The latest instalment of Industry Insider see us to chat to a very impressive 27 year old – we sat down with Charlie Hyman, the Co-Founder and CEO of Bloomsbury Football, a grassroots football charity making a real difference in London…
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
I’m Charlie Hyman, the Founder and CEO of Bloomsbury Football. I’m 27 years old, and so being the CEO of Bloomsbury is my first real job.
We’re a grassroots football charity using the power of football to change the game for young people in London. I ran Bloomsbury’s first session in 2018 on a pitch in Camden- there were four children there, two of whom could pay. This is the financial model we’ve grown with- although obviously it’s a bit more developed now! In just over four years, we have grown to work across eight boroughs, engaging over 5,000 young people a week.
What do you do in your current role?
As a CEO, I am constantly learning and my role changes on a weekly and monthly basis- the only thing that stays the same is the title. We have a young team that is growing quickly and we’re learning together.
I am constantly learning and changing the way that I do my job – from the financial aspects of running a charity to managing our staff. Bloomsbury Football now has 25 full-time staff members, and a key learning has been to invest in the right people.
I love the variety in my role, and I really believe in what we’re doing. When I get back onto the pitch and see our sessions, meet the young people whose lives we’re impacting, that’s what makes it all worth it.
“Normal” isn’t a thing in sport so what does an “average” week look like for you?
There’s definitely no such thing as normal in the football industry and honestly there’s no average week at Bloomsbury. As such a young and rapidly expanding charity, we’re on a constant learning curve. As we grow, we are developing our processes and hiring new people, so that always keeps me on my toes.
From the perspective of CEO, the constants in my role are investing time into fundraising and growing our network, managing people, and developing our organisational processes. But this can look different week-to-week and as I learn more.
I guess the most “average” element of a week at Bloomsbury Football is our sessions – we run so many sessions across our programmes each week, from Academy and Foundation sessions to our work in schools and with children living with disabilities. It doesn’t matter what is changing in my role – we will always run our sessions and hope to continue expanding to ensure that every young person can access football training with Bloomsbury’s qualified coaches.
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
I started playing football as soon as I could walk, and I’m a big Arsenal fan. I still remember the first time I went to a match at the old Arsenal stadium in Highbury – stepping out and seeing all the people, the noise, the lights. It was amazing. I always knew that I wanted to be involved in football in some way, and I have coached since I was around 15 for local teams.
During my time at university in Nottingham (many people are surprised to learn that I studied Geography!), I travelled down to London each weekend to coach my team. It was there that I began to really notice the problems with grassroots football – that young people were being priced out of pay and that standards were often poor. Two parents from my team approached me and we began talking about this and decided to create a club that was different – where all young people were welcome, regardless of their background. That’s where Bloomsbury Football was born.
What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?
As a charity – the number one focus is having the biggest possible impact on young people’s lives. That’s why Bloomsbury Football exists.
I truly believe in the power of football to improve mental & physical health, build stronger communities, and teach transferrable life skills. I’ve felt this in my own life. By removing financial barriers to play and ensuring that our sessions are of a high quality, our goal is that as many young people as possible can experience these positive impacts. So, the number one focus is impact – expanding our sessions and ensuring that we maintain their quality by hiring the right people and developing our coaches.
Can you tell us about a time you failed and what you learned from it?
In this role, I feel like I am ‘failing’ all the time, but it always leads to an opportunity to learn. In the early days of Bloomsbury Football when we were first growing, I thought we just had to hire more people so that we could expand our reach and impact. That’s not necessarily true – I’ve learnt that it’s about quality not quantity. Making the right hires and investing in these people. Having a smaller team of people who are developing in the role and really care about our mission is now my number one priority – and if that means we have to focus on prioritising tasks, then that’s what we do.
That’s something we’re focusing on right now – doing less to do more. It can be hard to say no to projects when we’re so passionate about our work and our impact, but sometimes saying no is exactly what is needed to maximise impact. We’re all learning that from trial and error!
What are you excited about in your industry at the moment?
I’m most excited about the growth in the women’s game. This year has been record-breaking – seeing the Lionesses bring it home in the UEFA Women’s Euros was so inspiring. We were lucky to be able to take some of our players to matches over the summer and Bloomsbury took over Nike Town in Oxford Circus to host a viewing party of the semi-finals matches. It was amazing to see our players – both boys and girls – seeing the teams compete and being brought up in a world where women playing football is normal.
At Bloomsbury, we are committed to turning this moment into a legacy for girls everywhere. It is important to us that the impact is sustainable – that girls believe that their place is on the pitch, and that they experience all the positive impacts of football. That’s why over summer and into the first term of this school year, we offered a range of girls play free sessions across our programmes.
We are also tackling the invisible barriers that prevent girls from playing football. We are providing free period care products in ‘period kit bags’ to all players who need them, and we have partnered up with Olympian Hannah Miley MBE to run educational workshops about periods in sport. Over the summer, we also took a Sports Bra Roadshow around the UK with our Girls Super League that provided girls grassroots teams the opportunity to play competitively and get fitted for free Nike sports bras.
If you could change one thing about your Industry, what would you change?
I would like to think that the one thing I’d change about my industry we are working to change already. That is how inaccessible grassroots football is to so many young people. Especially in London, as pitches are so expensive, an already socially divided city is becoming more so in grassroots football teams.
That is why Bloomsbury Football’s financial model is so effective – families that can afford to pay slightly more than industry standard to contribute to the subsidising places for other players. Along with fundraising and generous donations, we can ensure that no young person is turned away- 60% of players on our Foundation programme are on 80-100% bursaries.
Sport is a hectic industry, what do you do to switch off?
Ironically, and perhaps predictably, I play football. Or Futsal. I am on our Futsal programmes Men’s First team, and I feel the benefits of this every single day.
Getting on the pitch and being active keeps me healthy mentally and physically. I learn so much from being on a team that I transfer into being CEO in the office.
Whilst playing football and futsal may not sound like switching off, that’s not something that I feel I really need. I really love what I do – it often doesn’t feel like a job and keeping active on the pitch ensures that I am not burning out and am doing something positive for myself and my health.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
It’s difficult to choose just one piece of advice! I’d say something that really benefitted me when I was younger was just getting out there and getting involved – volunteering as a coach and meeting people that were already in the industry. That is where I realised that this is the industry I wanted to work in, and I was able to learn so much from being around more experienced coaches. Find what’s happening in your local area, reach out to people to ask for a quick chat – just get started!
How to connect with Charlie Hyman and Bloomsbury Football…
Our News section on our website also features interesting & helpful articles about our work and our partners – I’d recommend a visit to www.bloomsburyfootball.com
Thanks for reading our chat with Charlie Hyman! If you want to read more from our Industry Insider series, you can do so by clicking here.