What it means when football is your business

As we enter the knock-out stages of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, international focus is currently on the world’s elite football teams, culminating in the World Cup final on 15 July. It’s a sporting spectacle that happens every four years, but for two Business School alumni football is a year round occupation. We find our more as we talk to Charlotte O’Neill and Kate Reid, based at UK Premier League clubs Manchester City and Manchester United, to see what it means when football is your business.

Charlotte (BSc Accounting and Finance, 2004) is Head of Operations and Development for the Manchester City FC Academy where she is responsible for the strategic planning and operations of the academy, developing young football players.

“I spend time developing new programmes of work that we believe will give us competitive advantage, attending matches, training camps or tournaments and working with parents. The most enjoyable part of the job is seeing players fulfil their potential. To feel that you have made a small contribution to the boys on their individual journeys is incredibly rewarding.”

Across the City, Kate (BSc Business Management with Communications, 2011) works as a Relationship Marketing Manager for Manchester United, with a focus on sponsorship and partnership marketing.

“I love my job as every day is different depending on the fixtures, time of year and the performance of the team on the pitch. We travel a lot too, visiting fans and brands in different markets to get a true sense of what appeals to different regions and help shape our campaigns.”

Charlotte O'Neil and Kate Appleby

Above: Charlotte (left) and Kate (right)

Kate and Charlotte had different motivations for taking up their roles within football.

Kate explains: “I’ve always had an interest in global brands and started on the graduate scheme at BT which included a role working on their partnership with London 2012. It was an amazing experience and one that contributed to me being interested in sponsorship marketing. When the job at United came up, it was the perfect opportunity to work for one of the biggest brands in the world. I’m not naturally a sports fan, but have a definite interest in it now, especially now I’ve seen the way it so positively impacts so many fans around the world.”

In contrast, Charlotte has spent her whole career within sport. “I’ve always loved sport and feel incredibly lucky to have worked my whole career in the sports industry. I was leading the Team Services Department at the Rugby World Cup which England hosted in 2015 when I got the call from [Manchester] City and so it was perfect timing to be able to finish the 2015 World Cup and then move on to join the club.”

Though coming to the sport roles through different routes, both Kate and Charlotte agree that it’s passion and competition that differentiates football as an industry from others.

“Football is so competitive at the professional end of the sport,” explains Charlotte. “There are so many professional clubs in the UK, let alone the rest of the world and clubs are fiercely competing to develop the best talent.”

The enthusiasm for the game is one of Kate’s favourite parts. “Football is an industry that so many people are passionate for and start conversations about. I love that and feel very proud to be a part of it.”

Both also agree that the world of football is ever changing, with both working on a range of new projects to support their clubs.

Kate is looking forward to the Manchester United pre-season tour. “The team is travelling to Miami in July and there’s a lot of commercial activity that goes on around the games so we need to be there to help ensure it goes smoothly for the sponsors.”

Charlotte’s focus is on player support and wellbeing. “We’re constantly looking for ways in which we can best prepare the boys for life after the academy. One my team’s key focuses this season will be to support boys as best they can when they exit our academy, be that to join our first team, go on loan, to university or leaving professional football.”

Tell us your story

Would you like to share your career story and be featured in future Business School publications? Please get in touch to bbsalumni@contacts.bham.ac.uk.