An inspired group of BA (Hons) Football Business & Media students at UCFB Wembley were determined to help the Royal British Legion as part of their public relations module last year – little did they know that this would result in them having a direct impact on the FA Cup final six months later.

Chris Durcan, the mastermind behind the idea, told us about how the project gathered steam, what it was like working at the FA Cup final and his time at UCFB so far…

Tell us about how you managed to set up a Royal British Legion coin toss in the FA Cup final...

We started planning an assignment around November and wanted to focus on the Royal British Legion as we discovered that they would be losing out a vast sum of money through lack of poppy sales due to COVID-19. We started planning different ideas and researching the charity when we realised that they were celebrating their 100th anniversary this year. As a Wembley Stadium Tour Guide – knowing my dates – I remembered that their anniversary falls on the same day as the FA Cup final. The rest is history!

My group (Adam Harvey, George Watkins, Louis Ellis and myself) believed that we had come up with a great idea for the Royal British Legion to celebrate their 100th year anniversary at the FA Cup final and contacted them letting them know. I was delighted to hear from the Royal British Legion (a few days before the final) that due to an idea that we came up with, the Royal British Legion managed to gain recognition at the final through the coin toss at the start of the match. They were highly appreciative of us helping them and are going to send us a replica FA Cup final special coin! 

How does it feel to have had an impact on the FA Cup final, while also raising awareness for a great cause?

Amazing! When I saw the email from them, I was over the moon that they had managed to follow through on the plans that we had put in place for them. We were all so delighted to have managed to impact on such a high calibre event as mad football fans – but sadly for George and Louis, it was a final to forget as they are Chelsea fans! More importantly, we are all so proud to have helped a charity who were in desperate need of fundraising as poppy sales were at a minimum with shops closed and no football matches taking place. Through the publicity that they received from Soccer AM, BBC News and other platforms, we hope this has given them the best birthday present ever.

What was your role working at the FA Cup final?

 One of the great things about building the partnership is that I was working at the final, so I could experience the day myself. I work for the customer engagement team at Wembley Stadium at every event, and am really looking forward to working throughout the Euros. On non-event days, I am a Tour Guide at the stadium, which is very enjoyable as I meet new people every day and walk around speaking about the best stadium in the world.

What was it like working at the event?

It was a joy to work at the event. I remember waking up with an added bit of excitement due to knowing that I played a small role in the event. It was incredible to witness fans back in the stadium; witnessing and experiencing the celebrations from the Leicester fans was unreal to watch. I still get goosebumps working and studying at Wembley despite doing it for three years now!

Tell us more about your BA (Hons) Football Business & Media degree. Have you engaged with the sports industry much throughout your three years?

The three years have flown by and I have enjoyed every minute of it. What I like is the focus on getting students to connect with people in the sports industry. For the assignment itself, we were not required to message the Royal British Legion but we did so because of how it would help us going forward in using this as something we can put on our CVs and that is what UCFB have always encouraged since starting. My year two broadcasting modules from Robin and Owen were really focused on engaging with the sports industry as I conducted interviews with Liam Boylan (Wembley Stadium General Manager), Conor Coventry (West Ham U23s Captain) and many members of the parkrun. I created my own radio match report and helped design a TV show. All my experiences in engaging with the sports industry have been a massive help in improving my skill set and future job potential.

You also host a weekly podcast for WDSportz YouTube. Tell us about this role and what it involves.

In February, Adam and I decided to set up a podcast focused on Championship football. We have benefited from advice from our seminar teacher Andreas throughout the process and it has been a vast success with our channel constantly growing.

Due to the success of our first podcast, WDSportz – who have around 4,000 subscribers on YouTube – asked us whether we would like to put our podcast on their channel. We accepted their offer, and so created a visual podcast for their channel as well as the audio version we put out on most podcast stations. Also, I write an article each week about the Championship for WDSportz’s website. The podcast covers everything about the Championship and focuses on trying to get different fans to hear their views about their club, hence the name Championship Crowd Podcast. Make sure you give it a listen!

What advice would you give to someone looking to study at UCFB?

Take up every opportunity! UCFB offers a wide range of work experience roles which will give you much needed experience in the sports industry. If you want a paid role, then head to the Freshers’ Fair and they will have different local organisations – that’s where I heard about the Wembley Tours which is an incredible job. Make sure you take advantage of the extracurricular experiences on offer and just keep on building your portfolio.