Why team culture is vital at Wembley

Liam Boylan, above, Stadium Director, Wembley Stadium connected by EE, tells SME Magazine about what it’s like to work at the iconic arena

I’m sure, like a lot of people in the hospitality industry, I had an interesting pathway to my current role. My career started with nine years in the RAF police when I decided to make a change and enter the event and hospitality industry.

In 1996 I joined Manchester Arena as a part-time steward, which over the years progressed to Event Manager. I switched over to the other side of the fence as a Concert Promoter, where I spent the best part of 14 years organising tours in the UK and Ireland. But later joined Wembley Stadium, where I have resided as Stadium Director for just over two years.

My day-to-day role here consists of overseeing eight teams that report into me to help deliver all sporting and entertainment events. My job is to make sure all these delivery teams know what they need to do, to ensure all our 90,000 visitors have an amazing experience. The full-time stadium team consists of approximately 100 people, but that can ramp up to 5,000 on an event day.

There’s not really a ‘typical day’, but we drive success through a positive culture, by ensuring everybody understands they are part of the stadium delivery team, not siloed smaller teams. It doesn’t matter what your role is, it is as important as the person next to you, and we always recognise that and ensure that message is cascaded from top to bottom.

Team culture is a core part of my position and implementing and sustaining a positive work environment is integral when managing people. The workforce encompasses a broad range of skill sets from the groundsmen, who look after our glorious pitch to the Catering and Hospitality team, who help deliver the big events and our Club Wembley members. I’m frequently door stepped by our teams with urgent questions on a wide range of topics. It can be very full on, but I love it because it keeps me involved and in the heart of everything that happens at the Stadium.

As you can imagine, culture has been one of the biggest challenges I have faced at the stadium. When I first arrived, the teams were like several different countries, with their own borders and their own rules. The first thing I did in my role was to headhunt through my network across key venues, such as the 02 and Manchester Arena who already had great culture embedded in their workforce. I then introduced a new senior level on event days and a Stadium Manager, whose role was to carry out quality assurance and ensure all parts of business were connected. Briefings were changed to top and tail them with messages on culture and how important it was to have pride in working at the best stadium in the world!

These changes took a few years but were well worth the investment. I’m extremely proud to manage such a talented and motivated group of people. As much as leaders we’re there to motivate and inspire, a lot of my inspiration comes from my team at all levels.