The most exciting stage of the football season is well underway with Manchester City clinching a historic treble on Saturday and the EFL play-off finals taking place at Wembley Stadium over the Bank Holiday weekend.  And a mouth-watering Champions League Final is also on the horizon with fans eagerly anticipating a matchup between two Premier League heavyweights.  We spoke with BA (Hons) Stadium & Events Management student Joe Vickers about his experience working at the FA Cup Final, what makes the play-off weekend so special, and the highlights from three years at UCFB…

Tell us about your role at the FA Cup Final. What is it like to work on such a special event?

I am actually already in full-time employment within the event industry with EVENT360; one of the company’s clients is The FA which is why I was at the FA Cup Final. It was a really proud moment to be a part of the final, especially since the pitch cover and pre-match entertainment we were responsible for has been shown all over the world and was received so well. I was lucky enough to be on-site in the days leading up to match day and during this time I believe I experienced even more about the industry as this is when 90% of the work is done, helping to fix any last minute issues that may occur. The event is obviously known all over the world so to be a part of this was an incredibly proud moment which will be hard to match.

Man City secured a historic treble with the win over Watford at Wembley. How big an achievement is that in the modern game with the level of opposition in the Premier League?

To win any of the trophies Manchester City have won is a huge achievement in itself however to win all three is testament to the squad depth and culture within Manchester City, they obviously have a huge talent pool however with this comes big egos which at times must be hard to manage with limited playing time however they seem to have a culture where they understand and support each other no matter what. The premier league is one of the few competitions where no team can be written off going into a match so to be able to end the season the way Manchester City have is incredibly impressive however more than anything shows the culture and togetherness of the squad and club understand how to effectively rotate the team ensuring that the players despite playing 30 plus games are still in the best possible condition week after week.

Joe worked at the Brighton v Manchester City game at the Amex on the final day of the season when Pep Guardiola’s side secured the title.

Tell us about some of the other recent work experience you’ve completed. I know you’ve worked with Army-Navy, as well as on the Brighton v Manchester City game and Non-League finals day. How important is it to gain this type of experience to develop your skillset and prepare yourself for a career in the sports/events industry? What key things have you picked up?

During my final year at UCFB I have been lucky enough to intern at the ALSD conference, work with Keith Prowse and w London Marathon Events at the Marathon and Half-Marathon, however the most substantial experience I have gained came from being an Event Assistant with The FA, during my time in this role I managed to learn from the Event Managers seeing exactly what goes into successfully staging football events at Wembley Stadium. Without this role, I doubt I would be in full-time employment before graduating. Since beginning at EVENT360 I have attended ARMY-NAVY, Premier League Winners Ceremony BRI-MNC, the FA Cup Final, Non-League Finals day and in the next few weeks will be attending the Rugby Sevens Series and Major League Baseball. The key thing I have learnt throughout these placements is networking within the industry is key, any role you are offered should be considered an opportunity as you never know who you will meet and what opportunities could follow. UCFB doesn’t just offer you placements it is an interesting topic that potential employers are interested in and it should be used to approach potential employers when trying to get experience within the industry.

So this weekend you’ll be working on the Rugby Sevens Series at Twickenham. The event has grown massively over the past few years – why do you think it’s gained popularity so much? How is the event unique in the sports industry?

The rugby 7’s offers fans a full weekend of action with little breaks and entertainment throughout, I believe that this unique selling point mixed with the casual “party” atmosphere really helps it to stand out in the sporting calendar. Other sporting events simply offer fans a ticket to a game for the 3 hours they are inside the stadium whereas 7’s offers an entire weekend of rugby for a relatively cheap price. in terms of selling an experience, Sevens is certainly a market leader which is helping it to grow as an event and hopefully, this year’s edition can continue this trend. The fact that it only comes to the UK once a year certainly helps market it to fans as similar to F1 you only get one chance to go per year in the UK.

As a BA (Hons) Stadium & Events Management student it must be exciting to see the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in action. What impact could the new ground have on the UK sports/events industry?

