- Course: PhD
- Year of graduation: 2014
- Nationality: British
- Job title: Professor of Sports Enterprise
- Company: Salford University
What initially drew you to study for your PhD at Leeds University Business School?
I was already working at another university and met the academic who became my supervisor (Dr Des Thwaites) at an overseas conference. I was really impressed by the enthusiasm he had for his research, for his knowledge and for his kindness. He invited me to visit the university and, once I was there, it just felt right. One other thing about Des - he just made me laugh, he was a really funny guy!
Can you tell us about your research? What got you interested in it?
I started working in the University sector at a time when the English Premier League had just been formed, and a more commercial/managerial approach to football (and sport more generally) was beginning to emerge. Along with Des, I was also working with several other people who were taking an interest in similar areas. Ultimately, I guess 1990s sport was the start of a wave that I have managed to ride for more than two decades.
Were your career aspirations expanded by studying at Leeds? Did the skills and experience you acquired during your PhD give you the confidence to widen your career choices?
Studying a PhD at Leeds changed my life. Everything now is completely different to how it was 20 years ago. As a person, I feel fulfilled, more confident, with a strong sense of purpose and a clear sense of self-worth. As an academic, the world opened-up to me in a way that I hadn't envisaged. 'Brand Leeds' carries immense kudos out in the world, something I have continually been able to capitalise upon.
What would you say is your defining memory of studying here? (eg friendships made, confidence in your abilities, or any single event that you will always remember?)
Lunchtimes! The Maurice Keyworth building cafe always kept me going. Otherwise, I loved the scholarly atmosphere of the place, walking around the campus always made me feel like I was part of something special.
What did your career journey involve from graduating at the university of Leeds to holding your current position?
I was working at Coventry University when I enrolled to study at Leeds, and shortly afterwards I moved to work at Leeds University Business School. Upon completion of my PhD, I moved to the University of London and very soon afterwards, I became a professor back at Coventry University. Now, I am professor of Sports Enterprise at Salford University in Manchester, where I am also co-director of the Centre for Sports Business. I also do a multitude of other things: I am research director for the 2022 world cup in Qatar; I am a visiting fellow at the University of Nottingham’s China Policy Institute, where I am also a Founding Director of the China Soccer Observatory; I am also a board member of Women in Sport, for which I chair its research working group.
Tell us about some of the most interesting people you’ve met or worked with?
I have been so, so lucky in my career. I was at the Olympic games in Rio last year and have worked at all manner of events, including several Champions League Finals. I have worked with organisations ranging from FC Barcelona and Chelsea to UEFA and the IOC, as well as commercial organisations involved in sport (such as MasterCard and Nielsen). My travels have taken me all over the world, from China to Qatar to the United States. Among the people I have met....Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho, Seb Coe, the list is endless.
What are your proudest moments or highlights to remember?
Every day there seems to be a highlight, my job is just so brilliant. As for pride, I try not to be proud and always keep my feet firmly on the ground. It’s important not to lose sight of where you come from or who you are. But if i had to pick one moment that encapsulates everything.....probably working at the UEFA Champions League final in 2010. Held in Madrid, a game between Inter Milan and Bayern Munich. I was working on a sponsorship activation programme with MasterCard and I was interviewed by the likes of the Wall Street Journal, and even had police motorbikes escort my car to the stadium. A long way from the cold, wet nights walking through Headingley. Otherwise, in 2015 Huffington Post identified me as one of the top-30 most influential sport marketers in the world.
What are your ambitions for the future?
Pretty much everything I have ever wanted to do, I have done. I am keen to remain involved with the 2022 World Cup, as I am learning so much about how to organise a sporting mega event by working inside one. Otherwise, I am really keen to spend more time in China and would like to work there for a while - it's the most dynamic sport economy in the world right now. I had hoped to become a policy advisor at a governmental level too, something I have done for the EU and its sport industry strategy. Now the British government is following suit and I have been advising them.