By Rebecca Hawksworth

UCFB’s partnership with The National League has enabled a number of students to gain valuable work experience in a wide range of sectors at football clubs across the country.

One of the clubs to benefit from the partnership is FC United of Manchester, with several UCFB Etihad Campus students making the trip to east Manchester to work in various departments at the club.

FC United are a unique club in English football due to the fact that they are completely fan owned as they try to challenge the dependence on sponsorship within the sport. Because of this the club has gathered a huge online following, and has brought in players from the likes of Brazil, Portugal and France, despite only being semi-professional.

UCFB students from several degree programmes have worked with the club in order to build up their CV and gain first-hand experience of working in a football club environment.

BA (Hons) Football Coaching & Management student Darren Murray was appointed as head coach of the under-17 side at the beginning of the semester after being put forward for the position by Mike Walsh, Head of Academics (Operations) – UCFB Etihad Campus. After his appointment, Darren brought in fellow student Ben Pugh as his assistant, along with several other students as coaching staff.

Ben said: “Our coaching team is responsible for around 30 under-17 players with the objective of developing the players to progress to the under 18s, under 21s and ultimately to become first-team players.”

Ben went on to give his thoughts on the structure and hierarchy of the club, praising their interaction with their fans, saying: “This is a brilliant environment to work in as there is a lot of transparency at the club, with all fans given the opportunity to have a say on the direction that the club goes in.

“The club’s emphasis on developing people from the local area of Moston is written in the philosophy, with the club used as a central hub for the wider community outside that of the football mindset.”

As well as various UCFB students getting involved with the coaching set-up at the club, there have also been several BA (Hons) Football Business & Media and BA (Hons) Multimedia Sports Journalism students completing placements.

One of these is Matt Freestone, who detailed exactly what his role with the club entailed. He said: “I was made aware of the opportunity by my course leader. He told my class that FC United were looking to recruit a group of students to run their social media and almost begin their media from scratch.

“I attend the club’s home matches alongside my fellow students and take charge of one of the club’s social media platforms for the day – me and the other students rotate each week. My role sees me provide fans that are unable to attend the matches with regular updates, whilst also trying to boost the club’s popularity.”

Darren, Ben and Matt all went on to state where they see their futures heading and how their experience at FC United is helping them on the right path to building successful careers within the sports industry.

Darren said: “Long term I would definitely like to be an academy manager at a club. FC United is definitely helping me achieve this with the amount of responsibility given to me. Whilst other clubs may have been strict in their approach on what they want you to do I’ve been very lucky in how FC United have let me implement my own ideas and bring in my own staff to work the way I want to play.”

Ben acknowledged the freedom and responsibility the pair have been given, adding: “FC United has provided me with the best learning environment possible. The responsibility that I have been given, alongside the freedom to develop my coaching knowledge, has been brilliant. Their trust in me has been a very important development opportunity for me as it has given me the confidence to express myself and to always strive for the best for myself and the group of players I work with.”

Looking for a career away from the coaching side of the game, Matt finished by saying: “I am still not 100% sure of what I want my future career to be, however, I am thoroughly enjoying my time at FC United. It’s providing me with the opportunity to meet different people from different departments at the club and I am learning a lot about the professionalism that is required to work at a club at any level.”