The Spanish approach to football has inspired a former entrepreneur of the year to launch a rapidly growing chain of indoor football arenas with the biggest here in Birmingham. Neil Elkes talks to the man behind Futsal in the UK.
Being half-Spanish meant that Frank Rodriguez had a much more enjoyable 2010 World Cup than the majority of Brits. Born in London to Spanish parents means that he either has divided loyalties on the pitch, or the luxury of backing two sides.
“I feel really lucky in the sense that I get two bites of the cherry when watching international competitions and cheer both on – but I have more reason to cheer Spain on than England at the moment and was really pleased to see them win the World Cup.”
His joy at the success is twofold as the Spanish invented Futsal as a five-a-side game to teach close control and technique and it has proved so successful it is now the only indoor-game approved by FIFA.
Having turned his full energy to growing the game in the UK he feels that Vicente del Bosque and his Spanish team, coupled with the recent success of Barcelona, proves his point.
Mr Rodriguez adds: “The Spanish have played Futsal for years and are ranked first or second in the game – they run normal football and Futsal together as parallel games with pathways between the two – that’s what we should do here in England to improve our game and create opportunities for more people to play at grass roots, elite and international levels.
“It is an exciting game that is played globally at every level and they see it as both a lucrative sport and game that encourages player and team development.”
The new Futsal arena in Great Kings Street North, Handsworth, is the third in the UK after Cardiff and Swindon and there are plans to open up to ten as the firm grows.
Already the English football authorities plan to use Birmingham to host the national team fixtures and tournaments.
“We have launched in Birmingham a world class indoor football facility that is best in class, it puts England on the global Futsal map," says Mr Rodriguez.
"We have made Birmingham our corporate HQ so I will be spending at least 50 per cent of my time in the area and if our daughters were not finishing school we would move there.
“It’s got a great buzz and I look forward to working with all of the communities and people of Birmingham to make it the UK’s centre of excellence for the game.”
Before launching the business Mr Rodriguez, who is married to Linda and has two daughters Bianca, aged 17 and Bella, 13, had a highly successful engineering and marketing career, enjoying periods with British Aerospace, the Serco Group, and Tarmac Group.
At the latter he wass business development director, and together they were instrumental in setting-up the first facilities management arm of the group called Tarmac Services, selling facilities management, construction design, build and operate services worldwide.
Later he was at the Reliance Security Group, where he met fellow director David Steventon.
In 2001 the pair set up their own facilities infrastructure service business called Covion Limited which rapidly grew to become the fourth fastest growing company in the UK. For this success in 2005 they secured an Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year award.
In 2008, having sold the business to Balfour Beatty Group for £33 million, Frank was able to turn to his passion, football and launch Futsal in UK.
He gained valuable experience in setting up, coaching and managing Reading FC Women’s Team over recent years and having seen Futsal while on visits to Spain took the opportunity to develop it here.