We head to Spain for the latest instalment of Industry Insider, we chat to Thomas Mcilroy about life at Villarreal CF!
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
Hello I’m Thomas Mcilroy. I currently work in the press department at Villarreal CF, my official job title is international content manager. I have been working at the club since the start of the 2018/19 season.
I have previously worked in local radio, as a sports reporter at Radio Jackie in SW London, before working as an online sports reporter at the Daily Star and then as a copywriter for Football Whispers before joining Villarreal.
What do you do in your current role?
I am responsible for all the content in the club in English, so I run the English-language Twitter account, and the club’s English-language section of the website. This can either be original content or translated content.
As I am in the press department, I also have an active role in ideas for campaigns and announcements, for example, the idea of announcing Gerard Moreno as a ‘Masked Singer’ to celebrate his contract renewal was mine. I also help the Spanish social media manager with ideas for various platforms, such as Instagram and TikTok.
“Normal” isn’t a thing in sport so what does an “average” week look like for you?
I work at the Training Ground, so I am there during the week, alongside the press department, planning content and social media. But of course, there is always something unexpected that comes up, I have helped out with interpreting press conferences recently, such as the Arnaut Danjuma and Serge Aurier presentations.
I go to all home games and will help out with some of the behind-the-scenes content, such as filming the dressing room before the players arrive, or filming the players as they enter the stadium. For away games, I work from home. The whole press team stopped travelling due to COVID, and generally it works just as well as every game is televised here.
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
I always knew I wanted to work in sport. I wanted to be a footballer when I was younger, but I wasn’t particularly good, and I enjoyed writing, so I thought becoming a football journalist would be a good alternative.
My road to working at Villarreal was a long one. I studied French and Spanish at university, and I had to spend a year in a country of my choice, and I chose Spain because I wanted to live in the sun for a year. I was working in a school, and I was sent to work in one in Vila-real, the town where Villarreal was based. There isn’t a huge amount to do in the town, so I got a season ticket because it was cheap, and slowly fell in love with the club.
I used to go to the B team games too as they were included in the price of my season ticket, and as I tweeted a lot from the games, one day the social media manager at the time sent me a DM from the Villarreal account asking what an English person was doing at all the games. I went and met him and kept in touch, telling him that if they ever needed any English content that I was their man.
I didn’t expect anything to come of it, and I went back to England to finish my degree, and then when I was studying for my NCTJ qualification in Sports Journalism, I had to do work experience and got in touch with Villarreal and they let me do three weeks with them and I realised I would like to work in a football club.
Then when I was working at Football Whispers back in 2018, they got back in touch with me saying they wanted someone of a journalistic profile who was willing to take over the English side of things at the club to help the club expand internationally, and since then, I’ve been here.
What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?
I’m always focused on making the club look as good as possible and trying to sell us well to an international audience.
Can you tell us about a time you failed and what you learned from it?
At Villarreal, I’ve had various tweets which I thought would be a success and they haven’t, and sometimes things that I thought were just OK have gone viral. The one thing I won’t do again though is accidentally upload a personal story from the club’s Instagram account. It was only there for 30 seconds but it felt like the longest 30 seconds of my life.
What are you excited about in your industry at the moment?
I’m excited about how media is changing, we need to constantly adapt and make the club as accessible as possible. I think football clubs are still finding their feet on TikTok, and that will only grow in the future, but I’m sure in a few years there will be another social network where we will have to try and work out how a football club can reach an audience on there.
I am excited about English-language coverage generally in LaLiga, I think it is only improving, with more clubs getting English-language social media accounts, and with good quality coverage such as LaLigaTV, hopefully we can only grow internationally.
If you could change one thing about your Industry, what would you change?
Sometimes I think I would love to have a 9-5 job with weekends free, because my job does consume a lot of my life. However, I do really enjoy what I do and I’m very lucky to work in an industry I love, for a club I love, in a job that to be honest does not feel like a job.
Sport is a hectic industry, what do you do to switch off?
Switching off isn’t easy at all here. I’m the only person who looks after the English-language content, so I can’t disconnect particularly well from work because there’s always something happening. But living near the beach here, I find going to the beach and leaving my phone behind is one way that I can truly switch off.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
Don’t give up. I was working in local radio, and knew I wanted to work in a football club, but I continued to work hard, move up the ladder slowly and the opportunity I was looking for came to me. Also, be prepared to lose a lot of your spare time, it is not a 9-5 job, but it is worth it.
How to connect with Thomas Mcilroy…
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