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London Sports Business Internship Blog #1: How I Scored An Internship at Queens Park Rangers Football Club
9.10am. Queensway tube. Hunters & Collectors ‘Talking to a stranger’
- Born in Brisbane, Australia in 1984
- Graduated with degrees in Behavioural Studies and Education from the University of Queensland in 2006
- Have worked as a high school teacher since 2007 in Brisbane, Central Queensland as well as in Newmarket, Cambridge and London.
- Currently employed in the tertiary sector in Australia teaching event management, communications, marketing and artist management.
- Have extensive music industry experience from managing bands, booking gigs, planning events, international tour management, venue management and maintaining digital media strategies.
- Previously worked at the Brisbane Cricket Ground (The Gabba) from 1999-2006 managing stadium hospitality services as well as at music venues The Zoo in Brisbane and The Hammersmith Apollo in London.
- Undertaking Masters of Business (Sport Management) through Deakin University, Melbourne in 2014 (online).
Teaching AFL at a school in London
At SXSW Music Conference in Austin, Texas
Presenting a speech at a Brisbane Sounds event
With my primary school students in Mildenhall, Suffolk.
The Pre Game: How I got an internship at Queens Park Rangers Football Club.
This is one hell of a crazy story. However if you know me, you’ll know that my whole life is one crazy story after another. From teaching in challenging London high schools where I’ve had a knife put to my neck to tour managing bands around the UK and running a PR and events business that has taken me all over the world promoting the Brisbane music industry, I don’t sit back and wait for things to happen. I get off my butt, seek out opportunities and live out my dreams as well as actively encouraging and inspiring my students to do the same.
Brisbane Sounds Logo
SEALS UK Tour 2011
Flood Bank 2011 Disaster Appeal Gig
Brisbane Sounds 2010 Event
This is why 100 days before I turn 30 I’m about to embark on a life changing trip back to London to reinvent my career by working in the sports business. From December to January 2014 I’ll be working at global football club Queens Park Rangers in Shepherds Bush, London where I’ll be completing an internship in event management, communications and marketing with the aim of refining and improving my skills in these areas and bringing that knowledge back to Australia and securing employment in the sports business (or trying to get sponsored and work in the UK/Europe). However, the whole process to get this amazing opportunity sorted out has not been easy and is an example of my strongest qualities with those being dedication, positivity and enthusiasm. But how did this all come about?
Queens Park Rangers logo
Loftus Road Stadium
Going back to early 2012 and I was getting very disillusioned with working in the music industry, particularly in my hometown of Brisbane where I had worked tirelessly since 2006 promoting 1000+ artists, building a 16K strong online community, networking internationally, running events and spending over $85,000 of my own money on the business. I cut my event management and communications teeth with my business, Brisbane Sounds during this time but I also learnt life lessons in business as well. It’s a ruthless and stressful industry to work in and I kept feeling that my morals were being tested and knew I had to get out so made the decision to finish up the business in April 2012 and direct all my focus on improving my practice as a teacher.
Brisbane Sounds 2008 Gig
Brisbane Sounds 2010 Compilation Album
Around the same time as working at a high school part time, I also started working as a teacher part time at a tertiary institution. It had always been a bit stressful going from one job to the other each week, packing and unpacking my bag each Wednesday over the past two years and managing 100 odd teenage and adult students. However this year I had a student I was close to pass away through illness, a past student in England also died and I’ve had multiple learners with challenging diverse needs to support so it was probably one of my most stressful years as a teacher.
In this same period I had to reapply to keep one of my jobs, complete an extensive four month training course for the same job and then someone maliciously damaged my beloved 4WD. Things just kept going from bad to worse but I had to radicalize positivity and get on with life. I was finding that when I took students to see the counselor I’d be feeling as though student issues and teaching were starting to really weigh me down emotionally. It was very difficult being this super positive teacher for my students and helping them through their own personal troubles so I knew I needed change and I knew I was the only one who could do something about that. Therefore decided to focus all my efforts to get back into marketing, branding, event management and communications but this time with a focus on the sports business and not the music business. I do wonder how other teachers cope sometimes with all the pressures in their own lives but also wanting to do everything they can for their students in times of need.
Usually every year I would take myself off to the UK or USA and set up professional development and networking opportunities with people I admire and want to learn from while mixing my passion for sports and music by seeing gigs and games at stadiums and venues around the world. So in February of this year I decided to head to Europe for my 29th birthday as one of the teams I support, West Ham United were playing on the weekend of my birthday and my favourite band, who I’ve done some work with in the past, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club were playing in Brussels on my actual birthday two days later.
West Ham vs West Brom at Upton Park
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club gig in Brussels
This time around though, I decided to set up meetings with key players in the UK football industry. I emailed, sent letters or called every London club from the Premier League to the lower divisions and eventually got meetings with Fulham, West Ham, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and QPR along with a few other clubs throughout Europe.
Meeting at Allianz Arena, Munich
Meeting at Arsenal
The meetings that I set up were to talk about the roles these people had, careers in the sports business and how a global club is run. At the end of each meeting I asked all of them for an internship and told them about myself, my skills and how they could help me achieve my dreams of a career in the sports business. As luck would have it QPR agreed to an internship for December. I walked away from the stadium telling myself that nothing was set in stone and to go with the flow with whatever was to come. To this day I owe the lady who set this up so much gratitude and admiration as in just a short 45 minute chat she could see my potential. There is no doubt that she is on the Christmas shopping list!
