As a BA (Hons) Football Business & Marketing student at UCFB Etihad Campus, Callum Irving volunteered as a community coach at Oldham Athletic Community Trust (OACT) in his spare time. Since graduating last year, he’s impressed the organisation so much that they’ve created an entirely new job for him! Here, Callum tells us about the role and reflects on his time at UCFB…

Tell us about your role as Media and Communications Executive at Oldham Athletic Community Trust and what it involves. 

This is the first time the organisation has had someone in a position of this kind. When I started we looked at everything the organisation does that we wanted to capture and share, because OACT does so much good work in the community and we needed to ensure the content is captured to showcase this to the wider world.

My work covers our school delivery programme and working alongside schools; our community projects such as Premier League Kicks and NCS, and our work with the club and the first team. My favourite part of the role is working with the Oldham Athletic players. We had a great year in the 2020/21 season in terms of working with the club and players, managing to get 437 player engagement opportunities as well as six games on the front of the club’s first team shirt. So it’s easy to say my role involves a number of different aspects, which always keeps me on my toes.

How have you managed to try and maintain a sense of community in Oldham despite the challenges of the last year? 

I think as an organisation we managed to support our community in a variety of ways. With a year where fans couldn’t get into the ground and players couldn’t do community visits, we kept up club and player engagement as much as we could with player video messages, virtual player visits, virtual mascot experiences and much more. Moving away from just keeping the community engaged with the football club, we also got out into the town of Oldham offering support. For example, we donated thousands of pounds’ worth of shopping vouchers to Food For Thought, donated over 3,000 fresh fruit and vegetable items as well as collected and distributed over 15,000 food items to help feed people across the town. We released our 2020 impact report earlier this year which you can read here: 

You were previously a coach at OACT before being promoted to your current role. Do you think there's an increasing crossover between working pitch side and working behind the scenes in sport? 

I think sport, and especially football, opens up a window of opportunities on and off the pitch. My role is heavily charity-based but with a lot of crossover into the professional football world, even just the small things such as being based at the stadium every day. I have volunteered as a coach since 2015 at Oldham Athletic Girls & Women, which led to me volunteering with OACT whom now I work with full-time. So I definitely think there’s a crossover between them as I’ve been through it myself. The experiences on the pitch help the roles in the business sector and beyond through experiences in the industry. 

How important do you think it is that teams across the football pyramid are supported after the pandemic? 

It’s very important in my opinion. Football is more than just a game, it’s an industry that millions of people work in, volunteer in, spectate, play, referee and so on and it has suffered massively due to the pandemic. At the same time, at the top level it’s provided an escape for people during tough times as well as being a catalyst in key world movements such as Black Lives Matter. Football clubs across the whole pyramid are vital to the game and people all over the world, so the support is vital post pandemic.  

What have you taken into your role from your BA (Hons) Football Business & Marketing programme? 

Everything! All the modules have been relevant to my role showing how important the programme is in preparing people for the world of work. It is vital students soak in as much as they can from their modules if they want to find employment in the industry post-UCFB. I owe a massive thank you to Mo Seedat and Russell Preston for my time at UCFB, alongside all the tutors at the Etihad Campus who helped me along the way. They have also supported me since leaving UCFB and in my role which is always massively appreciated.

Tell us about your three years at UCFB’s Etihad Campus.

I look back at my time at UCFB very fondly. From September 2017 all the way to finishing my third year (unfortunately during the pandemic) and I am still looking forward to finally receiving our graduation ceremony. Without UCFB I wouldn’t be where I am today; the opportunities I took from my time at UCFB led me to finding employment in a role I love.

What one piece of advice would you offer to students looking to study at UCFB? 

My one piece of advice would be to go and get experience whilst studying. Volunteer your time in the role and industry you want to work in to gain real life experience. Apply your learning from your modules to this role to put you in the best place for finishing UCFB and entering the world of work. My internship at Manchester FA was key to my time at UCFB and without that I wouldn’t have been in a position to take on a role in the capacity I have.