It all started at a UCFB guest speaker session for Sam Draper, who attended a talk hosted by Sky Sports’ Dickie Davis and now works as a Junior Production Assistant for the global sports media outlet. Having begun his journey as a BA (Hons) Sports Business & Broadcasting student, Sam has since landed his dream role at Sky, where he’s immersed in the fast-paced, dynamic industry.

Here, he tells us about the role and how aptly his sports degree has prepared him for it…

Tell us about your role as a Production Junior at Sky Sports and how you landed it.

The Production Junior role here at Sky is all about learning. Coming into the company at an entry level, it aims to help in the development of your skills whilst you work within the sports production branch. With this ethos on development, there is a high proportion of Juniors who then take steps further up the career ladder within Sky in roles such as Production Co-ordinators.

Evolved from a standard ‘runner’ role, we do a few things that helps our sports production run smoothly. Whilst we aren’t always the most important role in a production, what we do helps others significantly. Whether we’re looking after the ‘talent’ for a specific show, such as pundits, or logging specific events for highlights packages, the Junior role covers almost every sport delivered by Sky. The pinnacle of the Junior role however is having the ability to work in a similar capacity on an outside broadcast, where you work on-site at varied sporting events.

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

As mentioned earlier a personal preference for working is that of an outside broadcast; being in and around the office during production is also incredible, but nothing beats the feeling of working in a football stadium or somewhere similar. Unfortunately, like many others our work over the past year has been affected by the pandemic – during which I joined the company - and consequently most sporting events became remote and produced from studio galleries with no opportunities to work on-site. Before their return, however, I was lucky enough to have acted as the solo Junior for our in-house Good Morning Euros show hosted by Bela Shah and Mark Wright. With the feel good times on and off the pitch during the tournament, it was definitely an amazing experience meeting all our guests and I was even lucky enough to head to our temporary studio outside Wembley Stadium for a day. A moment that felt surreal given that I had both now worked and studied on the same patch of land.

The biggest personal highlight for me so far would be the return of outside broadcasts after the troubling times we’ve all experienced and – thankfully - the relaxation of Covid-19 regulations. I have only had the opportunity to work at football games but growing up as a Tottenham fan, having the opportunity to work Saturday Night Football for their home fixture against Manchester United in October is definitely up there! Despite the scoreline, it was amazing to see the stadium from a different perspective in that of the media.

What have you taken into the role from your BA (Hons) Sports Business & Broadcasting programme?

 The biggest things I took from the course were from some of the practical modules that we undertook, such as the creation of television and radio production, allowing me to relate a little easier to those who I have since been working with. People know that television is a 24-hour industry, but they don’t always understand this, and so because of what I’d learnt or even experienced during my Sports Business and Broadcasting degree, I was able to understand the needs for each of the shows we work with and just how important specific deadlines could be for certain aspects. For example, when we log footage ahead of highlights for the Premier League matches, we know that they go live at 5:30 pm on our YouTube channel but also that they need to be edited beforehand, so for us we have a deadline for which the clips must be sent off and this then allows for all the following stages to follow suit in meeting their own deadlines.

I remember when we worked on shows for the youth teams at QPR that we had to work hard in meeting deadlines like these for our show, to ensure they go out on time. Having this experience allows me to understand at all levels how important these things are in broadcasting.

Did you gain any experience during your degree that helped you secure the role at Sky Sports?

Without UCFB I might not be where I am today. In my first year, a group of us responded to an event sent out to all students from the Employability and Enrichment team and at the venue was a series of workshops covering several different industries, including one from Sky Sports lead by Dickie Davis from Soccer Saturday. What followed from this networking was a chance to visit Sky’s campus in Osterley for a tour, with an added bonus of being able to meet some of Soccer Saturday’s gallery production team alongside the other students. I then spent a Saturday shadowing him during a Brentford match a few months later and before I knew it, I had been working alongside Dickie for two full seasons, which was vital in securing my current role.

Whilst there is glitz and glamour in some of the experience you can gain outside the degree, learning first-hand in the classroom about the fundamentals of what working in this industry entails can also be underestimated. Modules involved in the degree that surrounded production allowed me to enter my role knowing that I had been taught the knowledge and skills that would compliment what I’d been learning during my work experience.

During the interview process I was also asked questions surrounding the experience I had of working in the production environment which I was able to talk about thanks to the lectures and seminars I sat in throughout my time at UCFB. These hours learning in the classroom could have been the reason for why I stood out over another candidate from the application process.

What’s your favourite memory from your time at UCFB?

Throughout my three years at UCFB Wembley I was involved heavily in the Athletic Union, playing for the football, rugby and darts teams at various times, and I would say that one of my top moments would have to be reaching the final of the BUCS rugby South Eastern Conference trophy. Having never played rugby before in my life, it was a chance to try something new and it became an amazing experience.

Likewise, I’d have to say that my time with the darts team was right up there. During that period we made two finals, one in the Harrow league and the other was in the team event at the UDUK Big Weekender – the biggest student darts tournament. Every Tuesday and Thursday we would be up at the local Green Man pub having a laugh, throwing darts and everything about it was what you’d expect from a university team. The UDUK Big Weekender was probably the best part of it all, taking part with 300+ students from universities across the UK. We also had the chance to visit Newcastle and Lancaster for these events.

But at the end of it all, I think that if you’re a football fan, who can resist the opportunity to study at the home of English football and have that with you for the rest of your life.

What advice would you give to anyone looking to study at UCFB?

I think the most important piece of advice I can give is to make sure that it is the right fit for you; it’s a cliché but its true. I personally had a knack for business at school but didn’t expect myself to end up studying business alongside broadcasting, yet it was the perfect fit in the end. The location, the institution and the course itself all allowed me to gain the full university experience and have led me to where I am now. If you do conclude that UCFB is the place for you then I definitely suggest that you take advantage of what is on offer outside the classrooms. The lecturers have some of the best contacts relating to their industries – what other institutions can you say that about!

You also need to understand that this part of your life is a ‘two-way street’, I had an opportunity afforded to me that I took with both hands. If you don’t show that you’re eager and willing then someone else will, this applies to both your course and any work experience that you may obtain during your studies. Just remember that down the line this could be for your dream job and so you want to be able to put yourself in the best possible position in their eyes and show them that you’re the best decision for them.

Probably most importantly I would say that you need make this the best experience you can for yourself. Yes, it’s important to work hard, but you also need to be able to live your life and make the most of your surroundings. London is an amazing place and UCFB is perfectly placed for you to get out and explore the city.

Good Luck!