Steve Bartram

Job title Features editor

Employer Manchester United Football Club

Working in football media can be the next best thing to playing, especially for those who have been in love with the beautiful game from a young age. Steve Bartram, features editor at Manchester United, explains how he landed his role at the one of the biggest football clubs in the world and how he would advise aspiring journalists on standing out from the crowd.

If you harbour plans for working in sports journalism, you will already be aware that it can be a challenging and demanding vocation. It can also be incredibly rewarding, but you need a combination of hark work and a little bit of luck if you’re to land your dream job in sports journalism. Just ask Manchester United fan Steve Bartram, who has a degree in Cultural Studies and works for the club he supports.

“Chance, fate, fortune.”

How did you secure such an amazing job within sports journalism?

“Chance, fate, fortune… whatever you want to call it, it played a part in getting the role,” he explains.

“After university I went travelling for a year. Just before I was due to fly home, I missed a bus in Brazil and, while killing time, emailed a friend who worked at Manchester United FC to ask if there were any vacancies. One had arisen that day on the club website, I was directed towards it and had the interview the day after I landed back in Manchester. That was in July 2003 and I’ve been at the club ever since which, bar part-time stints at off licences and, ahem, a tailor, constitutes my entire working life.”

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“All-rounders are attractive to businesses”

What skills should aspiring journalists have when trying to break into the industry?

With the advent of social media giving everybody the platform to become a writer, it would be beneficial to boast other skills, such as video editing, picture editing and social media expertise,” he explains.

“All-rounders are attractive to businesses because it allows them to hire one person rather than two or three. That means more work for you, but, hey, it’s a busy industry and you need a hell of a work ethic. Plus patience, self-belief and thick skin, because you will always come in for criticism, especially in an age of faceless, sniping trolls. Rise above them.”

Employability is a incredibly important when applying for all careers in sport. We recently spoke with Professor John Brewer who has specialist knowledge about improving employability, he spoke to us exclusively here.

“Writing the farewell feature for Sir  Alex Ferguson”

What have been the highlights of your career so far?

“I’ve also been fortunate enough to interview some of modern football’s greatest players, but the highest personal high has to be writing the farewell feature for Sir Alex Ferguson in the final home matchday programme of his managerial reign. It was emotional to write and was filed sometime after 3am the day the world learned he was retiring, but seeing it in print and having it form even the tiniest part of such a big day in the club’s history still provides an enormous thrill.

I love the absolutely incessant, unyielding demands to be the best. It applies on and off the field at this club, and if standards slip then you’re quickly made aware.”

“If you’re good enough, you’ll find a way.”

What advice would you give to those aspiring to become sports journalists?

Write, write, write. Then read. Then write some more,” he suggests. “Just keep doing both and get as much feedback on your work as possible, and over time you’ll improve markedly. In the interim, have faith and know that quality shines through. That remains true despite the dramatically altered landscape of journalism. I’ve watched social media give everybody a platform to become a writer, to the point where it must be disheartening for anyone setting out, but have faith in yourself and know that if you’re writing entertaining, informative copy, then the audience will latch onto you.

“If you’re good enough, you’ll find a way. When I’m scouring for new talent, they have to provide copy that stands out from the crowd, be it by taking an unlikely angle on an oft-told story or just with a nifty turn of phrase. It’s all about quality, which comes with practice.”

If you are looking for different opportunities to gain experience in sports journalism, workshops and job openings are great ways to find out more about the industry and gain experience. Why not check out our workshop and jobs sections to see what is available?

Steve clearly has heaps of passion for creating high-quality football articles, and has showcased the importance of links within the industry. If you have the same drive as Steve then there is no reason why you can’t be working for your favourite football club as a writer, check out our article here about how to start your journey as a sports journalist. If being a sports writer doesn’t appeal to you, make sure you check out our other interviews with professionals in the sports industry here which may be more appealing to you; it is important to look around before having your heart set on a job, explore all possible avenues first.