In April, UCFB announced a multi-year partnership with USL League Two to become the official education partner of the league, and a number of students are now in the United States on summer placements to assist a range of clubs in areas including marketing, media, coaching and events. We spoke with Joan Sospedra, an MSc Sport Management student at UCFB Wembley, about the invaluable experience he is gaining as a Marketing & Finance Assistant at South Georgia Tormenta FC…

Hi Joan. Tell us about your placement – how is it going so far and what are the highlights?

Although I have only been with the club for three weeks, I have already had several notable opportunities to get stuck in! I travelled to Atlanta with the club’s USL League Two team, who had an away fixture, I have also worked a matchday during a USL League Two home fixture and I’ve watched a USL League One team fixture with all the other members of staff for what is called a “watch party”.

Of course in America football (soccer) is very different and is something that is still growing, and this is why at Tormenta FC many things are still quite new. However,  everyone here is thriving on the challenge of developing the club. If there is one thing I would like to highlight about the club, it would have to be the great community here as we are all one big family: players and staff alike.

Tell us about the role and your day to day routine.

My main job role at the club is to design and implement a marketing strategy to improve the brand awareness of the club within the US-Hispanic market. For this, I have designed a strategic plan which includes the implementation of Spanish language options across all social networks and the official website of the club. Furthermore, the strategy includes reaching out to and presenting the club to different Spanish speaking establishments around the state with the aim of introducing and encouraging more Georgians to follow the club. In addition to this, my role also includes weekly designated days dedicated to helping the financial department by acting as assistant to the club accountant.

Alongside these core activities, I collaborate with the club staff in the preparation and organisation of match days.

Why did you decide to undertake the placement? How do you feel it can benefit you in the long-term?

The masters programme which I am studying at UCFB Wembley lasts a full year, however, there are no classes over summer giving us time to work on our dissertation research projects. In light of this, when I saw the great opportunity on offer for UCFB students in the US, I did not doubt that this would be the best way to build on my studies and develop my international experiences.

My goal is to create an international CV, which was the driver behind me leaving Barcelona to undertake postgraduate studies in London. In order to develop my skills further, I was delighted to take up a position in the US, which has undoubtedly changed my CV and skills completely.  In the long term, this experience will enable me to build on and use knowledge of football across Europe and the US – which I believe will be an important differentiating factor when I am looking for employment in the future.

With attendance levels reaching 7.3 million per year in the MLS, football in the US is going from strength to strength. As an MSc Sport Management student at UCFB, can you tell us what the main drivers are behind this increase in popularity?
Sport in the US is already something massive and it continues to grow. For years now, the country has motivated its younger population to do a number of sports during their studies and that is why a high number of students at college/university level are athletes who hope to end up in professional sport. In spite of this, historically football has been less popular in the US because basketball and American football have always been the main sports.  This is why, seeing the popularity that football has in Europe and the financial power of the sport, large entities have seen football as a great investment opportunity and have decided to commit more money into the sport in the US which has caused the recent increase in its popularity.

Tormenta FC was founded in 2015 making it Statesboro’s first pro team in any sport in 60 years. With this in mind, how important is the club for the local community?

Currently, the club is working to make itself known in Statesboro while at the same time increasing the awareness and appreciation of football because, although it may seem surprising to Europeans, in the US there are many people who do not follow the beautiful game.

On the other hand, the local community of Statesboro who do know the club, are very proud to have a local professional football team and are very loyal to their team attending all the matches and club events. Like any football club, Tormenta has the power to bring the community together, creating a sense of belonging and pride.

The club was announced as the first founding member of USL League One for 2019. How important is the development and success of the division for the progress of the support in the US?

Every big league-like the MLS- needs lower developmental leagues, not only for the formation and development of talent but also for support in the popularity of the sport. This is why for football in the United States it is essential that this new professional league has a great success which, so far this season, is the case!

Construction for a 5,300 seater soccer-specific stadium in Statesboro is due for a 2020 completion – what are the benefits the new arena will bring to the club?
Every big club needs a big stadium to match its ambition. That is why Torementa FC have committed to developing their stadium. This project will help the club to increase its popularity around the region and undoubtedly, increasing its attendance figures at matches. In addition, this project not only consists of the creation of a larger football stadium but also a place for other types of events and therefore the creation of different businesses/revenue streams around the clubs business model. These new businesses will also give a great boost to the community.

And finally, do you have any advice for other students thinking about taking up placements like this?
Without any doubt, I encourage all students to apply for this type of placement, as it is the best way to consolidate your studies- by putting the knowledge acquired into practice during the study programme. This type of international experience allows you to gain an understanding of a different perspective of football/sport and working with growing clubs gives you the opportunity to have greater responsibilities and impact. European football is currently the most popular and clubs in the United States need European staff to help the club grow. Finally, these types of opportunities give a completely different edge to your CV that will undoubtedly boost your chances of getting a good job within the sports industry.