“Football clubs need to think about disabled people” Kelly, the football club owner

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This story is part of 30 Under 30.

 

Kelly Perks-Bevington is an entrepreneur and business owner from the West Midlands who has spinal muscular atrophy type 3 and uses an electric wheelchair. 

As part of our 30 Under 30 campaign, she talks about getting into the world of work, her latest business venture and her aims of creating the most accessible football club in the country.

I wasn’t very studious at college so I was absolutely desperate to get straight into work. After loads of rejections, I got a job at a doctors surgery as a receptionist. It kind of lit a spark and made me think “I’ve got a path now”.

From there, I got a passion for being in the world of work. I applied to join a concierge company and I actually went on as an admin assistant there and worked my way up through the ranks until I had my own list of football clients.  This is where my lifestyle company, G5 Lifestyle, started.

Alongside my dad, I also run G5 Sports Consultancy LTD which we use as a vehicle for all of our crazy schemes. We have used it to consult into different football clubs on their practices and football business.

On the side of all this, I also run kellyperksbevington.com which is a portal for me to write blogs about things I’m passionate about. I really enjoy doing that and have had a lot of interest from big companies and media outlets recently, which is really exciting!

Kelly, a young woman, smiles while seated in a stand at a football stadium

Buying  a football club

My dad and I established the G5 business and then we went and bought Kidderminster Harriers Football Club.

It all kind of fell into place really nicely. My dad was in talks with the club for a while and the closer we got to it, the more we saw it as a viable business. My dad has been in the industry for 30 years and I’ve been in it for 10 so we’ve both got a pool of contacts that could be useful to the club.

We just wanted to get everything going in the right direction and make the club function more as a business. We also want to create ways to make money off the pitch as well as on the pitch to keep the club afloat. We’re trying a couple of different things like diversity projects, education projects, development on the ground and making the club more energy efficient.

The club is over 100 years old and we’re going to take it into a new era and get it functioning like a modern day football club should.

The fans have been really grateful as we put a significant amount of money in to secure the future of the club. We’ve had a lot of positive reactions which can’t always be expected as we’re making so many changes to something that people are used to. The response has been great from all the fans.

We’re starting a women’s football team, we had a diversity day with the Panjab FA and Jersey FA, and we’re planning to set up a whole events programme for next year and get the whole community involved!

Kelly, a young woman in an electric wheelchair, looks out over a football pitch

Making the club accessible

I’m a disabled person and the ground is not the best for me on a day-to-day basis. Upstairs we have our hospitality suite and our VIP boxes. I can’t gain access to any of that. Our boardroom where we have all of our board meetings is upstairs. Basically, all the good stuff is upstairs! There are also steps in the corridors of the offices at the club.

We’re putting ramps in where needed so we can take on more disabled staff and apprentices, other than myself and we’re going to put a lift in to the upper levels. Disabled fans will be able to enjoy the VIP areas as they should. They will be able to get access to all of the match day hospitality, as well as booking their private and corporate events upstairs with full accessibility.

We will also be adjusting our toilet facilities to make them better for every disabled person not just certain disabled people. The disabled  seating will also be changed. At the moment, it’s on the front row, so I want to move it around so people aren’t just in the firing line of the ball during matches. I’ve nearly been hit in the face many times watching a match!

I think it’s so important to make these changes. I need to practice what I preach. I get really annoyed when I go places and I want to have the VIP treatment but I can’t. I just need disabled people to have the exact same choices and experiences as everyone else. I want to make sure they can come to the club and enjoy the football without having to make special arrangements. I want it to be smooth sailing for everyone.

I think that football clubs need to think about disabled people. If we take away all the barriers so people can just enjoy things without having to worry, people are more likely to come and enjoy things and put their money into your pocket.

The future is looking bright. The club as a whole are united now.

Kelly, a young woman in an electric wheelchair, looks out over a football ground

Kelly is sharing her story as part of our 30 Under 30 campaign. We are releasing one story a day throughout June from disabled people under 30 who are doing extraordinary things. Catch up on all the stories so far on our 30 under 30 page.

To find out more about stories and how they are at the heart of everything we do at Scope, visit our new Stories hub.