Ross McKinley

Job title Senior Education Programmes Manager

Employer Premier League Charitable Fund

Working for the Premier League Charitable Fund

Can you tell us about your current role within the Premier League?

premier league inspires development day

PL INSPIRES Development Day at Anfield Stadium, LIVERPOOL 31MAR22 – Phil Greig / greigphoto 2022

I work for the Premier League Charitable Fund, an organisation that provides funding to the official charities of professional football clubs to deliver community and school-based activities that use football as the hook for getting young people excited about taking part. Specifically, we try to ensure young people achieve their potential and positively impact their communities.

My role is to look after the team of people who manage the Premier League Primary Stars and Premier League Inspires programmes which are projects that football clubs deliver in primary and secondary schools all across the UK.

What are your main responsibilities in your role as a Senior Education Programmes Manager?

My main responsibilities include supporting the team that runs our projects on a national basis so that we can deliver the programmes effectively and efficiently and achieve our charitable objectives. This includes overseeing all the work that we do, but motivating, empowering and supporting my team so that they can do their jobs to the best of their abilities. I look after all of the finances in our programmes, our partnerships we make to help our projects be better and how we measure how successful we are.

What is a typical week in terms of how you break down your time?

We are fortunate to have flexible working, meaning I spent a few days per week in the office which is in Paddington, London; a few days working at home; and usually on average one day per week visit a club/project we fund or running an event. Our main function is as a grant maker so we do a lot of administration tasks such as reviewing progress reports from our fundees, looking at data, thinking about resources we can deliver that will support our clubs and schools in our programmes, and thinking about ways in which we can tell our story to other stakeholders more.

I think my time is approximately spent:

  • 15% – Thinking and working on our overall charity impact
  • 20% – My team support and 1:1s, helping them deliver their roles effectively and making sure we deliver the best resources to our fundees.
  • 10% – Internal working with other departments (e.g., the Premier League Academy dept, communications, policy, safeguarding etc)
  • 15% – Visiting clubs, supporting or planning events such as the Premier League Primary Stars tournament such as this – ‘PL Primary Stars tournament creates memories that will last forever’ (
  • 5% – Partnership work. Speak to current partners and growing new partnerships
  • 35% – Programme administration (reading/writing, reviewing data and stats, developing training plans, creating resources etc)

Tell us a bit about your career path to this point and key tips for career progression

I’ve always loved working with young people. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I was younger, and my football manager told me he thought I would be a good coach and so I started volunteering at a local football club coaching 7-year-olds and I got the bug. I loved how the children were like sponges and listened to everything I told them. Then seeing them do some of those in skills in games was amazing. So, I decided I wanted to do something with football and young people, I did my badges and set my sight on university, where I studied Sports Leadership at the University of Reading.

After graduating, I moved to London and got a job at Arsenal in the Community where I coached and managed projects delivering in primary and secondary schools in north London. I applied to join the Premier League Charitable Fund in 2013 when the charity was very small (there were only 4 people, now there is 19). In 2015 the Premier League started the Premier League Primary Stars programme and I became Schools Programmes Manager in 2018 before being promoted to the position I am in today.

Tips for progression? Volunteer! Give up your own time and go and do it. There is nothing better than getting some experience and something to add to your CV. Of course, you need to gain related qualifications, but they mean little if you haven’t put these into practice.

What skills and knowledge are important in a management role?

Firstly, I am growing and developing my skills all of the time, and this helps me when I make mistakes to know that no-one is perfect.

For my role, I think organisation skills are vital – managing many different tasks at the same time, prioritising which ones are most important but making sure they all get done to a high standard. You also need to be able to work hard and not cut corners; have good attention to detail; a determination to go above and beyond; be empathetic towards those you work with and on behalf of. I also think it is vital to have a sense of humour 🙂

What opportunities are there in the sport / football industry for young people?

If young people want to get involved there are lots of ways to do this. The main route would likely come from getting involved in the coaching side. Working with your local County FA or professional club if you have one, you can get your coaching badges and start volunteering. Grassroots football is a great place to start with this too. 

However, the community football industry is much like any other business – there are also roles in governance, communications, social media, coaching, project management, finance, IT, marketing etc.

What are you looking for when it comes to recruiting? What makes people stand out?

Many skills can be learnt so I try to look for ‘potential’. Having experience is important but things such as volunteering show that people are willing to give up their time to learn or to help others. You can gain experience in lots of ways, but your attitude and passion are obvious and difficult to fake.

You need to show that the skills you have already are relevant but also that you are open and honest about what you don’t know; and importantly how you’d go about working on these.

Make sure you have read the job role carefully and ensure that your application relates to the requirements of this. Get someone you trust to read your CV and covering letter. It doesn’t matter how many times you re-read your own work, you’ll miss a typo or grammatical error because you know what you want to say, not what you have actually put down. 

What advice would you tell young students with an interest in sport and keen to pursue a career in sport?

Volunteer as much as you can. Doing is the best way to learn. By trying something, you might pick up what you don’t like as much as what you do like. It is becoming harder and harder to stand out from the crowd, so you need to do things that others are not doing, and volunteering shows employers that you are willing to give up your own time, willing to learn and willing to give back to others.

What was the best advice you were given?

Work harder than everyone else!

And my late father used to read the poem Desiderata to me, and it regularly gives me amazing advice. 

3 great things about working in your industry

  1. Personal satisfaction – you finish most days knowing you have made a difference.
  2. The people – working with people that are trying to achieve the same aims as you.
  3. Being able to put on money-can’t-buy experiences for young people.

3 challenging things about working in your industry

  1. There’s so much to do and all of it meaningful, so making tough choices about priorities.
  2. Perceptions – people often think that there is an unlimited amount of money in sports (particularly football) and there isn’t, so in some people’s eyes you can never ‘do enough’.
  3. Brilliantly, so many people in our industry come with a ‘doing’ attitude – they get stuff done and move onto the next thing. Collectively, we need to learn to plan, evidence, reflection and promote the work more than we do.

If you are interested in a career in sports business, career in sports coaching, career in sport media and/or a career in sports science you can access over 100 interviews with professionals in the sports industry via the ‘Career Path’ on our website.