Our latest Industry Insider is a former Professional Footballer and current Communications Officer at League Football Education (LFE), Joe Davis!
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
My name is Joe Davis and I’m an ex-professional footballer who has recently transitioned into the media side of the game. I’m currently the Communications Officer at League Football Education (LFE), having left my role as Head of Media at AFC Fylde at the beginning of October 2021.
Football has forever been at the centre of my life, with my father Steve being an ex player, manager, and now coach at Wolves; while my brother Harry is also a professional footballer – currently at Scunthorpe United. Myself and Harry grew up watching our dad play at Burnley and Barnsley towards the end of his career, so we were on the terraces from the moment we could walk.
After enjoying a career in football myself, I decided to unofficially hang the boots up in February 2019 to pursue my next career and have since graduated from Staffordshire University with a First Class Honours in Professional Sports Writing and Broadcasting. The sports media degree really highlighted my passion for the communications industry and gave me a foot in the door.
What do you do in your current role?
My role at LFE is to lead the organisation’s communications strategy, from website management to social media and video content creation, in order to showcase the wide range of initiatives and programmes that the organisation runs. It is a fairly wide remit, but one that I am thoroughly enjoying and looking forward to developing further.
There are some really fantastic people here who work tirelessly to ensure all our future footballers are given the support that they require to thrive within such a high-pressured and emotional working environment.
There are lots of apprentices that have been on unique journeys to get to where they are today, and, ultimately, it is my job to tell those stories. We focus on championing apprentices who have excelled academically or achieved something of note off the field. We care about the human being, not just the footballer – that’s what makes LFE so unique.
“Normal” isn’t a thing in sport so what does an “average” week look like for you?
You are right there, however, my current working schedule is about as normal as one gets. I work Monday to Friday, juggling time in the office with work-from-home days, which in the sports industry is quite unique. I’m fortunate that I’m presented with plenty of opportunities to travel around the country to cover stories, events and games; and sometimes even to nations such as Spain and Sweden where we work with different clubs who offer placements to apprentices.
During my time at AFC Fylde I would be working around the clock in a more reactive manner, responding to the needs of the Football Club. However, here at LFE things are more strategic in the sense that we generally work to a specific content calendar and try to stick to those cycles as much as we can. I enjoy this style as it allows me to adopt a more proactive way of working and be more selective, rather than worrying about getting a stream of content out there on a day-to-day basis at the expense of quality.
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
Thanks to my 10 years of experience within the game and my sports journalism degree, I have almost fallen into my last two roles. I always knew that I wanted to gain governing body experience, so when this opportunity came up it was the perfect chance to do just that.
With regards to working in sport, from the age of nine I was in the Port Vale academy set up, dreaming of one day following in my dad and brother’s footsteps. I don’t think there was ever a moment where I sat down and thought this is what I wanted to do, it all just naturally unfolded as I progressed through the age groups.
When you get to around 14/15, I think that’s when you start to think about what’s next and it was at this point where I developed the determination and drive to leave school and pursue my dream. I’ve got extremely supportive parents, and been lucky enough to remain in the game – albeit in a different capacity now – since the age of 9.
What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?
Growth, engagement and awareness.
The work our Regional Officers and Player Care team do on a weekly basis is incredible, and I’m really keen on showing everybody that. Although new to the role, I’m already looking into ways we can grow our digital channels, drive more online engagement and raise awareness of our projects.
Branding is also essential. LFE has already built up a really strong brand, especially offline. I’m always thinking about how we can express ourselves in a creative way, but stay in line with our online voice.
We also have a host of partners that we need to look after, so it’s very important we make sure we are doing everything we can to promote those too.
Can you tell us about a time you failed and what you learned from it?
I’m still new to the industry, so there’s been lots of mistakes. In the very early days at AFC Fylde I put a huge spelling error in an important press release and circulated it to national journalists and news editors. It was then a case of reaching back out to them to amend the error, but I had missed the boat and it had already gone to print.
Being surrounded by the buzz of an office full of staff can be great, but sometimes it can distract you and negatively affect the quality of your work, particularly pieces that require complete accuracy. It taught me to remove myself from an environment where people are asking what you got up to at the weekend or if you fancy another brew, and instead find a quiet space where you can apply 100% focus.
It’s important to note that mistakes and misjudgements will always crop up in this line of work because you are trying to find that perfect balance between creativity and professionalism. Sometimes you have to take risks – sometimes they come off; sometimes they don’t!
What are you excited about in your industry at the moment?
The continuous growth of the digital landscape. Lockdown increased everybody’s reliance on social media in particular, and so sports media is a fantastic industry to be in. We’ve seen how significant football was for the Black Lives Matter movement and the fight against the European Super League, so I think we all now understand that we have the platform to make a positive change in society.
I really do believe clubs and players will continue to use the power of their brand to stand up for what is right, and I’m excited to see how we, as employees, can play a part in that too.
If you could change one thing about your Industry, what would you change?
I may be alone with this, but I believe there is an under-appreciation for the role that we do in communications, and even more so in social media. For such a pivotal role inside an organisation, the salary often doesn’t justify working hours and responsibility. It would be nice to see more clubs place a higher value on their communications and marketing departments, especially within football.
Sport is a hectic industry, what do you do to switch off?
A lot of my downtime is spent with my wife, Hannah, and 3-year-old daughter, Naia. We live in Lytham St Annes, a small town near the sea, so walks along the beach are a nice way to relax.
My working week consists of football, football, football, so away from that I like to completely switch off from sport if possible. A nice meal out with family and friends; or lunch and a coffee is how I tend to wind down.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
Just get yourself out there. It’s easy to work through your degree, stay in your lane and hope to land something after graduating. But those that seem to find a way in are the ones who step outside of their comfort zone.
Making connections is also really important. When searching for your first gig, It’s usually someone you know who opens a door for you. Build connections, whether that be in person or online, and don’t be afraid to ask people for opportunities even if they aren’t hiring. I was doing unpaid work for my local newspaper alongside my studies, and it helped me gain a better understanding of what the job actually entailed.
I do think there are too many organisations taking advantage of volunteers – so know your worth, but if you are at uni and have some spare time on your hands in between lectures, get out there and gain experience in the real world. It will help hugely when the time comes to toss your graduation cap.
How to follow Joe Davis and League Football Education (LFE) online…
You can follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn. To keep track of the work we are doing with our young footballers, check out LFE Online on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. We’ve launched some really great programmes recently, so it’s well worth a look.
Thanks for reading our Industry Insider with Joe Davis! If you want to read more from the series, you can do so by clicking here.