Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
My name’s Ryan Grant, and I’ve been Managing Editor at the English Football League since December 2018. In a lot of ways, all I’ve ever known is sports journalism, having studied it at university – and I’m now getting ready to start my 10th season in football after this summer’s Euros, which still sounds mad to me when I say it out loud.
I started out as a freelancer, covering a match shift for Manchester United; that turned into a week, and before I knew it I’d done over four years there, before moving on to Blackburn Rovers as Media & Communications Manager. I’ve massively enjoyed all of the roles I’ve had, and for various reasons… it’s a challenging but rewarding industry that offers so many unique experiences, so I’m grateful to still be a part of it! I feel very lucky to have had the experiences I’ve had, and when those days do come around, I try to enjoy every second and do it with a smile on my face.
What do you do in your current role?
My title as Managing Editor is really just a fancy way of saying I manage the League’s content team. We’re responsible for social media across 14 channels, the official website, podcast, newsletters and eight annual publications among other things, so to say it’s varied would be an understatement! We’re a team of three (soon to be six) and so I think we’ve become experts at plate-spinning in my time here.
Personally, I’m responsible for delivering social media guidance to all 72 EFL clubs, as well as the League’s style guide, and one of the best parts of the role is working alongside my counterparts at the clubs and other similar organisations. There are so many talented, friendly and helpful people working throughout the industry, and we’ve all got a common passion for football, so we’re never short of something to talk about over a Zoom call or a pint.
What does a normal week look like for you?
Well, as you’ll have gauged from my first two answers, no two days are the same! This week is as good an example as any… fresh from probably the busiest and most exciting weekend of the year – down at Wembley for the Play-Offs – we’re getting ready for our annual Youth Development Week and latest edition of our magazine, as well as Fixture Release Day at the end of the month, so it’s all systems go.
Typically, we’ll implement our weekly and monthly content plans while planning for some of the bigger projects, and during the season will try to ensure there’s plenty of football-based content to go at across all of our channels.
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
While it probably sounds like this was always my plan, I can’t really say that’s the case! I was extremely close to studying Journalism with Spanish before changing my mind at the 11th hour, so whenever I’ve been asked since, I always say it’s important to trust your gut. I wasn’t too sure at the time so thought ‘if in doubt, do something you know you’ll enjoy’, and I’m so glad I did, because I might not have gone down this route otherwise.
After leaving university, I think luck played its part too; my manager at United lived in the same town as me and maybe that helped, who knows! I did always try to make sure I spent any free time I had wisely, by getting out there and getting experience – I don’t think there’s a substitute for that.
What are you excited about in your industry at the moment?
Neither football nor technology ever seem to stand still, and so trying to keep up – or better yet, get ahead of the curve – is always exciting. I love seeing the ways in which sporting organisations try to set themselves apart, whether it’s via social media, a marketing campaign or something else altogether.
It’s such a crowded market, and that’s why we love it, but that makes it even harder to make your voice heard. Those who do manage it should be applauded, for sure! I’ll be really interested to see how things like VR and AR are taken to the next level over the next few years, or where the next major trend or platform might come from.
What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?
That’s a good question! It might sound like quite a generic answer, but I’m big on consistency, and that’s across all kinds of things. If you ask the others in my team, I’m sure they’ll tell you I’m a nightmare for going on about hyphens and commas, but I think if you’re consistent when it comes to the finer details, it can make all the difference.
If we’re talking specific workstreams, I think a key focus is to build on or refine some of the things we’re doing already, to really get the message across that these divisions and competitions are great to watch and great to play in, which is something I truly believe. If the excitement we feel when covering the Play-Offs can be reflected in what we do day-to-day, I don’t think we’ll go far wrong.
In your area of work, what is something you feel most people don’t talk about or focus on enough?
Without a doubt, the things that happen behind the scenes, and by that, I mean the monumental effort that goes into something like putting on a game of professional football – especially a final. It’s an absolute honour to play a small part by helping produce a programme or covering a match via social media, but there are unsung heroes across the country at every club, doing all kinds of work which isn’t front-facing and therefore often goes under the radar. Seeing first-hand the effort and planning that goes into organising a match like the Carabao Cup Final, to give just one example, has been a massive eye-opener for me.
I love it when a football documentary comes along and shines a light on the grounds team, or the receptionist, or the volunteer who’s been around every weekend for 30 years, that’s what it’s all about. Those things remind me why I wanted to get into the industry in the first place. I went to Port Vale a few months ago to film a piece for the EFL Awards; at the time they’d delivered over 300,000 food parcels to those in need during the pandemic, and those are the stories I love to tell. For all the negativity out there, there’s so much good, and football’s great at reminding us of that.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
Aside from getting experience early and trusting your gut, as I mentioned earlier, I think I’d say ‘aim high and be persistent’. If you’d told me in 2011 that in 2021, I’d be interviewing both the England manager and captain from the (dis)comfort of my dining room table, there’s no way I’d have believed you.
It’s important to have a dream and chase it, despite any disappointments or rejections you might have along the way. You might send 50 speculative emails, for example… the worst you’ll get back is a ‘no’, but the one that says ‘yes’ will ultimately be the one you’ll remember! The beauty of the sports industry changing so quickly is that it’s always presenting new opportunities to people as a result, so go for it, and good luck.
How to connect with Ryan Grant on social…
If there are any aspiring sports journalists out there, I’m always happy to answer any questions. My Twitter handle is @RyanAGrant.
Thanks for reading our Industry Insider with Ryan Grant! If you want to read more from the series, you can do so by clicking here.