Welcome back to Industry Insider by Behind Sport. Our latest guest is the Director & Co-Founder of Winners and all round data expert, Fiona Green!
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
I’m Fiona Green and I’m the owner of Winners FDD, a boutique consultancy that works with rights owners to show them how we use data to increase revenue, engagement, and participation. While we focus on “data”, we must consider all elements of the environment that get you to this point so that includes strategy, technology, process, and culture.
However, I’ve worked in professional sports for over 30 years in a career that has so far taken me to New York and the 1994 FIFA World Cup, and Switzerland with an agency that represented UEFA, FIFA, and the IAAF to name a few.
I moved into data ten years ago – prior to that my focus was selling sponsorship, but I also worked in product licensing/merchandise and with media rights.
What do you do in your current role?
I work with my amazing team to ensure they’re happy, doing great work, and that they feel supported. I also work with our client base, either leading on strategy, helping find solutions to their problems or uncovering opportunities they did not know existed.
I also work closely with our business operations manager to ensure our company is functioning well, that we have processes in place to monitor and maintain our success, and that we are growing our workforce in alignment with our growing client base.
What does a normal week look like for you?
That’s one of the great things about the work we do – no single week has looked the same since we started Winners eight years ago. And it’s not just me that says that – my colleagues feel the same.
We start the week off with our internal meeting (the “huddle”) and then take it from there. I have certain commitments scheduled and these can be client meetings/calls as well as staff meetings, but my week sometimes involves guest lecturing on educational courses, hosting panels or speaking at conferences, and interviews for podcasts.
We’re firm believers in knowledge sharing, particularly as our field of work can be considered quite complex with Europe struggling from a shortage of data skills, so I try to write as much as a I can – in addition to a second edition of my book, Winning with Data, about to launch, I like to write blog posts, or read and comment on other people’s.
I also like to volunteer when my career path allows it so now I’m supporting our local foodbank by manning the telephones. It’s incredibly fulfilling to be able to help our local community but then it’s also uplifting to hear from all the people who want to assist with donations of both food and money.
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
I guess I ended up here “by accident” – I never specifically set out to work in sport but now I’m here, I like it and intend to stay…. for as many more years the industry will have me! My first job was as an advertising sales executive at Notts County Football Club. I’d been there just a year when the commercial manager resigned and although I was only 21, the CEO convinced the chairman to give me a shot. His immediate response was quite typical of the time – “she’s female, she’s young” – but thankfully the late Neal Hook stood his ground and I was promoted.
FIFA then announced the USA was hosting their first ever World Cup Finals, so I set my sights on working in America. I managed to get a job in Manhattan working for a business that was owned by the great Alan Pascoe, and then spent three years helping prepare the country for the arrival of World Cup USA. I would say that period was my most vertical learning curve and I’m kind of hoping I might get back there, in some format, to work on the 2026 event.
What are you excited about in your industry at the moment?
Well because I work in data, I’m excited about the untapped opportunity that we still have – from the rights owners who are only just starting to use email marketing, to those that have identified the link between sponsorship and data, and of course those that are progressing fast in this area.
I’ve always said that when we learn how to apply the principles of Amazon, Spotify, and Netflix, but framed for the needs and opportunities of the sports industry, we’ll realise we can reverse declining attendances and participation, we can compete with those pure plays when it comes to customer service, demonstrate tangible returns for our partners, leading to more sustainable businesses that will thrive.
What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?
I subscribe to the Richard Branson school-of-thought that my staff are more important than my clients because when my team are happy, I know they’ll maintain the Winners standard that we’ve worked hard to create.
But I also know that without clients I don’t have a business so my second focus is on continuing to spread the word – that digital transformation, or a data-driven culture, or using CRM, does not automatically happen when you buy the right software: we need our future clients to know that technology is an enabler not a driver and our technology-neutral position can help them through the maze of decisions they’re having to make.
In your area of work, what is something you feel most people don’t talk about or focus on enough?
I think cross-organisation collaboration can be difficult for organisations that have been around for a long time – natural silos develop and when we work with data, we must break those down so the whole business benefits. I think it can also be difficult for individuals who have been around before data was a “thing” to admit they need support or training to understand more about our “new way of working”: marketers who don’t use dashboards, content generators who don’t know how to use Google Analytics, IT leaders who don’t think about data movement, etc.
At Winners we encourage our staff to sign up for self-development courses, giving them the time and resource, they need to ensure they’re constantly learning, but at a pace that suits them.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
Well, I’m bound to say this, but learn how data plays a role in your current job, organisation, or industry – even if it doesn’t have a direct impact on their chosen path, it’s relevance to all of us is only going to grow so we need to understand more about it so we can develop, compete, and stand out.
Thanks for reading our Industry Insider with Fiona Green! If you want to read more from the series, you can do so by clicking here.