Three lions and a dog.
There are many ways we can build client relationships. There are many ways we can talk to our clients about our link to the Paralympic Games. There are many places to watch football. Last night was a fantastic way to combine all three. Happy clients, the famous Wembley, the GB Blind football captain and star of David Beckham video, and an England victory. A pretty normal night out for an Audit Partner and his teams. Or was it?
A few months ago, I jumped at the chance to take my clients to the Paralympic Games, a brilliant opportunity to showcase our role on the Games and watch world class sport. It’s a no brainer. However, why wait until September to educate them about disability sport and spend time deepening the existing relationships? Working with the London 2012 team, we put together a pre-Games programme - something a bit different...
Blind or visually impaired (VI) football is 5-a-side where all the players are blindfolded to ensure even partially sighted players can’t see. The players rely on their extraordinary spatial awareness and silky footwork to navigate the pitch, only guided by the sound of the rattle in the ball and a coach behind the goal to shout tactics. The goalie is sighted so shots on goal need to have precision and pace.
The FA is one of my long-standing audit clients, they obviously breathe football every day, but had never tried Blind Football. They put us in touch with an FA coach, we booked a pitch at Wembley (power league not the hallowed turf) and invited the client and audit teams from the FA, NBC Universal and Entertainment One and we tried it.
So, blindfolds on. It is dark, very dark. Should that be a surprise? It was an odd and nervous feeling. We spent some time in pairs simply being guided round the pitch. My guide was a deputy financial controller who did not complain when I gripped a little too hard in the guided jog. The legs were shaky and there was plenty of nervous laughter. We then tried dribbling and passing and regardless of talent (real or perceived) we were all pretty useless yet there were sufficient shouts of “I’ve got it” when the ball with the bell was located to suggest some of us had achieved that rare thing, control of the ball (with the rattle). We tried shooting and penalties too. Great fun and to see my clients hanging on to their audit manager for guidance will live long in the memory. I am also pleased that the “I’m not going to let you score” sneer from one of the CFO’s hinted at a bit of tension in the relationship and that my points on impairment had hit home.
Have you ever considered what it must be like to walk or even run if you cannot see? It was a humbling and, frankly, pretty extraordinary experience especially when you throw in an England legend, David Clarke, Paralympian, blind since birth, 134 caps, and captain of Great British Blind football team. This was something truly distinctive. Dave’s day job is as a banker which he balances with training and competitions. His guide dog Ned plays a huge part in his life being his eyes on a daily basis. His passion and focus on football is inspiring. After the drills and training with blindfolds we played a quick game without them, with Dave, it was extraordinary how he reads the game by simply listening to the ball – how it is kicked, intercepted, bounced off the side boards and saved by the keeper all play out in his mind and he positions himself on the pitch with absolute accuracy to receive the ball and pass to teammates.
After we watched the England v Ukraine game together in a box at Wembley, I asked Dave how important television and radio commentary is to him ‘seeing’ the game in general. He talked about how he creates pictures in his mind and we shared a debate about the game in the same way as I do with anyone. He also admitted, despite being a Liverpool fan, that Gary Neville summaries are one of the best!
Dave taught us a lesson that communication is key. A lesson we all learned very quickly with and without the blindfolds. Today I know that the clients and the Deloitte team will be talking about Dave, and telling their colleagues about the Paralympic version of the game and not just Wayne Rooney or the debate around goal line technology.
My desire for an England victory on Sunday is clear. But I will be equally passionate and proud to cheer on the GB team when Dave and his team pull on the national shirt at the Paralympic Games – I highly recommend you do the same.
Find out more about Deloitte Disability Sport here
Mark is a Deloitte Audit Partner with 22 years experience in the broader media sector. He leads Deloitte's London based media audit practice and is a member of the UK firms Media Executive.