Over the next few months I continued to focus on teaching however by July I had made the decision to resign from one of my teaching posts and focus all of my efforts into reinventing my career in the sports business by looking at what I’ve done up to this point in my life and looking at where I wanted to go. I realized that I needed a break from teaching young adults, parents, paperwork, marking assessments and all the stressors that go with that life.
Game Day Strategy
From July to now I really began getting into personal branding and started reevaluating what I wanted to do with this next phase of my life. I found this amazing book called ‘Reinventing You’ by US based author Dorie Clark which hit me like a soccer ball to the head in terms of how life changing it was. I started writing out a list of all the personal branding and career reinvention jobs I had to achieve before I left for London. The list started out with a few simple things like getting new business cards and a website to networking and completing volunteer work.
‘Reinventing You’ by Dorie Clark
I have been adding to the list on a daily basis and intend on writing a book about this experience but for now the list is up to 33 elements which I have ticked off. These include:
1. Creating a personal brand statement: ‘I’m a creative and ambitious communications and event management professional with seven years of experience visualizing, developing and facilitating major events and communications projects with a high success rate of delivering exceptional outcomes for clients in both local and international markets. I’m a leader, networker and life long learner skilled in social media, marketing and public relations with exceptional interpersonal skills and a proactive and passionate approach to executing outstanding results.’
2. Refining my LinkedIn with a focus on key word optimization.
3. Setting up a website www.mrblairhughes.com which sells my personal brand and story.
4. Setting up a logo.
Blair Hughes Logo
5. Having a professional photo taken.
6. Setting up all the same branding on social media sites.
Social Media Branding
7. Networking through social media with leaders in the sports business.
8. Producing a personal infographic that sums up my story in a visual form.
9. Completed volunteer work in my new field to get my name out there.
10. Had testimonials and endorsements from past clients and colleagues written.
11. Defined my title in a few words.
12. Created content for my website and social media sites such as infographics.
A League Infographic for Brisbane vs Melbourne
13. Went to conferences in this new field.
14. Participated in Twitter live chats.
15. Continued to learn from listening to 100+ TED Talks, instructional videos, online workshops and webinars along with reading countless articles.
16. Made a new email and email signature.
17. Created business cards.
My new creative sports business themed business cards
18. Participated in Skype sessions with leaders in this field.
19. Bought 20+ books on personal branding, sports business, leadership, marketing and event management.
20. Crafted my stories and storytelling from my past experiences.
21. Subscribed to industry magazines and publications.
22. Bought new clothes and completely revolutionized my wardrobe and style to match this new career.
23. Started to blog and share ideas.
24. Worked on helping others with this knowledge of personal branding. Found that I would be offering advice not only to students but also other adults in the area of personal branding.
25. Sought out the leaders I wanted to emulate and went about setting up meetings both locally and internationally.
26. Created a Pinterest account to share ideas on sports fan engagement and marketing ideas.
27. Investigated study options and chose a course in Melbourne to study in 2014.
28. Talked to people and friends about what I wanted to do. Started selling my brand more vocally because you never know who is listening and who can help you on your journey.
29. Found mentors in my field who I wanted to assist me.
30. Expressed my ideas and plans.
31. Did a career path self assessment.
32. Started work on a short film showcasing my skills, dreams, goals and past work experience.
33. Developed a new elevator pitch.
Leaving the Sheds
Getting to work at a major football club in London was not easy though. Around early September I was contacted by the club and told that I would need a visa for the trip as the UK immigration department deemed what I was doing as ‘work’. As I had already completed my working holiday visa from 2006-2008 the only available option was to get an immigration lawyer involved at a cost of $1000AUD and figure out what visa options were available to me in this unique situation. Acquiring the services of an immigration lawyer was probably the best money I spent though as the lawyer was exceptional from start to finish and really helped me out with some of the problems I faced in getting back to the UK.
Ready to send my Visa application to UK Immigration.
What problems though? Well, having put together the 50 pages of documents (CV, bank statements, cover letter, return airfare ticket, letter from my employer about when I was due back for work in 2014, letter of offer from the club, accommodation details, passport, passport photos and visa application forms) for my visa application I then had to call the $15 a minute UK Immigration hotline in Canberra after their online system charged me $140 twice for the biometrics payment.
On calling to sort this out I was questioned about my visa application and told in no uncertain terms that my lawyer had got it all wrong, the visa I was applying for was wrong, my visa application would be refused, I wouldn’t be allowed into the UK and every time I travelled I would be hauled off for questioning due to having had a visa application refused. I was told that they had never heard of an Australian going over to work at a club before, that it probably wouldn’t be worth wasting my money on the visa application and also that the majority of times most people just rock up at the gate at Heathrow and state their case and 9 out of 10 get allowed into England. I politely told her that I had a lot on the line here and I did not want to risk being the 1 out of 10 which was denied as I had invested a lot of time and effort into all of this.
She also happened to mention that she was a Chelsea supporter….
The crisis was averted when the lawyer got involved to further explain the situation and immigration decided to check with their Manila office regarding my visa queries and got back to me 35 minutes before my biometrics meeting in Brisbane city to advise that it was all ok and good to go. Phew!
So here I am, 7 days out from heading back to London to start this new period in my life. I’m absolutely buzzing as my mind is in a better place especially from the cardio boxing sessions I’ve been doing over the past three months which have prepared me for the fight ahead while also losing a total of 23KGs. The future is unwritten and I’m out to carve my name in the sports business. Exciting times await so thank you for reading this lengthy first post about my upcoming adventure.
I’m obviously on the look out for employment opportunities in marketing, fan engagement, event management and communications in the sports business either in Australia or abroad so if you would like to learn more about me, link me up with people who could help me on my journey or better yet offer me a job then please get in touch.