Seeing the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium open is certainly inspiring especially with it being one of the leading venues in the world alongside the Mercedes Benz Arena in the US, it is certainly the leading stadium in the UK and puts pressure of other clubs to invest in their stadium. Having the best venues in the UK is vital to attracting the best events we can see this through Tottenham’s partnership with the NFL and the Olympic Stadium hosting Major League Baseball these events can only come to the UK because of the wealth of venues we have and having these events here certainly does take the industry to a new level. The emphasis is to ensure that we always do have the best venues as it would be a mistake to think that other nations are not capable of constructing world-class venues such as Atletico Madrid with the Wanda Metropolitano, therefore, we must ensure that the best entertainment is also put on for fans to take the events hosted in stadiums to a new level which will keep them coming back.

Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium is now one of the leading sports arenas in the world.

Over the weekend we’ll see three of the most important matches of the season taking place at Wembley including the ‘richest game in football’ to decide that final promotion place from the second tier to the Premier League. From an events perspective, how special is the weekend for the industry?

The upcoming weekend is certainly a unique offering with such highs and lows for the teams taking part. I have been lucky enough during my first and second year to work for DNC in the players block for all three games and one of the major challenges was just how tiring the days can be both emotionally and physically with the teams and partners all expecting the same standards every day and it can be difficult to keep going, however that comes with the industry. There are certainly easier ways to format the weekend possibly by playing games at different venues or dates however this would take away from the drama of hosting three major knockout games at Wembley one after the other. One of the major challenges for events like this is as the event comes closer it is harder to make changes to the later fixtures as you need to focus on the next game which can be problematic as last-minute issues always arise that must be dealt with.

And Atletico Madrid’s new Wanda Metropolitano stadium will host this season’s Champions League Final on 1st June – how does an event like this benefit from being held in a such modern, new arena?

When looking at where the Champions League Final is hosted in my opinion the most important aspects are marketing and brand association; fans pay huge amounts of money to follow their teams to the final which is the pinnacle of European football, therefore, the game must be played in a venue to match. UEFA wants the competition to be considered the best club tournament in the world and obviously for this to happen they need the best teams, but the games must also be played in the best venues, especially the final. The Champions League will be associated with this venue now and it will cement their stature as a leading football organisation. If the final was not in a high-quality venue then it would certainly damage UEFA’s reputation as a football leader as they would be associated with a second tier venue which for the Champions League final is not good enough.

Atletico Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano stadium is the third largest football ground in Spain with a capacity of 67,829.

And finally, congratulations on completing your final year at UCFB! Tell us how you’ve found it. What have the highlights been for you and the most important things you’ve learned and experienced during your time as a student here?

UCFB for me has lived up to everything I expected, the best bit of advice I ever got came from a UCFB Open Day before attending where I was told the that higher education is whatever you make of it and looking back now I couldn’t agree more. UCFB certainly offers some unique placements and opportunities however it is up to you to take them and go out into your industry to learn. Experience and contacts are vital in the events industry and you have the chance to make yourself stand out, and you also need to really commit to the programme.

For the events industry contacts and a strong work ethic will get you a foot in the door so I would never turn down an opportunity, throw yourself into everything you are offered even if you feel it is an easy job; if you manage it to a high level people will trust you and will want to support you with future work/contacts. My first job in the event industry was working in hospitality for DNC however this led to a job in my third year at The FA and without this, I would not have known about EVENT360 so this shows how just breaking into the industry early is important, then you can begin networking and building your way up.

Joe: “Experience and contacts are vital in the events industry and you have the chance to make yourself stand out.”

One of my personal academic highlights has certainly been completing my dissertation I really enjoyed my topic and going out to Los Angeles to gather my data was a great privilege, I would really recommend starting early to others and make sure that you really care about the project and have clearly defined points that you want to investigate. If you do not care about the project it really does make it hard to put the required work in to succeed in writing a good piece of work.

I have been incredibly lucky however would recommend to current Stadium & Events students to go out and ask companies for work experience – don’t just wait for UCFB to advertise. Use the fact that you study events in Wembley Stadium to market yourself and go find more opportunities that can be included in your CV.

In my first year at UCFB I struggled to understand why we studied finance and business however now I am in the industry I definitely see how important this was and it is now certainly helping me in employment. This now shows me how well balanced the course is and how it prepares you perfectly for a future in the industry, but you have to be willing to push yourself.