Having spent 74 years trying to make it back to the top flight – losing three play-off finals along the way – Brentford finally exorcised their demons last weekend to secure their place in the Premier League following an historic 2-0 win over Swansea.

David Chaplin, who completed a placement year at UCFB, led the sales team for Brentford’s new stadium under his role as Director of Commercial Operations at STADIMAX. Here, he tells UCFB what the promotion means to the club, and how they’ve prepared on and off the pitch…

Congratulations on Brentford’s promotion! How did it feel to finally win a play-off final?

Fantastic. I know a lot of people at the club associate Wembley and play-off finals with heartache, so to finally get there at the tenth attempt, it was a great feeling for everyone at the club and everyone associated with the club. It’s been the vision to build a team that’s Premier League ready both on and off the pitch, and it’s great that now on the pitch they’ve become Premier League ready, and everything off the pitch is there as well with the stadium and facilities in place.


What was it like being at Wembley for the big day?

It was a great privilege to be there. It was such a shame there couldn’t be a full house, or more fans were able to see it, just to see the emotion of what it meant to everyone to be there and all the hard work that’s gone into it. It wasn’t easy picking themselves up from last season and the pain they suffered, so to make it up this season is a joy for everyone at the club.

One of the core values of the club is togetherness, you can see that from all the players to the coaching staff and kit men, and those off the pitch as well. Everyone has the same goal of being together, working towards the same thing and being Premier League ready. Exciting times ahead I believe!

How did you all celebrate?

We were lucky enough to share the moment with some of the sales team we worked with throughout the past two years selling the new stadium. We got together, we saw the fans coming down and it was a great moment just to see what it meant to everyone to achieve this. From what I hear there was a big party afterwards as well, so fantastic times that I’m sure we’ll remember for many years to come. Those moments don’t come around all too often.

What does it mean to a club of Brentford’s size and history to be promoted to the Premier League for the first time?

I think it’s massive for the club and is part of the journey of progressing forwards. Brentford’s a very progressive club and everything they want to do is just punching above their weight and maximising the resources they have, and I think that will continue as they adapt to the Premier League.

It’s massive in terms of the level of fans they can attract coming into the ground, the players, the recruitment side. It gives more of a platform for Brentford as a club to work from, and will mean there’s a lot more they can do with their fans going forward.

Tell us about your role as Head of Sales at Brentford Community Stadium and some of the highlights.

We were brought in in 2018 for a new stadium, which had been a long-term ambition of Brentford’s, and to create a stadium that could cope with the demands of the fans. There’s a lot more at the new ground they can do in terms of fan experience and fan activations on a match day, whether that’s the family friendly zone, the sensory room, or better food and beverage facilities. They were very limited with what they could do at Griffin Park – it was a lovely ground with lots of history, but in reality it was very limiting for the club.

Whereas the new stadium has just under 2,000 premium seats, more offerings of fan experience, but you’ve still got that feeling of intimacy and being very close to the pitch. It’s a great new modern stadium. We took the club from just under 50 premium supporters to nearly 2,000, and season ticket holders from 6,000 to just under 10,000, so it’s a massive move for the club and it allows them to do a lot more going forward. It’s going to totally transform the club, and the extra revenue can hopefully help bring more success onto the pitch as well.

Do you think the new stadium helped play a part in Brentford’s promotion?

Definitely. It gives the players that environment that the club is Premier League ready, and everything off the pitch is there, we just need to get there on the pitch. It plays a great part in the match day experience for the players and has really created that positive flow that we’ve carried on this season, and has obviously paid off. It’s going to be exciting when the stadium fully opens, it’s going to be an incredible atmosphere and I’m sure many clubs won’t be wanting to play away games there! It’s going to be quite a hard place to go to I think.

Aside from the practicalities of relocating stadiums, what was the emotional impact at the club of leaving Griffin Park after 116 years?

It’s always going to be sad to say goodbye to something that’s played such a big part in the club’s history and heritage, especially Griffin Park and the stadium that it was – one that is very popular with not only Brentford fans but all football fans across the country. The pubs on four corners, the terraces still in place, it was always going to be an emotional farewell. It’s a shame that not all fans got to say farewell at the final game of last season, but going forward it will be good to have the stadium where you don’t have to sacrifice the half time toilet break to miss five or ten minutes of the second half. There will always be those incredible moments from Griffin Park that the fans will cherish, and hopefully in the next ten or 20 years some new moments are made for the next generation of Brentford fans.

Do you base your work in the stadiums around the individual culture at each club?

Yes – it’s important to take into account that each club will have its own unique parts of its fan base that we need to work with and the history and heritage of the club that we need to bring out. Whether that’s having a local voice on the end of the phone or finding in-depth knowledge that something won’t work at a certain club because of the culture of the fan base, it’s important for us to tailor the design process around this.

We do a lot of research wherever we go – for instance at Brentford one of the things we found with the premium seating was that people are incredibly time poor, and there was a desire for a flexible option that didn’t include dining within the packages, so that was something we incorporated.

What advice do you have for UCFB students looking to break into the sports industry?

Push the boundaries. Do stuff you’re not necessarily comfortable with and take as many chances as you can from anything. I was fortunate enough, when I did my placement year at UCFB, to work closely with Paul Fletcher who took me under his wing. I learnt more in the car journeys with him, going to different UCAS fairs, than I have elsewhere. There’s so many different things in the sports industry that you might think you’re not interested in, but give everything a shot and if you find something you’re good at just continue from there.