Regional football associations around the country help to make the game tick along at grassroots level by running leagues, bringing together volunteers and initiating youth projects. Working at the Somerset FA is Conor, a MSc International Sport Management (Online) graduate. Here, Conor tells us about his role there, and his other position as a Kick It Out Next 25 scholar and ambassador…

Tell us about your role as Marketing and Partnerships Officer at Somerset FA. What does the role entail and what are the highlights?

The central function of my job as Marketing and Partnerships Officer at Somerset FA is to communicate the work of us as a County FA and The FA nationally to all stakeholders in grassroots football across Somerset. I also initiate and maintain commercial partnerships with a wide variety of local and national organisations whose products and services are beneficial to grassroots leagues, clubs, volunteers, referees and players. The highlights are working with a wide variety of colleagues from across the country, and locally in grassroots sport, to bring value to the sport in our county. Football in Somerset contributes £211m annually in economic and social wellbeing value to our local economy. 

You’re also a Kick It Out Next 25 scholar and ambassador. Tell us how that has been and what you’ve been able to achieve with the organisation?

It has been fantastic to be a Next 25 Scholar and ambassador with Kick It Out. It’s fantastic to have been recognised as a ‘future leader’ in the sports industry; this opportunity will allow me to progress in my career and use my new-found connections, knowledge and my set of values to improve sporting opportunities for all. 

What is it like working at a regional FA in terms of pressure to deliver and doing the job to the best of your ability?

Of course there is pressure to deliver on objectives, but when you’re doing a job you love with a great team then it really doesn’t feel like work. I’m very lucky to be in a role that I do not see as ‘work’ and that I genuinely look forward to fulfilling each day. I know how many of my peers would love to be in a paid role within sports, so I don’t take it for granted. Working for a County FA and being part of the wider FA family is a really great position to be in for my own personal progression and development. I have been able to take advantage of some fantastic opportunities over and above my paid role to add to my skillset and experience. I was an important part of the working group which strategised and organised the national activation for the 2019 Stonewall Rainbow Laces campaign in November. I’m also part of the group who suggest and prioritise web and digital improvements to all County FA websites for the benefit of grassroots participants. This allows me to connect with, learn from and share ideas with some highly-skilled colleagues. 

Before landing your full time job at Somerset FA you also undertook work experience there. How important was that towards helping you gain employment at the governing body?

Quite simply I wouldn’t have my current job now if I did not undertake the internship I did whilst studying my first masters at Bath Spa; it really was that important. I was always a rugby player and fan before landing my role at Somerset FA, so if you told me at that time I’d work in football and enjoy it I’d have told you that you were mad! My work experience allowed me to make a positive impression on the team at Somerset FA to the point where they asked me back to do it ‘properly’ and to also see that this kind of role really was for me. What also allowed me to stand out as a candidate for the internship was the fact I had previous and similar work experience more-so than the candidates I was up against.  

Tell us how your MSc International Sport Management degree at UCFB set you up for the role. What skills did you develop on the course?

The course offered by UCFB allowed me to develop industry specific insights that my previous courses hadn’t covered, which ultimately enables me to stand out when applying for future roles in the sports industry. The course has allowed me to develop my strategic thinking for future leadership roles which I aspire to hold, but I’m not in a rush to leave Somerset FA!

What made you choose to study your Masters degree at UCFB?

UCFB’s leading reputation in the sports-education sector is what really attracted me, and the fact that there was an innovative online course which allowed me to study around my current role (which I was not able to give up for an on-campus course) is what really sealed the deal. It was an enjoyable and challenging course, but the tutors at UCFB were always on hand to help and they really went above and beyond to make sure that the experience was great. They took account of regular feedback from the students on the course and I’m sure in future years it will only get bigger and better. 

What are your UCFB highlights?

For me, being part of an online programme rather than a campus-based course was different to the experiences of other students. For me, the chance to develop and apply my knowledge to a range of real and hypothetical scenarios, and exchange ideas with my peers and tutors were my highlights. I will fondly reflect on my time at UCFB in years to come as my career progresses because of both the time I spent as a student there, and what I achieved as a result. 

What advice would you give to students thinking about studying at UCFB?

My advice is to grab the opportunity with both hands! Not only that, but make sure that you proactively seek out opportunities to gain work experience, because that is what will shine on your CV along with your qualifications to employers. There are so many opportunities out there, you might have to do some searching and networking to find them, but it will definitely be worth it during the placement, and also for the future.