Every now and then an opportunity presents itself which provides a moment of clarity that you’ve made the correct decision. For BA (Hons) Football Business & Media student Jessica Furness, that moment came while gaining incredible work experience in the media team at Premier League giants Manchester United. Here, Jess describes her time at Old Trafford and what she’s up to now at BBC Sport…

You’ve undertaken a number of exciting work placements during your time at UCFB so far, none more so than as a Media Assistant at Manchester United. How did that opportunity come about?

The opportunity was advertised on LinkedIn by the club in March 2019, in connection with International Women’s Day. The club wanted to give more opportunities for women to work in the football media industry and to give a once-in-a-lifetime experience to hard working and up-and-coming young female professionals. Whilst I was there I was informed that they’d never done anything like this previously, and most work experience for young people at the club came about due to individuals being related to former or current United players; so I felt incredibly lucky to be the first ‘average joe’ to be granted access there! I was contacted by the club in August and told that out of the thousands of applicants that I had been selected for the experience. Before starting I had to sign a NDA and contract with the club. The experience kicked off for me in October 2019, after settling into the third year of my degree programme at UCFB.

Jess spent time working within the media team at Manchester United

Can you explain what your time at Old Trafford entailed and what you learnt from it?

During my time at the club I shadowed the Head of Media with his typical duties at the club. Within the first hour of arriving, I was taken on a stadium tour of Old Trafford and shown around the museum. I was introduced to many different colleagues during my time there and I was amazed at how professional and successful they are; they truly inspired me to work towards their position once I graduate. The personal highlight of my placement was visiting the training complex at Carrington – the AON Training Complex. I think I’m still in disbelief now, many months on! At the complex, I was able to watch MUTV interviewing various players after training first-hand which was very exciting. The experience also consisted of a visit to the club’s former training ground, The Cliff. There I was able to see the condition of the ground many years on from when it was the club’s primary base. It’s been left pretty much as it was, and is almost as if it’s been frozen in time. Visiting the famous gym where George Best trained was unbelievable, whilst stepping into Sir Alex Ferguson’s old office was a real privilege.

I also thoroughly enjoyed the filming of the MUTV show ‘Legends Tonight’, which was filmed at Old Trafford with a live studio audience. This edition featured Norman Whiteside as the guest and I was able to ask him various questions about his career during the show. I was then lucky enough to have a chat to him after the show about my football media career so far.

United are one of the biggest football clubs in the world – it must have been a pretty eye opening experience?

Indeed, it was! It was extremely insightful and interesting. I was able to see how the club’s media runs on a daily basis and how much hard work goes into producing the content. Prior to actually having media experience you can only try to imagine what goes on in the background of one of the biggest clubs in the world, but until you actually experience it and are granted access you will never truly be able to understand how much detail goes into each department. It was an invaluable opportunity for my career to have this hands-on experience and get thrown in at the deep end, no matter how nerve-wracking it was.

Jess on set at MUTV

You’re now working at the BBC as a Production Management Assistant. Can you tell us what the job is?

I am based in the production offices of BBC Sport at Media City in Salford. I ensure that the talent is well looked after prior to going on air, and have various administrative duties such as booking transport for the talent and organising and printing the team sheets and scripts for my colleagues in the studio. I provide secretarial/administrative/organisational support to the Production Managers in all aspects of their work including diary management and liaising with BBC staff and external contacts.

What shows are you working on at the BBC?

Since November, I have worked on Match of the Day, Final Score and Football Focus. During the upcoming summer and once my time at UCFB has ended, my aim is focus on working on the BBC’s coverage of UEFA Euro 2020 to develop my experience of working on international football. This is something I was involved in last year when I was a production runner for the 2019 Women’s World Cup for the BBC and Input Media.

Jess with Manchester United legend Norman Whiteside

As a football fan and media student, how exciting and useful have these placements been for you?

Having these opportunities has been unbelievable for me, and I am very grateful. I would have never thought that I would be given the chance at a top Premier League club so early on in my media career. Not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to class industry professionals such as Alex Scott, Alan Shearer, Dion Dublin and Dan Walker as colleagues. When I walked into UCFB in 2017 and had aims for my career, I never believed that two years later I’d have Alex Scott casually offering me a brew at work! When I was given my BBC ID lanyard I was extremely proud of myself; it was definitely a pinch-me moment!

Both opportunities have been paramount to my development as an individual and professional. I feel extremely lucky to have such talented and successful colleagues around me who can offer a great insight in to the industry. It has made me discover my passion for television production particularly, along with social media content in football clubs. I feel extremely motivated and inspired, with high aims for my future in the football media industry.