How UCFB Graduate Amy & Watford FC Are Dealing With The Crisis
The coronavirus pandemic that has shook the world in recent weeks has had a huge impact on the sports industry. Competitions across different countries and different sports have come to a standstill, and we’ve even seen the cancellation of the likes of this summer’s Olympic Games in Japan and Euro 2020.
To find out more about how the sports industry is being affected, we spoke to a number of our graduates working around the world to see how much more difficult the crisis is making their work on a day-to-day basis. Here, we speak to Amy O’Connor, a BA (Hons) Football Business & Marketing graduate, who now works as a Sponsorship & Partnership Account Manager at Premier League side Watford…
In the current climate sport has almost come to a standstill for the first time since WW2. What has been the direct effect on your job and what you do?
Working with the sponsors, I’m really lucky that I’m in a role where most areas can be covered remotely so that has made the transition slightly easier. We have multiple calls a week with our main sponsor (front of shirt and sleeve) to ensure they are kept up-to-date with developments and to endeavour to continue to meet objectives the best we can without the match day elements.
However, there are areas that are not so seamless, such as our main sponsor are using social competitions to keep fans engaged, but with working from home I don’t have access to shirts to ship around the world. We’ve also had to be creative with sponsor generated content, such as: https://talksport.com/football/689887/ben-foster-watford-squad-troy-deeney-coronavirus/
Working for a Premier League club, how interesting and challenging has it been to see how Watford and the league in general has been handling this extremely unique situation?
I can only speak personally, but the club have been great in supporting us as staff transitioning into the working from home format. Our intranet provides several notice board messages regarding well-being support, tips on working from home and generally checking in to see we are doing ok. Furthermore, Watford’s approach with assisting the community has been outstanding and shows how we value the local area and that sense of family. Ongoing projects include using stadium facilities to aid Watford General where possible, and ‘Hornets at Home’ to support those who are vulnerable during these difficult times.
Do you think the business operation of sport will change in any way at all once this current crisis is overcome, or do you feel things will return to how they were?
I personally believe this will provide a learning curve in terms of business operations. Although we would hope to never experience anything like this again, it does show how procedures need to be in place as a precaution. I believe it will impact how commercial deals are negotiated between companies and both teams and leagues.
Do you think football and sport has an important role to play in the current climate to emphasise the message to the public about safety?
Yes, definitely. Sportsmen and women are role models so they can communicate a message and set an example. But more importantly, clubs as a whole play a big part in their communities so the reaction and actions from a club can set a benchmark and generate strong messages.
What was the immediate reaction of yourself, colleagues and the organisation when the news broke that firstly, sport was effectively coming to a stop, and secondly, that working from home was essential for the health and wellbeing of individuals?
We were preparing for a home game against Leicester when the decision was eventually made. Of course, as a country people were wondering if the game would go ahead but we could not take the risk of assuming it would be postponed as deadlines fall fairly early in a match week to have everything in place, so we had to continue as normal until the Premier League decision was announced on the Friday.
Of course, we all appreciate that the decision was taken for the safety of all fans, players and staff. My immediate responsibility then was to reach out to club partners to inform them fixtures were to be postponed. Although it was across the news, it is the delivery of a personal experience and our responsibility to ensure they are aware. From this point we started the transition to working from home if your role permitted, which mine did. I’ve therefore been working from home since 16th March. We all maintain strong communication but follow the advice the government are issuing.
Now you are working from home, how are you organising your day and what would you recommend to others in a similar situation who are maybe struggling not being in their usual work environment?
In my role, I actually have several calls that are scheduled for the same time each week and this has continued even working from home, thus providing the basis for planning my schedule each week. This period has also allowed me to pick up tasks that have been on my ‘list’ for a while and has created the time for sponsors to request elements that usual turnaround times do not normally permit, so this has kept me busy. My advice would be to take that time out to have a break and try to keep your surroundings upbeat. Despite me missing the football part of my role it entails re-watching games, which helps to keep me motivated.
What impact do you think football and sport will have on people when things hopefully return to normal in the coming months, and do you think it can be a positive one?
There is so much uncertainty with everything at the moment but one thing is for sure, we won’t be taking things for granted when life does return to normal. The return of sport will have a positive effect I think, it’s people’s interests and passion and it will reignite that fire. Live sport also presents a time for people to be with friends and family during the emotional rollercoaster that results bring and this will be more so than ever something to savour – the special moments and memories.