Reaching the Pinnacle

Fives Soccer Centres is injecting an ethos of performance and personal progression into its social leisure destinations, as its founder and CEO Scott Penman explains. 

“At Fives Soccer Centres, we’re doing things a bit differently,” says founder and CEO Scott Penman. “Five-a-side football is obviously a social leisure pursuit, and it will always be great fun, but we’re also keen to help participants get more out of it.

“We’re therefore testing a new digital concept that introduces an ethos of performance and personal progression to our centres.

“Every game that’s played is recorded on camera, with individual players’ movement around the pitch tracked and all performance data logged. After the game, they have the option of reviewing this – seeing how far they ran, what they contributed to the game and so on – as well as watching the video back to see how and where they might improve.

“If they don’t want to be tracked, we can pixelate them out of the video and not extract their data. However, our ambition is to help people get more from their social recreation.”

Currently being tested in two locations, the digital concept will go fully live at Fives’ new facility in Manchester’s Trafford Park when it opens in the spring. “This will be our sixth centre and the first digitally connected football centre in the UK,” confirms Penman.

The personal touch

Continuing this theme of personal development, Fives recently converted an under-used bar and function room at its centre in Hamilton, Scotland, turning it into a 200sq m gym space in partnership with Physical Company.

Operating under the Pinnacle Gyms brand, the training style is predominantly functional. Equipment includes a wide range of free weights, select pieces of CV equipment and a Pinnacle-branded turf area, which Fives CEO and founder Scott Penman says “feels like a football pitch, tying the two sides of the offering together nicely”.

However, although there may – at certain times of the year, such as pre-season – be some small group football training sessions, the new gym is not just for footballers. “We’re catering for everyone and every goal, from weight loss to sports-specific conditioning and everything in between,” confirms Penman. “If you know what you want to achieve, we’ll help you get there. If you aren’t sure, we’ll help you clarify your goals and then support you in achieving them.”

But while catering to all needs and groups, Pinnacle isn’t trying to be a mass-market brand. “We might consider selling a few memberships further down the line, and those on a programme with us can come and train whenever they like, but we don’t want to be just another membership gym,” says Penman. “We’ll primarily be working at an individual level and focusing on quality of delivery.”

He continues: “With personal trainers, physiotherapists, sports injury professionals and other experts all on-site, we’re able to match our customers with the perfect person for their needs, creating bespoke programmes to help them become the best version of themselves.

“And the joy of our model – with our experts either paying rent or else working on a profit share basis – is that we can bring together a really diverse range of skillsets, including some that might be too niche were we having to employ people ourselves. One of our experts is a breathing specialist, for example, while an older personal trainer specialises in GP referral and older populations.”

He adds: “As this was a disused space that we owned anyway, we’re in a fortunate position where anything we do with it is beneficial. It’s allowing us to stay true to our ethos and focus on our purpose – genuinely helping people on their journey – rather than setting any commercial targets at this stage.”

Let’s get Physical

Physical Company has been instrumental in bringing the Pinnacle concept to life, says Penman: “I had the idea, but with no fitness background nor experience of doing anything like this, I honestly didn’t know where to start.

“A friend introduced me to Physical Company and they’ve been absolutely brilliant throughout. They immediately understood what we were trying to achieve, and the space we had available to do it, and in no time at all had come up with a fully-costed design that was ready to go.

“That was particularly impressive given all of this happened during lockdown, meaning they weren’t even able to physically see the space before they designed it.

“They were also brilliant at managing the whole process, taking the pressure off me and keeping things progressing even when lockdown supply chain issues caused challenges across the sector.

“I can’t speak highly enough of Physical Company and will 100 per cent work with them again.”

The beginning of something

Because while Hamilton is the first Pinnacle gym, Penman is already eyeing further opportunities: “We’ll be doing six more football centres over the next three years, of which two will definitely have gyms on-site, and possibly a further two. We also have a few locations in our existing portfolio that we may look to retrofit.

“We’re also building a bespoke app where training plans will be uploaded into clients’ personal accounts, workouts recorded and development tracked. We’re looking at integrating wearable technology into the app at some point in the future, too, as well as incorporating nutritional advice for a 360° approach.”

He concludes: “Gyms are just such a big part of today’s lifestyle, and with all the data we carry around on our devices, there’s so much scope to support people on their personal journeys. Pinnacle goes hand-in-hand with everything we’re trying to achieve at Fives.”