facility is broken, with barriers at every stage of the process which leads to prospective users falling off without making a booking.

We make it easy for the public to find, book and pay for a local facility of their choosing. Furthermore, our manager tools take the strain off employees and volunteers who have to perform the daily admin work of running a sports facility.

Talk us through how Pitchbooking works

We are a scheduling and payments solution for sports facilities. First, we let the public search by location and sport for a facility that is suitable. Then we host the availability of our facilities on an easily accessible calendar that allows the public to book their preferred slot and pay online. Email confirmation of the booking instantly arrives, informing the booker and the facility manager that a new booking has been made. The facility manager has a full suite of tools to manage everything from availability through to accepted payment methods, reporting and communications with their bookers.

What makes you better than the competition?

We facilitate and fully manage the booking process end-to-end, allowing our users to book a facility of their choice in under 60 seconds. We are going further than anyone to ensure there are no barriers to booking a facility, on any device, at any time. In addition to this, we have created our suite of management tools in conjunction with our early customers, so we cover any specific requirements that sports facility owners have, as opposed to creating a more generic booking engine.

Have you faced any particular business challenges – and how did you overcome them?

Plenty! We sell to a sector that relies heavily on volunteers and therefore is one in which there isn’t typically a lot of spare money floating around; so we had to work hard in the early days to ensure there was a clear financial benefit in paying for a software solution like ours. Once we had proof from our first few customers that using the Pitchbooking platform brought in much more in revenue than it cost, this got easier.

What do you wish you had known when you started Pitchbooking?

I wish we had got involved with the local tech startup ecosystem a little earlier. We actually left quite a few opportunities for support behind us by not realising that it was out there to be utilised. It was only after officially launching our product that we recognised the different avenues we could take right here in Belfast.

Where are you based?

We are based out of the Ormeau Baths in sunny Belfast. There is plenty to like about the ecosystem here; there is a lot of early-stage support to get a tech business off the ground – from advice and guidance to grant money and capital.

What’s on the horizon for Pitchbooking?

There are currently a few UK-wide customer partnerships in the works, so it is a really exciting time for the whole team. Our software-as-a-service (or SaaS) product is constantly improving, but we do have a complete revamp of our facility manager tools due for release later this year. Look out for that one!

Community, Northern Ireland