2010. a mile stone year.
In those days, the reïnforced grass business of Desso Sports represented only 10% of the total turn over. I could not expect our sr management to hughely invest in something that was not been seen as very successful at that time.
But… they let me do my thing. I was alone, cost were low and in the back of their mind there was certainly the assumption that it could not harm to try and find out if we could turn this system into a new market player…
I am thankful for that. I liked pioneering on my own. Supported by Helga and her team. But nevertheless doing my own thing.
I was convinced that i was on the right path forward.
2010 would become thé mile stone moment where we would make a difference…
It was the year of the FIFA World Cup Football in South Africa.
The event was held at the African continent for the first time ever.
A side occupation of me at the time was the Belgian Sports Technology Club. Dr Jacques Rogge, a fellow Belgian and IOC president at that time raised the idea of putting Belgian technology companies top of mind at organising committees of the Olympic Games and other world renowned sports events.
As one of the founding members i put my shoulders under this initiative that contacted international organising committees in order to promote our Belgian companies.
This is how i got involved in the FIFA 2010 South Africa project. We organised outgoing and incoming missions. We set up meetings with politicians and other major stakeholders of the event. And slowly but surely i got their interest in my ideas.
Sometimes you need to be a little bit lucky… hard work and passion often need a bit of a push to realize what you have in mind.
During the build up to the FIFA World Cup 2010 in South Africa i got introduced to Derek Blanckensee. COO of the World Cup.
Derek understood that having state of the art pitches during the whole duration of the tournament would be a gigantic challenge. He needed all the help he could get.
We had numerous discussions, we did site reference meetings and finaly Derek had the courage to work with a reïnforcement system that was never been used before on a World Cup stage…
All credits to him.
6 weeks before the start of the tournament we were asked to install a hybrid pitch at Nelspruit & Polokwane stadiums… a race against time. But we pulled it off!
A major achievement in our way to develop the system and make the market aware that we might have the solution for their problems.
Right after the final game, FIFA declared both Nelspruit & Polokwane pitches as the best of the tournament
Mission accomplished! But the fun wasn’t over yet…
Roger Maslin, Managing Director at Wembley Stadium had invited me for a meeting in March 2009. TheFA was undergoing a series of criticisms and allogations about the poor deplorable state of the Wembley pitch.
They had tried everything sinc the grand opening of the new Wembley Stadium in 2007. Not one single type of pitch seemed to last longer than a couple of months. On top of that, Englands players and coaches were very negative about every new pitch installed as it was just not good enough, even dangerous for the players… Michael Owen got seriously injured playing a friendly game with England in the build up for the World Cup later that year. Michael didn’t make it to South Africa…
We discussed about the option of installing our system. But very soon i became clear to me that the event calendar at Wembley would hinder good professional pitch management hence even our system would suffer too much and would most certainly not meet the expectations.
I kindly turned down the offer to install our system at Wembley stadium…
Spring 2010. This time Roger played it differently. He asked his Stadium Manager, Greg Gilin, to contact me. Greg and i knew each other for some time and we got along very well.
We helt another meeting and soon we came to the conclusion that we had to involve Wembley’s Head Groundsman Tony Stones.
The 3 of us set up a workable calendar respecting TheFA’s wish not to cut down on events as that was the big money generator. TheFA needed the extra money as the stadium was still not profitable.
We used all our expertise to fit in the events and football/rugby/NFL games in such a way that Tony could run a proper pitch management and Greg could meet with the challenge to optimize revenues and fullfill his main stakeholders wishes…
We constructed the new Wembley pitch in July 2010… we were supplying the most famous sports stadium in the world! We were Wembley suppliers!
Marketing did an amazing job highlighting these 2 major key moments in our companies history. We had to explain who we were, what the system was about on national television in Chili, Japan, Argentina, Holland, Belgium. TheFA made a -making of – movie that went viral in no time.
We got the world’s attention. For once and for all…