In Edition #188 of Industry Insider, we sat down with Louise Owens of the English Football League (EFL) to talk about her career so far.
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
My current role is Broadcast Operations at the EFL. This entails overseeing all aspects of EFL broadcast infrastructure and outputs, liaising with key stakeholders from Sky Sports to IMG, Pitch International and Hawkeye.
I am also responsible for managing the broadcast output of the five EFL Finals each season at Wembley.
Previously I worked as a Producer at ADI.tv, creating big screen content for various Football and Rugby clubs. I was also the Floor Manager at Everton’s Fan Zone for four seasons.
My first major role was as a Production Junior at Equinox Film & TV, eventually working my way up to Junior Producer, producing TV commercials and advert idents for various companies and TV shows.
I began working in TV during my last year at University, working as a runner on various TV shows like X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, Soccer Aid, Shipwrecked and So You Think You Can Dance.
For 11 seasons I volunteered at St Helens RLFC as part of the media team, compiling the player profile for their matchday programme. I also voiced and produced their official podcast for 5 seasons.
What do you do in your current role?
The Broadcast Operations role varies, depending on the time of year. At the moment, I am in the midst of preparing for next season, ensuring that the teams who have been promoted from the National League have all the necessary infrastructure installed. Similarly, ensuring that teams who have been promoted to the Championship have their infrastructure upgraded due to the enhanced production.
Once the season starts, we are in a cycle of Sky Sports TV and Pitch International picks, weekly domestic streaming records, checking various match reports (IMG and Goal Line Technology) for any issues and reacting any health and safety issues at clubs.
February, March and May are taken up by organising all broadcast elements for the Carabao Cup, Papa Johns Trophy and Sky Bet Play-Off Finals at Wembley. These months are very busy, culminating in a few days down at Wembley, but it is worth it.
“Normal” isn’t a thing in sport so what does an “average” week look like for you?
I need to work a few weeks in advance. My day to day tasks are usually to prepare for fixtures happening in two or three weeks time. For instance, speaking to clubs to ask if they’d like to stream a displaced fixture, notify clubs of an international pick or confirm the latest live selections to all staff and our broadcasters.
I’m in the middle of a management training course so a lot of my time is taken up completing various online tasks, workshops and training. Ahead of a round of fixtures, I would check through all IMG paperwork to ensure that clubs were receiving the correct feeds. After a busy round of fixtures (weekend or midweek), I would spend time going through match reports and footage to check that there were no issues.
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
Honestly, it was a complete fluke! I was made redundant from my role at ADI.tv when the EFL ended their fibre connectivity contract. My former colleague Beverley had moved to the EFL from ADI a few years before and she was looking for short term support during the transition from ADI to IMG. I was lucky enough to be given a 3-month contract, which eventually turned into a full-time contract, and I’ve just finished my third season here. I know how incredibly lucky I am to work here alongside some very talented people.
I’ve always enjoyed watching sport, mainly Rugby League. I studied Sports Journalism at University, with the hope of one day working in Rugby League. But it wasn’t meant to be, seems like I’ve always been destined to work in Football. I’m not a huge Football fan but I don’t think that is a bad thing, I’m usually too busy watching what the cameras are doing!
What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?
That’s a hard one to answer, but I think that ensuring that the viewers get the best output possible, whether it be from single camera coverage, through the full Wembley Final output with spider-cam. During the pandemic, the only way fans could watch their games was via online streams and TV games.
A huge amount of work went into ensuring our infrastructure could cope with us suddenly streaming every single match to supporters, we were incredibly proud that we were able to provide a service to Clubs, ensuring fans didn’t miss a minute of action. However, with fans now back on the terraces, I still want to ensure that the people at home get the best possible output on any game.
Can you tell us about a time you failed and what you learned from it?
One memory that always sticks with me is from my first ever TV commercial shoot. We were on location at Peckforton Castle in Cheshire, it was the middle of December, freezing cold and we were filming outside at night in the Castle gardens for the Christmas CSL Sofas (now Sofology) advert.
We’d worked so hard getting everything together, but we turned up on location and quickly realised that I’d not booked a generator, so we had no power. This meant no heating in any of the crew and cast buses, no catering and minimal lighting on set. I’d only been in the job for two months! Luckily, we scrambled around and eventually got power from the lighting trucks, but it was less than ideal.
I definitely learned the value of owning up to your mistakes very quickly that day… but also the importance of teamwork, without the sparks engineering some sort of magic, it would have been a very cold few days. Needless to say, I never made that mistake again!
What are you excited about in your industry at the moment?
It’s a really exciting time for sports broadcasting as a whole. There are so many ways to watch live sport, via various platforms, and it’s constantly evolving.
Sport is a hectic industry, what do you do to switch off?
It is very hectic! But my time away from work is always filled with family time. My husband is a Vet Nurse and works long hours and weekends. We have a four year old boy called Isaac who always keeps us busy, so our time together is very precious. We all love being outdoors and keeping fit. We are very lucky that we have great support from both sets of parents.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
Perseverance! It doesn’t happen overnight. Get out there, get your name and face known, work hard and the opportunities will come your way. Looking back I always thought that work experience was tough and that I wasn’t gaining anything from it. But I really did. The relationships that you make, however small, are the ones that will last and these can open doors for you, when you least expect it.
How to connect with Louise Owens…
Thanks for reading our Industry Insider with Louise Owens! If you want to read more from the series, you can do so by clicking here.