Leisure Leagues: The franchise opportunity

The leading franchise of five and six a-side football leagues explains how it gives franchisees the chance to earn a 'full-time wage' without working full-time hours...

Franchise: Leisure Leagues
Description: The world’s largest provider of small sided football leagues
Started in: 1991
Founders: A group of leisure facility managers
No. of franchises: 34
Coverage: UK, Ireland and USA
Average cost per franchise: £4,995 +V AT (new areas)
Website: www.leisureleagues.net

Leisure Leagues was started over 20 years ago by a group of Midlands sports facility managers. After launching their own leagues at work, the team soon realised what a great success the leagues were and the decision was made to develop leagues elsewhere – ‘Leisure Leagues’ was born.

Moving into franchising

So how did you move into franchising?

It was felt that there were some great advantages in being ‘local’ especially in terms of team recruitment and customer service, this has since been proven time and time again as it is evident that a franchisee is able to exploit the potential of an area far greater than we can ‘remotely’ from head office.

Where did the business open its first franchises?

The first franchises were in Cheshire and Leominster and were at completely different ‘ends of the scale’ with Steve in Cheshire purchasing a number of existing leagues and therefore ‘buying an immediate income’, whereas Julie started a league from scratch in the small market town of Leominster.

How successful were those original franchisees?

Steve was very quickly able to develop further leagues alongside the existing leagues he took over and continues to run a successful portfolio of leagues. Julie exceeded our expectations in Leominster by starting a 16 team league within a couple of weeks of her training. Following on from this success, Julie bought the rest of Herefordshire and now operates five leagues within the county.

The franchise opportunity

What makes the franchise different / unique?

A Leisure Leagues franchise puts our franchisees into a unique and enviable position, as they have the ability to offer a locally focused customer service. coupled with the infrastructure and branding of a well-established international organisation.

What services do you offer?

We offer full training in all aspects of the business and dedicated ongoing support to all our franchisees. They have full access to our state of the art fully interactive website and their league information is also featured on our smartphone app. We provide an initial supply of promotional materials and also spend some time in their territory training them on how to carry out effective team recruitment marketing.

How big is the market opportunity?

The product itself – ‘football’ – is not difficult to sell and therefore the potential market is huge as all levels of ability and fitness can be catered for. More people now play small sided football in the UK than the traditional 11 a side version of the game and this is a growing trend year on year.

A franchisee has the opportunity to diversify from the ‘mainstream’ adult men’s leagues by offering ladies, veterans, corporate or children’s leagues.

How many franchisees do you have today?

We currently have 34 franchisees, with new franchisees joining us every month.

How is the brand marketed?

They use a variety of methods to recruit new teams including flyers, posters, facility banners and , ever more increasingly, use the power of social media.

How do you divide the regions?

A typical franchise territory contains a population in excess of 100,000, and our general rule of thumb is that there is generally at least one team available for every thousand of the population.

The perfect franchisee

What do you look for in potential franchisees?

The key characteristics we look for in a franchisee are excellent communication and organisational skills and the determination to make their business a success. Although an interest in football is beneficial it isn’t essential as there is no coaching involved as the franchisee is a service provider, and that ‘service’ is social, competitive football.

So do franchisees work from an office, or are they home-based? Is it part-time or full-time?

There is no need for a franchisee to have premises, they can operate from home and as they don’t carry vast amounts of stock, storage shouldn’t be an issue either.

The franchise is very flexible and can be operated on either a part-time or full-time basis. As the games are played in the evenings and at weekends it can easily be managed alongside more traditional 9-5 full-time roles, particularly in the early stages as team numbers are built up.

With more teams playing it is possible to earn a ‘full-time wage’ without actually working full-time hours.

How are franchisees vetted?

We meet all prospective franchisees at our Warwickshire head office as part of the application process, this works both ways as they have the opportunity to get a feel for the infrastructure that would be supporting them as a franchisee.

What do you offer franchisees that sign-up?

As well as comprehensive training and support, we supply new franchisees with a full set of the equipment required to run a league as well as a whole host of promotional materials to help with their initial marketing campaign.

How much do franchisees pay and what are the ongoing franchise fees?

A typical ‘new’ area, where we don’t currently operate leagues, has a standard franchise fee of £4,995 + VAT. For this, as well as full training and support, we provide all the equipment needed to get their first league started such as footballs, staff uniforms, bibs and cones etc.

Once up and running they then pay a weekly management fee of £3 + VAT per team, this covers their public liability insurance, web hosting and ongoing support.  There is also the opportunity to take over one of our head office run leagues if any are available near to where they are based. Although the prices for these vary in relation to the size of the existing league(s) they do offer an immediate return on investment.

Success and growth

How successful are some of the franchisees today?

The franchise opportunity has proved to be very successful, with many franchisees developing league portfolios containing high numbers of teams. Our largest franchisee has in excess of 270 teams and as each team is roughly worth around £600 per year in profit it’s clear to see that there is tremendous potential to create a highly profitable business.

Even on a smaller scale we have numerous franchisees that have taken ‘new’ areas and developed 40+ teams within a relatively short timescale. The biggest endorsement we have is that 40% of existing franchisees have already bought additional territories to enable them to replicate their success nearby.

How is the brand looking to grow?

We have designated around 400 UK franchise territories and our track record has proved that the business can be operated profitably anywhere in the UK and beyond. In 2013, our first master franchise licence was awarded for Florida in theUSA. This has also proven to be a rip-roaring success and we will be looking to add more international franchisees in the near future.

What is the potential of the business?

Our experience has shown that there is generally at least one team available for every thousand of the population. Therefore the vast majority of franchise areas have a potential to contain 100+ teams which would offer an income of around £50,000 per annum.

What will the challenges be in achieving that?

The challenge is to earn the reputation of the ‘best league in town’ and to make sure all the available teams are playing in your leagues and not the competition’s teams.

To what extent are the founders involved today?

The originators of the business are still involved on a daily basis.

Finally, is the company a British Franchise Association (BFA) member?

No.

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