With the 2019 Rugby World Cup fast approaching the sport is set to take centre stage over the autumn as fans watch closely to see which country comes out on top on 2nd November in Yokohama, Japan. We spoke with Jeni Kingman, who studies an MSc International Sport Management online degree whilst working at the Rugby Football Union (RFU), to find out what it’s like working in the industry during a World Cup year and how studying an online masters degree complements her career…

Hi Jeni. Good to speak with you. Tell us about your role at the RFU – it sounds really interesting.

Hi there, so my role is Rugby Events & Competitions Assistant. On the rugby events side, this involves working on the match management of international, representative, Premiership and community rugby matches, held at Twickenham Stadium (pictured above) and around the country. On the competitions side, I also work on the player registration and international clearance processes within the men’s and women’s game.

I have been in the role for just under two years, having previously worked in university sports administration and youth sports coaching roles. So far I have had lots of incredible opportunities and really enjoy working on these high-level rugby events, every day is different and there is lots of ebb and flow throughout the season on what we’re working on.

What’s it like studying whilst working and how does it complement your role?

Before taking on this UCFB online masters degree, I had been out of formal education for a few years, it’s certainly fair to say it has been challenging to balance studying and working, especially over the Six Nations! But it has been incredibly rewarding and made me have an even bigger focus on time-management. The RFU and my colleagues have been very supportive of my degree and hopefully, have enjoyed my updates from time to time.

The RFU, founded in 1871, is based at the historic Twickenham Stadium in South-West London and represents over 2.5 million registered players

Taking on this degree in the online format has allowed me to shape my university workload around busy times at work, and having the lectures in the evenings means I do not have to take time off to participate in them. I also know that the lecturers and module leaders are on hand if we have any issues. There have been many aspects so far that have complemented my role and encouraged me to be more reflective; for example, we have recently submitted personal development plans for our Leadership and Influence in Sport module this semester.

What have been the standout parts of the course for you? And what impact do you feel the degree can have on your career in the long-term?

I have particularly enjoyed diving into the topics I wouldn’t normally have much involvement in for my day-to-day role such as in-depth financial reporting, and sustainability planning. I have tried to challenge myself to use cases outside of rugby to gain a better understanding of other fields. I am also really looking forward to progressing with my dissertation over the coming months and getting into the nitty-gritty of the research. Focusing on the long-term, the degree has really broadened my understanding of different aspects of the sports management industry, and I will carry this with me going forwards.

What’s the best thing about working in Event Management in the sports industry? What are the highlights or you?

As cheesy as it sounds, I really enjoy the feeling and anticipation on a match day, the excitement from the players and spectators definitely brings something to our work and makes all of the hard work worthwhile. Being a big rugby fan myself, as well as playing, it’s amazing being able to spend my time working in a sport I love.

Jeni working as match manager at England Women’s under-20s v France during a snowstorm in February 2018

One key part of our role within the team is working with a variety of different types of stakeholders, be that teams, referees, medical staff, broadcasting, media and more, so something I really enjoy is working with all of these different groups to make the matchday run as smoothly as possible for all involved.

And finally – are you looking forward to the World Cup? What are your predictions?

I am definitely looking forward to the World Cup, it’s the pinnacle of men’s rugby, it should be a brilliant event and an amazing showcase of rugby. I always enjoy mega-events like this when you can really feel the buzz around the sport. Of course, I would love England to win!