Welcome Naveed Javaid, our newest NoTurningBack2020 Ambassador. Naveed is Strategy Manager at Manchester United Football Club and worked in consulting for four years prior to his current role. Naveed talks about his career path into the Sports industry and why more Black, Asian, minority ethnic representation is needed across all levels of Sporting organisations.
Tell us a bit about your career to date, your experience and your key skills. Why did you decide on a career in Sport. How did you break into the sector.
I studied Economics & Management at the University of Oxford and post-graduation was keen on moving into consulting due to its broad nature. I worked for a boutique consultancy for just over 4 years before moving to my current role – Strategy Manager at Manchester United Football Club.
I always had in the back of my mind the possibility of combining two great interests / passions of mine – business and football. Growing up my dream job (like many thousands up and down the country) was to become a professional footballer. Sadly I was not blessed with the skills to match my ambition! I’ve been obsessed with the game for as long as I can remember so the next best thing for me was to work in the industry.
Consulting allowed me to learn fast, make loads of mistakes and grow my commercial skillset. I had the opportunity to work on a few football / sport related projects which gave me a good foundation to start seeking commercial roles in the space. It’s a small world and when roles do pop-up, they tend to be very competitive so I was fortunate enough to get the role at Man Utd in December 2019 and started in March 2020.
What do you most love about your work? Can you give an example of a project you are currently working on and your role in it?
I love the variety! My role in the Strategy team involves working across all the commercial divisions of the club. I support senior management in solving business problems and evaluating opportunities. A key part of my role is to build relationships and work collaboratively with colleagues across the club to ensure we continue to progress and lead in whatever we do. It can be intense at times with tight deadlines but I am fortunate to work with incredibly smart and capable colleagues in a collaborative environment to ensure the output delivered is always well thought-through and to a high standard. And most importantly we have a lot of fun and laughs in the process!
What more do you think needs to be done to level the playing field for people from more diverse backgrounds in Sport?
Football business is like many industries in not having adequate representation of people from BAME backgrounds. This problem is exacerbated at senior levels. As we have seen during Euro 2020, football touches the hearts of millions across the country – of all races / colours / religions etc. The biggest achievement of the current England team, regardless of the outcome of the final (I write this a few hours before kick-off), is in shifting perceptions and making this a team for everyone in the country. It was heart-warming to see the video of boys at a Muslim school in Blackburn celebrating Harry Kane’s winning goal against Denmark (see here: https://twitter.com/HannahAlOthman/status/1413047627072131074).
The challenge for us is to replicate this and make sure that those involved in running the beautiful game better reflect those who follow / take an interest in it. There are no easy solutions and it will take time but I’m confident we are moving in the right direction.
I think the single most important thing we as a society can do is to fix the imbalances in the education system, ensuring people from all backgrounds have opportunities to succeed – these sit at the core of the challenges we see across several industries. In football specifically, I believe we need to create more pathways / access points for early talent (internships, graduate schemes etc.) to allow young people (from all backgrounds) to enter the industry and flourish.
What is your one piece of advice to young people looking at a career in Sport?
Don’t be afraid to suffer setbacks, these are inevitable and you’ve just got to reflect, learn and keep going. Football business is incredibly competitive to get into so you’ve got to be prepared to suffer a few setbacks and play the long game. Think about how you can make yourself an attractive candidate and the best ways to get the skills and experiences required – internships can be invaluable and I once heard of a candidate who did some pro-bono work at a lower league football club in their spare time (on top of their full time job).
I’d also say to look at the wide variety of access points into sport and not to limit yourself to working for a club. There are leagues, governing bodies, broadcasters, and a growing number of boutique agencies / consultancies in the sports space which can equally be a great starting point for a career in the industry.
Finally – don’t be afraid to reach out to professionals already in the industry for advice (I can be found on LinkedIn ?) and good luck!