Welcome back to Industry Insider by Behind Sport. Our latest guest is the First Team Operations Manager for Lincoln City FC, Ian McCallum!
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
My name is Ian McCallum and I am 35 years old. I currently hold the position of First Team Operations Manager at Lincoln City Football Club who currently compete in Sky Bet League One. This is my 10th season with the club, and I started working on a bar on match days after a friend got me a part time job. I then worked my way up to Assistant Venue Manager. I left the club for a short time after being relegated out of the football league.
I spent some time working in the golf industry in America and Scotland before being asked to work for the club again as Venue Manager. The club were still in non-league football but after a few difficult seasons, Danny and Nicky Cowley joined the club and the return to the football league soon followed. I have since held the role of Head of Business Operations and now my current role of First Team Operations Manager.
What do you do in your current role?
I oversee and look after all first team operations. This involves the day-to-day planning of first team activities including planning away travel and hotels, managing player welfare and off field development. I work closely with the first team manager Michael Appleton and the coaching staff to plan the weekly schedules and look at the requirements for upcoming games.
I manage the new training ground and make sure it is running smoothly. I also work closely with the heads groundsman to bridge the gap between first team and ground staff.
I also work closely with the medical and sports science department to make sure the various player requirements are met. Due the current pandemic, I have acted as the clubs COVID officer working with Mike Hine (Head of Medical) to implement and manage the clubs new COVID rules and regulations.
What does a normal week look like for you?
I am not sure there is a “normal” week in football!
Every week starts with a football staff meeting. This enables me to give an overview of the upcoming week and answer any questions staff may have. I then join a wide staff meeting with stadium staff and the club’s CEO to look at the week ahead and inform them of first team activities.
Most weeks see the team playing on a Tuesday and Saturday, so my week is taken up with travel planning if we have an away game and home match day planning. There are normally some player appearance requests to manage and arrange to be done over Zoom. We also have press conferences that I help set up and arrange with the media team and liaise what players they would like.
If we have an away game that involves a stop over, I liaise with the hotel and make sure all our requirements are in place before the first team arrive.
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 where I am now by working hard, being adaptable and being fortunate to work with some fantastic managers, players and CEOs. I think I have always wanted to work in sport. I had ambitions of being a professional golfer but quickly realised I didn’t have the skill to get to the top. I then found another way into competitive sport and a way to play a part in a team’s success. I would still love to work in the golf industry and there are definitely transferable skills working in football.
What are you excited about in your industry at the moment?
Over the last 18 months I have seen a shift in player welfare in the low leagues and how we can help players have a life after football. I am also excited about the open and honest conversations being had about mental health in the game and how we can kick racism out of the game once and for all! Education through conversation is the key.
What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?
Player and staff welfare is always top of the list. Sometimes just a simple ‘Hello, how are you?’ can go a long way. It’s important to remember footballers are normal people!
In your area of work, what is something you feel most people don’t talk about or focus on enough?
I think staff welfare is extremely important and sometimes gets forgotten about. The industry is obviously player focused and I agree it needs to be! But I think sometimes staff welfare should have more attention.
Football department staff play a huge part and work incredibly hard to give all players the best opportunity to succeed.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
There are many different avenues into the industry. Just because one door is closed don’t think that is the only door available. Intelligent, hard work will always get you where you want to go!
Thanks for reading our Industry Insider with Ian McCallum! If you want to read more from the series, you can do so by clicking here.