Why do you want to work in Sport?

Article by Zarina Bahdur, Head of Operations at Goal Africa - 

Take a moment. Think about it. Dig deep. Got it? 
Now reflect. Does your reasoning make sense and if the industry is really for you. 

Why is this woman trying to talk us out of working in the sports industry, you may be asking right now.  The truth of the matter is the industry is a complex one and requires the determination, commitment and sacrifices that many others don’t. 

In my current position and as a consultant,  I have the fortune (and sometimes misfortune) of having to interview and work with people across the spectrum of the business. I also get to interview and consult with potential employees, partners and suppliers. It is for this reason, I find that the very simple question of ‘Why do you want to work in sport?’ is probably one of the most important questions that needs to be asked. 

Many people have the idea that by working in sport, they will be living the glamour lifestyle as presented in some media, on TV shows and social media. There are many people that aspire to hang out with the players that they are fans of after a day at work.

While in some instances and roles, there may be some of these ‘perks’ these are few and far between. Added to that, the illusion and bubble of the lifestyle will inevitably burst once these individuals learn that there is a real job that is to be done. There have been interviews and discussions with people looking to enter the market, that have highlighted this as one of the key motivating factors. We have been told directly on more than one occasion, I want to be working with (insert top club from the Premier League or La Liga) so that I get to work with (insert any big name player from that club). When asked why, we were told, ‘I am a fan.’ In another instance, we were told that the interviewee wanted to date a footballer. Yes really. 

Unsurprisingly, these individuals were not hired. 

The next question, that needs to be asked is "are you willing to give up your nights and weekends?" If you are not, it is more than likely many roles within the industry would not suit you. I work in football. Football happens at nights and weekends. There is not much of a break these days with friendly matches, international competitions, pre-season, post-season, transfer season and everything in between. Are you as individual willing to sacrifice certain holidays, birthdays, parties, hanging out with friends and family over a barbeque to be at work? If not, think long and hard about the role you want to be playing in the sports industry. There has been a number of people, that I have worked with personally that may have been fantastic at their jobs, but they found the schedules unbearable as they missed out on their social lives. They were not able to adapt. There has been a number of friends and acquaintances of my own that have slipped out of my life simply because I would not pass up work on multiple occasions for a get-together. When they were free I was working, when I was free, they were working. It’s a bit of challenge that in the 21st century, that people still don’t understand this. 

There are many truly passionate sports fans that want to work in the industry. Who can fault them? But being a fan and giving up your Saturday night to watch the Champions League final is very different from giving up most of your day to make sure the Branding in the stadium is up properly, that the media are given the proper accreditation, that teams routes and arrival is properly arranged and so on. 

The sports industry is an intense one, it can be exciting too. But there are more days in the week, when it can be busy and ordinary.  There are days that will be nine to five, there will be roles that require a pretty standard work day. And then there is everything else. One also needs to be cognizant of their skills, their talents and where they would like to work. 

Most people are not going to find themselves working for FIFA in their first sports job. It has happened, but it’s exception rather than the rule. It also is many years of experience in their area of expertise before making the transition. One also needs to take note that each sports market comes with its own set of rules and way. This differs from sport to sport, continent to continent, country to country, league to league and even team to team. Dream big, but be realistic too. 

Do your homework, speak to people in the industry, speak to people within the structures you wish to work in. Understand that some places are more closed off than others and would be more of a challenge. Others are more open and welcoming, more willing to share. Look at the various different roles within the sports industry. It is no longer just a coach, a kit man, a marketing/admin person and a bunch of volunteers. Every single sports body, be it club, federation, media house, agency, NGO, brands sponsorship department or entrepreneurial venture offers opportunities in roles from communications, to nutritionists to  drivers. Get a clearer idea of what which does if you don’t understand their roles and functions. 

So I ask again, Why do you want to work in sport? Are you up for the challenge?
Good. Now, go for it!

Zarina Bahdur is Head of Operations for Goal Africa, Freelance Communications Consultant and a FIFA Master alumna.