As Phil Neville's Lionesses take on World Cup favourites the USA in a much-anticipated semi-final matchup, we spoke with BA (Hons) Sports Business & Sports Broadcasting graduate and current Student Mentor, Alex Hutt, about the record TV audiences and what it means for the women's game...

From your experience of living over in the US, what is the biggest difference in football compared to the UK?

Football in England is ingrained into society. It’s the topic of most conversation and no matter where you look there is something football related. In the States, football (soccer) is still up and coming, but growing at an immense speed which is fantastic to see! So I would say the biggest difference is the culture. Over here it is a way of life and even what some people live for each week. America's go to sports are baseball and American football which still very much take precedent on TV and in conversation, but that really is changing fast.

In the UK 7.6 million people tuned in for the England v Norway game - as a broadcasting graduate from UCFB what's the reason behind the growth in popularity of the women's game?

I have really loved seeing the massive growth in women’s football just over the last three or four years. I think there has been a very positive and rapid shift across sport towards driving forward equality, and football is a major component of how we can continue to change perceptions. Until fairly recently there seemed to be a perception that Women’s football wasn’t as important or entertaining as men’s coming from many people that hadn’t actually tried to watch the women’s game, and much like how soccer in America is, I think this World Cup could potentially unleash a sleeping giant of an industry in women’s football. After this World Cup, it partly comes down to the broadcasting companies being willing to give women’s football the air time to continue the positive uptake. As this World Cup's viewership figures have shown, there is a market for it! So hopefully this upward trend in broadcast time and viewership numbers continues.

Tell us about the transition from student to staff member at UCFB? How did that come about?

I moved to the UK from the US knowing no one so my method of meeting new people was by just signing up and getting involved in what UCFB had to offer. I served as a student’s union ambassador as well as eventually being elected chaired the student’s council so got some amazing insight into behind the scenes of UCFB. I graduated with a first and moved back to the US in a search for work and despite my good marks and quality of work, I found it difficult to break into the American media industry. This was partly to do with where I was living not having many media companies around, and also because over there, university is four years, and so I was a year younger than the American graduates applying for the same positions. I did some freelance work and some unpaid work but I couldn’t get a foothold. I turned my attention back to the UK and saw that UCFB were hiring for a role that was very similar to what I was doing as student council chair so I was already equipped for it. I applied and thankfully because of my good standing with the University and its staff I got an interview and was offered the role! I am still able to use my broadcasting skills by creating content for the students so I still feel like I am engaged in what I learned.

Tell us about the role and what you need to be a good mentor for students?

My role is a jack of all trades know it all really. It's great because I sort of have a foot in each department and having been a student myself I understand what situations current students can find themselves in. So I like to just be a point of reference and if I can’t answer the question then I will know someone who can. I also try to instill students with a positive mindset about uni. It’s not a boring place to just get a degree and carry on. It’s a place to build networks and learn about yourself. I try to teach current students that UCFB has an amazing number of tools and knowledge that we can teach and present students with, and getting them to engage with it all. That’s my key to success, be engaged and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

With UCFB going global this summer, opening study hubs in major cities in Australia, Canada, and the US, what opportunities and benefits could this offer to students and graduates? 

Firstly, I am so excited about this opportunity and you best believe that as an alumnus I am going to take advantage of this. In my opinion, the most important thing to come out of a student’s time at university is the experience and contacts. Yes, a degree is as important and will get you in the door, but once you look past the piece of paper what do you have that sets you apart from other applicants? Also, who do you know that might know someone looking for a new grad to fill a position? These fine details and contacts are the things that will get you work. I learned very quickly the real world is all about who you know. The global hubs are going to really elevate our student experience and allow our future graduates to have a brilliant global network of support and contacts. The sports industry is about as global as you can get, so it's important to have these worldly interactions. You never know when these could help you down the line! The locations we are setting up our hubs have rapid growth in their sports sectors so for our students the chance to be in and around that environment is invaluable.

Tell us about the opportunities at UCFB and the work experience roles you had at BT and QPR for example?

As a student, my course mates and I worked essentially as producers for BT sport’s National League Show. We would travel all over the country to film and edit short packages that we sent to BT which often got put on television which was an amazing feeling. We have a really good ongoing relationship with the national league and it’s really an unparalleled opportunity to learn hands-on skills under pressure.

UCFB also covers some of the QPR U23 team. We produce a highlight, interview, and match footage show that goes on QPR website. We also do the highlights packages for the QPR U18’s and women’s teams as well. All broadcasting students get involved in this in one way or another whether its presenting, editing, or producing.

The experiences our students get, and the ones that I got, are industry leading. I have never met a student or graduate from any other institution that has had as much practical experience as my peers and I had on the course. It truly prepares you for the workplace.