He may have graduated from the BA (Hons) Football Business & Media programme, but Ollie Lawrenson now works at London Irish Rugby Club as the club’s Sales & Ticketing Executive. Having previously landed a role in cricket, the former UCFB Burnley and Etihad Campus student shares the importance of working across a range of sports and the highlights of working in the industry…

Tell us about your role at London Irish Rugby Club and how you landed it.

As you can guess from my job title, my role mainly covers the selling and allocating of season tickets, match day tickets and memberships for the club. However, due to the size of the team, I tend to contribute to other areas of the business, such as marketing and communications.

With London Irish competing on several fronts (Gallagher Premiership, Premiership Rugby Cup and European Challenge Cup), I am very busy all year round trying to bring positive off-field results into the club. After spending the best part of two successful years within cricket, this opportunity caught my eye on LinkedIn. After reading about the role, and having several industry connections share the role with me, I decided it was the perfect next step within the sports industry. Now, six months in, it has been an amazing journey so far.

Seeing how a professional rugby organisation operates and how they have managed business within the confines of a global pandemic has been a valuable learning experience and one that will have a lasting positive impression on myself. Now, with fans about to return in mass numbers once again, I cannot wait for the season to start and to see my hard work put to the test.

What have been some of the highlights of the job so far?

Apart from getting the role itself, the highlights for me were the fixtures against Harlequins and Exeter Chiefs. Against Quins, my first match day working for the club and the last behind closed doors, it was an opportunity to see and hear the sights and sounds of a massive derby match. Having no supporters in the stadium will be something I don’t think I will ever experience again. It was so unique that it is hard to explain to anyone what it was really like. At that moment I realised how fortunate I was to work within sport, as I was one of a very few able to watch it in person.

The Exeter game was my first fixture with supporters, albeit restricted and within our new stadium. To hear the roar when the Exeter game kicked off literally gave me goosebumps. Having been away from that feeling for so long, hearing that atmosphere during a cold Tuesday evening will genuinely stay with me forever. It showed the true power of fan engagement and what they provide every match day. This experience is another reason why working within sport is so special.

In what ways has your BA (Hons) Football Business & Media degree helped you in the new role?

Communication skills were a vital asset I lacked when I went to UCFB, whether it was written or spoken. To be completely truthful, I felt I lacked that bit of confidence and saw this degree as a way of significantly improving this, and getting to a level where I was confident in a professional environment to take control of a conversation when I needed to.

Throughout my three years with the brilliant guidance from several lecturers, especially my media tutor Colm Griffith, I developed and honed my communication skills which are vital within my current role at London Irish. Every day I know I need to be able to communicate well to be effective in my role.

Without putting in the hard work and receiving what I consider an excellent learning experience during my time at UCFB, I doubt I would be where I am at the moment. I genuinely mean that. The experiences I have had wouldn’t have taken place if my verbal and written communication skills were not up to standard and these were further developed through communicating with the guest speakers and professionals from sporting organisations.

How did you use the recent Lions tour to promote your club and your sport?

The Lions tour is the pinnacle of rugby union alongside a World Cup. It brings a nation of rugby fans together supporting the top players from the home nations, as they play one of the world’s best sides, in this case South Africa. During the duration of the tour the focus from the watching public will be firmly on the rugby world, so taking advantage of it is vital for every rugby club up and down the country so they can grow individually as an organisation and as a sport in general.

At London Irish we held events throughout the tour to bring supporters and rugby admirers together, welcoming new supporters who want to know more and be involved. This has allowed the sport to grow in a short period of time, with our existing supporters sharing their love for London Irish and welcoming new supporters into the club. We are hopeful this will create a few more Exile Nation followers in the process.

You’ve previously worked as Sales Executive at Surrey County Cricket Club. Tell us about this role and the benefits of working across multiple sports in this industry?

Working for Surrey CCC was my first full-time role within the industry and was a whirlwind two years. From working on the 2019 Cricket World Cup to putting on an Ashes Test Match, the experience I gained from this role has prepared me for what I am doing today.

When lecturers say get networking, listen to them! This is one of the most valuable pieces of advice you will be given and something I learnt very quickly within this role. You never know who you are speaking to and what they can do to support your career progression. It is also important to think about the impact you have on others too.

I went into Surrey pretty fresh and came out with a huge amount of knowledge that has set me up for my career. I was lucky enough to meet some amazing people and make some valuable contacts during my time at the Kia Oval. This has since given me a platform and the confidence to move forwards in the industry.

I have now worked within the football, cricket and rugby sectors. Each have their own subtle differences, but function in a similar fashion and just on different scales of size. The time spent in each thus far has given me a wealth of experience to a point where I now feel confident that I can go into any sport if I wished to and hit the ground running from day one. This is why gaining experience is so important.

Did you gain any work experience during your time at UCFB that has helped you in either of these roles?

During my time at UCFB, I was able to work for several sporting organisations that complemented my course perfectly, whilst preparing me for full-time work within sport. I spent time at Adidas, Burnley FC, ITV Granada News and Wolfe Live, each providing me with valuable experience and knowledge in what is required to make it at the top level within the sports industry. The experience which had the greatest impact on me was my time at Adidas in Stockport. Here, I was given a major insight into the organisation and how they operate. The time spent there strengthened my belief that I can make it in the industry whilst further emphasising the sports sector is the one I want to build a career within.

Four years have passed since this work experience ended and I am building a career for myself I know my family are really proud of. Now, at London Irish, I feel I am reaping the rewards off that particular experience as I seek to give my all for the Exile Nation.

What advice do you have for anyone looking to study at UCFB?

UCFB is so unique you won’t find another institution out there quite like it. The experience you gain, the guest speakers and industry leaders you have access to and the campuses themselves are things I can’t rate highly enough. I find myself accessing the alumni features regularly, with the international hub talks in Toronto, New York, Melbourne and Atlanta over the past year ones I have joined recently and thoroughly enjoyed. The alumni support is second to none and I still feel very much part of the UCFB family. The support I have been since graduating has been gratefully received and supportive in my career development.

With the undergraduate and Master’s courses at the peak of the industry, if you want to work in sport UCFB is the place to study. Studying at Turf Moor and the Etihad gave me the best opportunity to start my career and it will provide the same for you.