We recently sat down with two of UCFB’s BA (Hons) Football Business & Marketing academics Russell Preston and Mohammed Seedat, to chat the Qatar 2022 World Cup, UCFB’s growth and the evolving marketing landscape…

How long have you both been in teaching?

Russell Preston: This September I reached a milestone of 25 years of teaching business, economics and of course marketing.

Mohammed Seedat: I am at the start of my career after completing my teaching qualification. This is my fifth year of teaching at UCFB.

How did you both meet?

RP: I arrived from Vietnam the week prior to starting at UCFB Burnley and was allocated a seat next to Mo, facing a wall with our backs to the whole office; I wondered what I had done to deserve this in a previous life!

MS: I remember clearly the good times at UCFB Burnley where we used to count the number of Burnley FC shirts worn in the town centre. We saw Burnley promoted to the Premier League, relegated, and then promoted again. What a fantastic club with a great manager. I still remember your selfie on the pitch, Russell, when they got promoted.

Tell us something about yourselves we don’t know.

RP: I went to South Africa in 2010 for the World Cup, but also found great pleasure living there and coaching schoolchildren on the townships around Port Elizabeth where I was based for three months.

With 25 years of teaching business management, what would you say has been the greatest change in marketing? 

RP: Apart from the digital revolution, it has been a move towards customer relationship marketing throughout all organisations. This can be accomplished far quicker now with the internet and the data organisations can capture about their customers.

What do you think is the next step?

MS: In my opinion, ‘experience’ is what all companies are now offering. Even football clubs are packaging their product as an ‘experience’ through matchday, stadium tours and online engagement. In addition, strategically, there are lots of innovative developments happening to improve fan engagement.

Sticking with ‘experiences’, how has the move to the Etihad Campus improved the learning experience for UCFB students?

RP: We are now in the epicentre of a sporting city with a greater breadth of resources to be able to use and bring into the teaching element. For example, our students have the opportunity to visit the National Football Museum and, subsequently, our second year students are planning an event on their behalf to be hosted at the Etihad Campus. Our students also have greater employable opportunities in Manchester.

MS: We recently took students to Old Trafford football ground for a stadium and museum tour. This is in preparation for assessment two, hence, using all our available resources in Manchester to improve the learning experience.

What a coup it was recently getting two representatives from the Qatar 2022 World Cup Supreme Committee to talk to our students. Can you share what the rationale was for reaching out to such people?

MS: Through my contacts in Qatar we managed to arrange a Skype call with two representatives from the Committee, one of which was a Welshman. The focus was on helping our marketing students get to grips with PESTLE (political, economic, social, technological, legal and environmental) analysis. I thought who better to ask than Qatar which has so many variables impacting on this particular World Cup.

RP: It was amazing for our students, it contemporised the curriculum and aided students in their understanding of the topic to hand. What we saw and discussed on the call was exclusive and confidential which added to the sense of importance.  I think many students felt uplifted by the stadiums and future planning for this World Cup.

MS: I agree with your comments, Russell. I feel a lot more confident about the Qatar 2022 World Cup. It really took me aback seeing the stadiums which are being built with all the latest technology and foresight for utilisation. I felt the two representatives were honest about Qatar 2022 – I can’t wait for my invitation! Russell, what’s this I am hearing about someone from UEFA delivering a workshop to our marketing students?

RP: That is for another time and place, but watch this space, we have more to come over the next few months…

What are the challenges for Qatar 2022?

RP: Customer satisfaction at attending a major international event. What we heard from the committee was 15,000 fans will be provided accommodation on cruise liners, camp sites will be available to give people a more Middle Eastern experience, and the pitches in the stadium will be cooled, probably by at least 20 to 30 celsius. This means the match experience will be much more comfortable.

What did you learn from the Qatar 2022 Skype workshop?

MS: All the stadiums in Qatar have been designed and consulted with the local community to meet their needs. Eight stadiums in total, and seven are currently in different stages of construction.

The Khalifa International Stadium has already been built, hosting 40,000 fans, and will become Qatar’s national stadium post-2022. The quarter-finals will be played inside this four star GSAS sustainability stadium – let’s hope England can make it to this stage! Innovative cooling technology is in place to keep players and fans comfortable throughout the year.

The Al-Bayt Stadium in Al-Khor City will have unique modular seating installed with a stadium capacity of 60,000, and 28,000 seats will be donated to schools and other public buildings around Qatar post-tournament. This is where the semi-final matches will be played. The stadium design is based on Qatar’s heritage and shaped like a Bedouin tent. I love how each stadium is unique in its own way, and all the stadium designs blend in with the local communities’ culture and heritage.   

Al Wakrah Stadium is a British design by Zaha Hadid, with a capacity of 40,000. This will be a multi-purpose stadium with a school, hospital and wedding venue, as requested by the local commmunity. The stadium will also host retail and leisure opportunities after the tournament, and 20,000 seats will be donated to football development projects overseas. It will become the home for Al Wakrah Sports Club who are in the Qatar Super League.

The Al-Thumama Stadium is my favourite design, only because I occasionally wear the traditional Arab headdress, the ‘gahfiya’ – a traditional woven cap worn by males across the Arab world and beyond. The actual stadium is modelled on a traditional Arab headdress designed by renowned Qatari architect Ibrahim M. Jaidah. The circular stadium will host 40,000 fans and the design represents unity among the Arabs and Muslims across the Middle East. A boutique hotel will replace the upper stand.

State of the art Q-Rail Metro will operate 24-hours a day during the World Cup. It will be around two minutes’ travel time between stations. Also planned is 34 expressways to ease traffic across Qatar, and Hamad International Airport will also see expansion by 2022.

Qatar is hoping to become a smarter and more sustainable country. One of the most unique features of this tournament is the compact aspect and it will have a profound impact on fans and players. Amazingly, the tournament footprint is just over half the size of Greater London.