As the Manchester Evening News Arena and the Storm say good-bye to their Marketing Executive Dave Biggar, the official Storm website caught up with him to find out about the career of one of the most influential promoters of Ice Hockey in Great Britain.
Having left school in 1978 with five “O” levels and a school uniform two sizes too small, Dave applied for a number of apprenticeships in electronic engineering before spotting a work experience scheme with a concert promoter/artist management agency. This was a six month scheme which included chores such as collecting everyone’s lunch, handling paper work and photocopying. However, this was the entertainment industry and Dave fell in love with it, much to the displeasure of his Dad, who thought he should get a proper job, a career. The company kept him on at the end of the six months scheme with a pay rise of £1.41 a week and Dave stayed there for a further five years where he got the chance to travel around Europe looking after top bands and show business acts.
At the age of 21 he decided to go it alone and set up his own company, imaginatively called the Biggar Management Agency and proceeded to do the same job with a number of the acts that followed him in his new adventure. Three years down the line in 1986 Dave saw a job advertised for Piccadilly Radio as a promotion assistant. The bands that he looked after were on long three or four month tours so Dave thought it would fill in some time during the summer months. He loved the world of radio and was involved with promoting concerts, exhibitions and live outside broadcasts. This led him to work with Transworld, the Miss World organization, and then into sponsorship which took him to the doors of the Sheffield Arena.
It was here in 1991 that Dave met Ice Hockey. He was introduced to the management and owners of the Sheffield Steelers and told that as the representative of the Arena and their marketing expert, they needed his help. The team was run on a shoestring and no one really had clue where to go. The first game (Steelers vs Durham Wasps) boasted an attendance of around 350. He says, “ I went to sit in the stands and see what it was like. It was obviously not popular or a big sport, but I thought, let’s have a look anyway. It was fantastic. It was simply the best sport I’ve ever seen. Football had always been my passion but when I saw that first game of ice hockey I knew this was the sport for me! It had everything. To this day I still consider it to be the most exciting sport from a spectator point of view”.
Needless to say, he helped pull in the crowds and make the Steelers the best supported Ice Hockey team in Great Britain at that time. This feat was to be surpassed when Dave was headhunted by Ogden, the facility managers for the brand new Manchester Arena in June 1994. There was no staff, no building and the project was behind schedule for completion. He had swapped a successful Arena in Sheffield for what was being hailed as a white elephant in Manchester, but Dave had made the right move.
So, what of his time at the Manchester Arena? “I’ve had a blast while I’ve been here. I have worked with some of the most fantastic people, and some awful people, but with the exception of two or maybe three days over the years, I wouldn’t have swapped a minute of it. I really have had a blast. I’ve had a new toy to play with every day and been like a kid in a sweet shop. You can only have so long in the sweet shop, but can have anything and everything you want. With the Storm I could even make my own sweets.”
And so the Manchester Storm was born and became a massive part of Manchester’s sporting life. What have been the high and low points during his time here. “The game in the first season against Paisley where Storm clawed back seven goals to draw, ten minutes from the end. The crowd were all on their feet. For me that was the ultimate demonstration of determination and passion. Needless to say the 17245 sell out win in February 1997 against the Steelers was huge and Jablonskis goal to secure that win in Europe. I have Jabber’s photo and every time I look at it I see that goal.”
As for low points? “The absolutely disgusting way that we got rid of John Lawless. That, to me, was the biggest mistake the organization ever made. It was wrong. Hopefully people, if they’re honest enough will look back at it and accept the fact that it was the wrong decision. Yeah, John got it wrong in that second season, but he would have made it right in the third. I fundamentally believe in that third season we would have been up there and John Lawless would have still been in the building and would have been an icon. That was a horrible, horrible moment”.
“Another down point was the Superleague. We didn’t need it in 1996. I believe it came too early. It wasn’t sufficiently thought out. It was put there for personal gain and ego. It wasn’t in the best interests of the sport on a spectator or playing level. If they’d waited and sorted out procedures, protecting British talent around the league at that stage, you would now have a far, far bigger success story than we’ve got. It should have been British players playing in British venues on British teams, British, British, British. I accept that it’s a business but they’ve taken the entire soul of the game away, and haven’t replaced it.”
One of the biggest happenings for the Arena was a bit of a personal downer for Dave himself. The homecoming of the Treble winners, Manchester United. Yes, as a born and bred Scouser this was a bit of a toughie for Dave, and he insisted on wearing his Liverpool shirt up until the very arrival of the team. He had to produce, manage and control United’s Treble winning homecoming celebrations, and the atmosphere was absolutely stunning. Along with the Eagles concert he rates these as the buildings best moments.
And so to New York. Dave will be joining the company of Madison Square Gardens who own the Rangers and manage other venues such as Radio City Hall, as one of the Vice Presidents and General Sales Manager. His remit is quite different from here in Manchester and will not involve the production side of things and have little to do with marketing. It’s the commercial aspects, realization of sponsorship, hospitality – the corporate entertaining side of the venture. He will live in the southern area of Connecticut and get to spend time in New York too, but whilst looking forward to a new lifestyle he will obviously miss some things. “I’ll miss people. I’ve made some huge friends here in Manchester that will never be replaced. But, I’ll be going to a new city, a new sweet shop. Let’s see if the US candy tastes as good as the English toffee!”
Talking to Dave I get the feeling that the success has been down to the fact that he really cares about Ice Hockey and those who support it. Whilst the pay cheque is great, it isn’t the driving force behind his commitment. We all owe Dave an enormous vote of thanks for bringing the sport we love to a wider audience, and for his dedication and hard work with Manchester Storm. We wish him well for his future ventures and hope he takes New York by STORM!!!!!!!
Dominique Paul (c) 2000AD.
At the beginning of 2015 Dave Biggar was the Commercial Director at Blackburn Rovers Football Club. Dave takes up a new world wide role outside of hockey and football in July 2015.