As part of our #MatchYourAmbition series, we talk to Jamie Richards, Senior Management Accountant at Manchester City Football Club about how he exerts his influence on the Club and how he is matching his own career ambitions.
How long have you been with Manchester City, and what initially attracted you to the Club?
I joined the club in November 2014. As a football fan I was obviously aware of the club and its recent successes on the pitch, but it was only on researching them a little more that I discovered how exciting, ambitious and forward-thinking they actually were. It seemed an ideal place where I would be able to match up my experience of finance with my love of football.
Describe your typical day-to-day role
I am the main financial point of contact at the club for all commercial areas, including partnerships, retail, merchandise, media and marketing.
In terms of my day-to-day role, there isn’t really a standard day, every day is different.
A typical day might be reviewing agreements for commercial deals from a financial perspective and a big part of that is contract review and negotiation with potential partners, licensees and other possible media deals.
I spend a lot of time liaising with our other clubs and offices around the world – as well as Manchester City, we work with clubs based in New York, Melbourne and Yokohama. We also have an office in Singapore and one in the Middle East.
It really is a global enterprise. Dealing with financial queries from international offices is a really important part of what I do.
On the more financial side, there is a lot of reporting to the business and commercial heads gaining an understanding how they are performing against budgets for the month or year to date.
What aspects of your role are most challenging and how do you overcome those challenges?
Football is a very fast paced environment. One of the main challenges I face in my role is that you don’t get much notice of what project is next to input into. To overcome those challenges, 'teamwork’ is essential. Because I sit in finance and commercial, I’m lucky to have two teams to support me.
How do you think the perceptions of accountants differ from the realities of the job?
The stereotypical perception of accountants probably involves bean counting and spreadsheets! In reality, accountants and the finance department as a whole are a vital component of any business.
In my area in particular – the commercial side – financial input into partnership contracts or merchandise deals are vital in securing the best terms possible for all parties involved, and ensuring that the club is in line with its financial obligations to both its own stakeholders, the taxman and the football regulatory bodies.
How does being an accountant at one of the world’s biggest football clubs compare to other sectors/industries?
The majority of my background was in the accountancy sector with one of the main firms. It’s almost chalk and cheese in some respects.
Football is very commercial and being in the public eye there are a lot of unforeseen events that you have to be able to deal with very quickly and react to accordingly.
In terms of stakeholders, when you work in an accountancy firm you’re largely responsible just to your partners and your client. When you’re at a club it’s not just a case of dealing with clients, shareholders and owners, there is a whole emotional aspect to it as well.
Fan involvement is one of the fundamental parts of the industry. I think that’s the huge difference.
What advice would you give to someone looking to get into a similar role?
My best advice to someone looking to get into a similar role would be to stay determined.
It’s a very competitive environment, with a lot of high profile jobs being applied for, so mental determination and focus is vital.
I also think experience is key, not necessarily in the exact role, but maybe in the same area or a related field. Media and Marketing roles aren’t always football based, but experience gained in these areas is certainly valuable.
I think networking is a big part of it too. Football is one of those industries where everyone seems to know everyone else. It’s also important to keep your eye open for roles that come up where you can get directly into football or a related field, to help you gain that experience.
What role did Hays play in placing you?
When this role came up I was based in Glasgow working at the Commonwealth Games. Hays were one of the recruiters that I would speak to regularly, so when I saw the role available via Hays on the Manchester City website I applied for it straight away.
I spoke with the recruitment agent who was very friendly and helpful, who then talked to the club. We then had a phone interview and a face-to-face meeting in London at the Hays offices.
Hays were really supportive throughout the process; they were very communicative and dealt with any questions I had.
Did you always have the intention of working in the sports industry?
I always had the intention of working in the sports industry. Whilst I was at University I arrived at the conclusion that I really needed to be interested in what I was going to do and have a passion for it – football and sport are what I did and thought about for most of the day, so it seemed to be a good fit.
When I left University I did a Master’s Degree in Sport Business Management. This started to build my network and whittle down what it was I wanted to do and how to get there.
I met some career advisors who advised me to start outside the industry, build up some experience and qualifications and come into it at a more experience level, which is what I did.
Following that I worked at the Commonwealth Games in a finance role, where you start to learn about the peculiarities of working in sport. It’s that evolution of dedication and focus that really helped me to get to where I am.
Do you plan on furthering your education or qualifications? How do you invest in your continuous professional development?
As a fully qualified accountant, I am required to continue my professional development since accounting standards are frequently updated or even completely rewritten. You can get assistance from your professional body to do this, which is invaluable in staying up-to-date with recent changes.
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