In My Opinion: Francis Shennan: Football Business & Media, here I come

BEING shortlisted for three university jobs in three months requires becoming practised in ordeal by presentation.

Prospective employers set a subject. You research, you rehearse, you time the text, you posture in front of the mirror. It’s like the X Factor with PowerPoint slides.

Then along came a prospective employer which I thought required a different approach. Out went my well-practised, revised and re-written ‘Learning for multi-dimensional media employability’ presentation.

In came a five-page website I built specially for the day, packed with newly-researched text, images and videos.

Web pages replaced PowerPoint slides, allowing me to flip back and forth at will and leave the complete presentation for them to review later.

Who did I think would appreciate such a different presentation? It was UCFB Burnley where I was shortlisted for a lectureship in Football Business and Media.

The what? Where? Lecturing in what?

“Why didn’t I know there was a higher education institution dedicated to football business?” asked my former head of department at Westminster Uni. He is not alone. Many people have not heard of it. But they will.

The first students to enter third-year returned to UCFB last month (September), most if not all destined to be our first graduates. The degrees in Football Business & Finance, Football Business & Marketing and Football Business & Media are awarded in partnership with Bucks New University.

Probably the most immediately striking difference from other institutions is the location. The campus is based at Burnley Football Club and the seminar rooms, lecture theatre, refectory and library overlook the pitch.

More striking still will be UCFB’s second campus, due to open next year at Wembley Stadium. Few students interested in football and sports, even Scots, are unlikely to remain unmoved by studying at such a venue.

Before starting here I attended one of the open days and met a Scots couple who had travelled south with their son. They were as surprised as I by the statistics.

Philip Wilson, UCFB’s Provost and chief executive, asked the prospective students and their parents how many people they thought worked at Wembley on match days. The highest estimate proffered was 400. The correct answer was 5,000.

This number covers every level of employment, of course, but still does not cover the people working in the myriad ancillary businesses connected to a game growing nationally and internationally.

Last summer, the English Premier League increased the number of matches available for live broadcast from 138 to 154 per season, auctioning 116 to BSkyB and 38 to BT.

“The Premier League sold these rights for £6.5 million per match (approx), the equivalent of around £1,200 per second of game time,” said Adam Cox in ‘Broadcasting live matches and stadium attendance‘.

For some, this focus on business distracts from the game itself. But given the commercial value of the game now, it’s essential that those working in it are as professional as possible.

There’s a strong emphasis on employability and work placements here. Two students have just returned from a fortnight’s attachment to the Hong Kong FA. Ten will be working on the Rugby League World Cup. Two more will be working with Liverpool FC on their pre-season tour.

Guest speakers arrive weekly: chairman of the Professional Footballers Association Clarke Carlisle, chief executive of the Scottish Professional Football League Neil Doncaster, football business writer David Conn, etc.

Now, every Sunday evening, I set out for sunny Burnley. Actually its location in east Lancashire means its rainfall is similar to the west of Scotland’s. This was, after all, where the industrial revolution began, taking advantage of the fast-flowing water that came off the Pennines to power the pre-steam engine cotton mills.

At weekends, I’m normally in Glasgow, sometimes running my law and freelance journalism courses for the NUJ.

I have a new football allegiance to add to Liverpool and Inverness Caley Thistle and I’ll get to see Burnley more often than the other two.

And I have an additional question to ask in the run-up to next year’s referendum. If the result is a ‘Yes’ vote, will I be entitled to duty-free?

Francis Shennan is now lecturer in Football Business & Media at UCFB Burnley.