UCFB graduate Amy O’Connor was recently invited to present her dissertation research at The Power of Sport Student Conference, which took place at Liverpool John Moores University.

Amy, who graduated from the BA (Hons) Football Business & Marketing programme and is now a business development executive at Watford FC, was given a 15-minute slot to present her research on fan engagement and developing a business model for the football industry.

The student-focussed conference explored how five sport and health-related disciplines play a role in developing the health and wellbeing of the nation. The five disciplines were Sports Coaching, Physical Education, Sport Development, Food, Health and Nutrition and Sport Business, of which Amy’s research fell under the latter.

Speakers on the day also included Kate Richardson-Walsh MBE, captain of the GB hockey team and Honorary Fellow of LJMU, and former Manchester United coach Mike Phelan.

In her own words, Amy describes the conference experience…

How did the opportunity come about?

When I set out in conducting the research for my dissertation, it was always an additional aim to attempt to get the research published and this is a step in the right direction. Dave Horrocks, my dissertation supervisor, mentioned The Power of Sport conference to me back in March and insisted I apply to be a presenter and followed up by sending me all the relevant information. Once I applied I had to wait to see if my research had been selected to feature in the conference which covered five strands. Once Liverpool JMU had been in contact to say I had been included in the schedule, I had a week to produce a presentation – turning my 10,000-word dissertation into a 15-minute Power Point!

Can you give a brief outline of what you presented and how you felt it went?

I presented the research and findings from my dissertation, which I had completed during my final year at UCFB. My research was centred around fan engagement and developing a business model for the football industry. I talked through the different stages of my research which led to my findings and proposed strategy for the future. I then explained how since the initial research, I had tried to address the limitations by conducting further research and interviewing an additional industry expert from a top six Premier League club.

What other talks/seminars on the day caught your eye?

As mentioned previously there were five strands covered by the conference, I mainly focused on Sport Business which covered areas such as branding, sponsorship and mental wellbeing. However, I also attended key note speaker sessions with Kate Richardson-Walsh MBE and Mike Phelan as it can be beneficial learning from people that have been in the sports industry from different perspectives. Mike was great; he sat with me after my presentation to see how I found the experience.

How important is it to continue networking in the industry even after graduating?

The football industry can actually be a very small world in the way paths cross. However, it is key to keep networking and putting your name out there to build your own personal brand and develop your contacts book as you never know when someone may be able to support you in some way.

If other UCFB graduates or students are given a similar opportunity to present their work, what advice can you give them?

For me this was another situation which was out of my comfort zone, but in the last year in particular I have taken the attitude that if I want to continue to grow and develop then I need to grasp opportunities like this and the Kick It Out event with both hands and give it my all. So I would say to those in a similar situation to never turn down an opportunity no matter how nervous you may be approaching it. The best advice Dave gave to me immediately before I presented at JMU was: “No one knows your research like you do!” Having lived and breathed my dissertation the whole time I was conducting it, and developing it further since, it is an area I can talk passionately and confidently about and if you are that passionate, it is likely to be infectious!