EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Daniel Wood, the Professor at the Football Business Academy provides an insight into his career in sport

Daniel Wood was once like the rest of us, an enthusiastic graduate with a thriving passion to take on the sports industry. Towards the end of his University degree, he found an opportunity to work for Adidas which led onto him working for International footwear giants Reebok. As his career progressed, he developed his projects to build a bond between the community and football. He continues to enhance this passion at present as the Professor at the Football Business Academy.

Q: How did your career in Sport begin?

A: Initially I studied sports marketing at University and I always had a dream of working in sports business. I knew from an early age that professional sport was not my thing. Furthermore, I always wanted to work for Adidas, that was the brand I always wore, and it has always been remarkably close to me. I put all of my energy into finding an internship and thankfully it worked out well in the end, however, if I wasn’t so targeted in my approach my initiative wouldn’t have been as relevant to get the big break.

Moving on, my long-term goal was to be self-employed and to work for myself eventually. This was accomplished through hard work, building networks with contacts around me. After Adidas, I was with Reebok for 8 months in the North of England. After this, I worked for various agencies around London undertaking project management work which came through perseverance and windows of opportunity.

Since 2006, I have been self-employed. I found a niche in football with a friend of mine who had a plan of using music and dance in football at street level to intervene with local councils. We also worked with the police and housing associations to get vulnerable people away from dispersal orders, some of our interventions included having a DJ on a street football pitch which was entertaining. Effectively, we were engaging with kids in a way not many were at the time.

To summarise, it has been a long journey, but it all happened by putting my energy in all of one direction.

Q: Throughout your experience, what have been the key values, skills and competencies that have sustained your career in sport?

A: Be mindful that you cannot transfer everything at once, for me it is important to have a clear leader that is going to channel your focus in the right direction. Try and be a specialist in something, otherwise, others will not always be clear on what your niche is.

On another note, treat everything as an opportunity and use resilience as a chance to prove what you are capable of. Show empathy to other people, being able to understand other cultures and issues other people face can support your interpersonal skills. Also, use the approach of empathy into leadership as this can often be overlooked.

Q: What was your strategy for building your sports industry network?

A: I did not necessarily have a strategy; I just follow the theme of appreciation and the willingness to learn where you are never quite content with your position. I see networking as an opportunity where I am learning something new and meeting new people. Rather than this being a strategy, I view it more as a personal interest.

Furthermore, I would advise using social media for what it is designed for, promoting, and sharing your opinion. I find there is a lot of people who like and share content but do not present an opinion, whereas if you demonstrate an opinion people will remember that.

Q: Have you found events/conferences to help build up your sports industry profile?

A: Quite a bit, it has been more the social occasion rather than a strategic approach. As an example, I have worked for Soccerex for almost 12 years now and they are the only event I attend as I have a good relationship with the owners.

I recommend getting yourself out to events to get your name out there once we can! However, attending networking events can be costly so be mindful about which events you choose to attend.

Q: If you were to summarise any advice on breaking into sport based on your journey, what would that be? 

A: When chasing leaders in the industry for answers, do not expect anything. However, keep pursuing whatever it is you are doing. Try and focus on what your passion is and continue to find a route into the industry with that. There will always be a route through and if you are very head set to break into the sport it will eventually happen. Remember the people that close the door as well as people remember the smallest things.

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Published by Ash

I'm a First-Class Graduate in Sports Business Management who has worked across Local Government, Sport and the Third Sector. Throughout my career, I've developed a thriving passion to promote sport being used as a tool to bring positivity to the world we live in. This ethos has inspired me to create a website which champions this value through comprehensive online content for you to gain value from. Join me on this journey of discovering what sport can do to enhance society.

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