Welcome back to Industry Insider by Behind Sport. Our latest guest is Football Finance Assistant at Iterpro, Izzy Keighley!
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
My name is Izzy Keighley and I’m currently working in football finance for Iterpro Business Intelligence whilst coaching across multiple projects at the Manchester United Foundation and The Sir Tom Finney Preston Soccer Centre.
At the ripe old age of 23 I took the plunge to leave my full-time management role in the IT sector and go back to study another degree programme, International Football Business at UCFB. Alongside this I’m studying to become a chartered management accountant.
What do you do in your current role?
Iterpro is a pioneering football business intelligence software that integrates data from every club department, turns them into actionable insights and helps clubs move from athlete management to asset management. My current role involves managing, developing and testing the finance and administration departments of our platform. Market and competitor analysis are a crucial part of my work when it comes to software development, as well as keeping up to date with contemporary issues and the impact of regulatory changes such as Financial Fair Play.
What does a normal week look like for you?
I have a fairly regular full-time schedule during the week, splitting my hours between Iterpro alongside my various studies. Then normally I’ll deliver around eight coaching sessions over four days. In between sessions I’ll be in the gym most days keeping my own fitness up for coaching and regular charity events I like to get involved with.
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
From the second I could walk I’ve had a ball at my feet and never looked back. Unfortunately, I came to my first crossroads at U16 where there was no women’s team at my club, coupled with some bad injuries, and the prospect of a career seemed impossible. I couldn’t simply walk away from the game, so I put all my energy into becoming a professional coach and the Sir Tom Finney Preston Soccer Centre will always hold a special place for me as the club that gave me my first shot.
At 21 I landed my first management role in the IT sector, working in digital transformation and transaction operations for government accounts. I enjoyed the challenges in my work, but it was always in the back of my mind that I wasn’t pursuing the thing that I loved the most, so I took the risk to give everything up. Within the month I’d landed myself a top university scholarship and a coaching role at the Manchester United Foundation, leading me into my role at Iterpro last year. I wouldn’t be here now if it wasn’t for the trailblazing women that opened those first doors for us, so I hope I will one day be in a position to influence and encourage the next generation of women in football in return.
What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?
I can only truly enjoy my work when I believe in the cause and know I’m making a difference. I want my work to have tangible results, influence decision-making and impact the lives of those around me. Whether it’s developing new software for professional clubs or developing a young player’s life skills alongside their football skills, everything must be done with passion and with meaning, otherwise I’m in the wrong job.
What’s been your favourite moment whilst working in sports?
It’s got to be getting my first Manchester United coaching kit. Although it might not seem the most obvious answer, this felt like such a milestone in both my personal and professional life where my hard work was coming to fruition. Starting out as a young female coach 10 years ago, I had to persevere through constant instances of horrendous abuse and discrimination, so this was the key turning point for me where I first acknowledged my real abilities and potential as a coach, commanding the same respect as my male counterparts. I think that was biggest sense of achievement I’ve felt so far in my career, whilst being incredibly humbled that my late grandad was able to share that moment with me.
What do you think is next for your industry?
I think artificial intelligence is a really interesting area to look at. Football is rapidly expanding into non-traditional revenue streams and becoming more competitive, so analysis and actionable insights off the pitch are arguably just as important now as those on the pitch. Business intelligence can make a crucial difference particularly in the financial recovery from Covid-19, by managing budgets in real time and making smarter transfers for example, so I believe this will force a huge uptake in clubs over the next season.
In your area of work, what is something you feel most people don’t talk about enough or focus on enough?
Historically we’ve seen catastrophic financial mismanagement in football. Professional clubs nowadays operate as huge businesses and I think there is a real focus needed to bring across expertise from financial, legal and data professionals in non-sporting industries to input a more objective dimension to club finances and strategy.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
I read this quote from Sir Alex Ferguson a few years ago that really stuck with me and helped shape both my working and coaching philosophies.
“In a perfect world I would have filled every team sheet with 11 men who had as much determination as talent. But life is not like that, and if I had to choose between someone who had great talent but was short on grit and desire, and another player who was good but had great determination and drive, I would always prefer the latter. The former might work well for a brief period, but they never have the staying power that gives a great club stability and consistency.”
How to keep up to date with the work Izzy Keighley does…
Twitter – @iterpro
Instagram – @iterpro_football_intelligence
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/iterpro/
Linkedin – https://www.linkedin.com/company/iterpro/
Thanks for reading our Industry Insider with Izzy Keighley! If you want to read more from the series, you can do so by clicking here.