Job title Business Development Manager
Employer UEFA EURO 2020
Rob Lees is Business Development Manager for UEFA Euro 2020. In an in-depth interview with Careers in Sport he outlines his career in sports business and advice for those keen to forge a career in the industry
Can you tell us about your current role as Business Development Manager for UEFA Euro 2020?
I currently manage the hospitality sales team for UEFA EURO 2020 based out of Wembley Stadium. My team works strictly on behalf of UEFA in the UK and Ireland.
UEFA EURO 2020 is quite a unique tournament, where it is stretched across 12 venues including London, Dublin, Munich and Amsterdam. The Semi Finals and Final will be played in London at Wembley Stadium. Having worked at The O2 and Twickenham Stadium previously, I always wanted to work on a large scale event so when the opportunity to work on UEFA EURO 2020 came around, it was an opportunity I jumped at.
What are your main responsibilities as Business Development Manager for UEFA Euro 2020?
My main focus is to exceed all sales targets selling Euro 2020 hospitality into the UK market.
We have a team of 8 people, from a variety of backgrounds, 5 of these I personally manage, develop and train. Day to day, I take the lead on sales strategy, working closely with our marketing department to ensure my team has the right tools at hand to ensure a successful project. All of this drives not only personal and career growth but also business growth.
I also have a responsibility to generate revenue for the project, meeting clients and accessing their needs.
Can you tell us about your career path to this point and the key tips you recommend for career progression?
I have enjoyed a long career at Oxford United Football Club, England Rugby and The O2, working across a range of different commercial roles, prior to joining UEFA EURO 2020 as Business Development Manager.
After a long stint leading sponsorship and partnership activation for Oxford United, following promotion to the football league, I was active in overseeing all aspects of the commercial department, including premium, ticketing, membership, merchandising, food and beverage, and event-day operations.
I later moved to Twickenham Stadium as part of the sales team who lead on the new East Stand development, before joining The O2, a truly unique and incredible venue. I was proud to be part of the team that delivered over 180 events annually.
Since joining UEFA EURO 2020, I have built on my experiences to drive strategic planning and delivery of sales for UEFA EURO 2020, footballs most prestigious sporting event.
In terms of standout moments in my career, these have to include sitting in the new East stand for England vs New Zealand at Twickenham Stadium after completing a near £60 million project. At The O2, I was lucky enough to witness some amazing events, including attending my first BRIT Awards in 2017, Adele and of course Take That!
Looking forward, the opening match of UEFA EURO 2020 at Wembley Stadium will be the accumulation of months of hard work and certainly a career highlight, when England take on Croatia in June 2021.
What skills and knowledge do you need in your role as Business Development Manager for UEFA Euro 2020?
The core competencies displayed in my role include strategic business development, product definition, development of sales operations & marketing strategy, recruitment, training and ongoing sales team management.
Outside of my role, I’ve been lucky enough to learn from some great people in the industry who have worked at some prestigious sports organisation including Arsenal, Fulham and Harlequins. I think it’s really important to knowledge-share, network, learn, meet, and see what’s going on at other sports and entertainment venues.
When it comes to trends, showing sustainability is definitely key and something that the industry will be focused on for 2020. Premium seating is also changing rapidly, with open spaces taking the lead, which opens up the change of current products to enhance sales opportunities for us and customers.
What opportunities are in the Sports Business industry for young people?
There are plenty of opportunities for young people in the sports business industry. Our team currently working on UEFA EURO 2020 is young and ambitious, our Marketing Assistant is 21 and a number of our sales team are 24/25 years of age. Regardless of age, we will always be looking for the best people.
What are you looking for when it comes to recruiting? What makes people stand out?
At University, I had a strong desire to work in the sports industry, however I never ever thought about working on the premium seating side of the industry, it’s not really an area my University covered. I’m now proud to say I’ve been in the sports industry for 5 years and worked in some of the best stadiums/venues London has to offer and I’ve been a part of some incredible projects.
Personally, within the CV you are always looking for someone with relevant experience. Whether this is a week’s work experience or being a veteran in the industry, your experience and achievements are key.
If you are lucky enough to get an interview, this is where your personality should shine through. When recruiting our team for UEFA EURO 2020, we wanted passion, knowledge and likeability (key for sales people). In terms of knowledge, it’s always important to do your research (even on the person interviewing you – looking at their LinkedIn isn’t a bad thing) and have some questions already loaded for the end of the session. Showing a strong knowledge of the company you are going to work for is key. Personally I don’t mind people bringing a note or iPad and jot down things as you go.
What advice would you tell young students with an interest in sport and keen to pursue a career in sport?
Get out there as much as you can. A week’s work experience in a club, stadium or organisation is invaluable. Whether you are volunteering or doing work experience, the more exposure you can get, that will stand out to employers is always helpful. There will be so many others looking to get into the sports industry, make sure you stand out from the rest!
It’s difficult because you are trying to manage university debt, exams etc. but even if you can do one day a week (and within that week, keep asking questions, build your network and try to find out recruitment opportunities etc.), it will put you in good stead moving forward.
What was the best advice you were given?
My mentor (who is now Commercial Director at Northampton Saints) told me a very important piece of advice when I first started out, simply “be likeable”. My first interview at Oxford United was dreadful, it was in a hospitality box in the stadium and I was completely over whelmed by everything, I fluffed every question.
I later found out, I got the role based on being likeable – thankfully we got on well during the interview! Whether that is in or around the office or talking to clients, I think it’s important to have a good sense of humour and treat others how you want to be treated.
3 great things about working in the sports business industry
- Great people – it’s a small industry, but the sports industry is full of ambitious, inspiring people
- We are lucky enough to experience some of the best sporting events, the world has to offer.
- Sport has the unique ability to engage and connect people, seeing 80,000 people come together at one of your venues still is pretty special
3 challenging things about working in the sports business industry
- Off the pitch, you can do control everything (to some degree), but when the players or team go onto the pitch, it is out of your control and this will heavily influence your work.
- Ensuring our stadiums/venues continue to offer the best possible experience
- Competition – trying to create something unique that will stand out. Spurs are a great example of this, specifically in regards to the in-stadia fan experience. Their new stadium is now the benchmark.
For more information on Hospitality at UEFA Euro 2020 visit www.hospitality.euro2020.co.uk
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