In the latest instalment of Industry Insider, we headed to Portugal to speak to Tiago Sardo. We chatted about his career so far, his role as Press Officer and Content Producer for the Portuguese Football Federation and much more.
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
Hello everyone. First of all, it’s a pleasure to be here speaking to Behind Sport, and I’m very grateful for the invitation.
My name is Tiago Sardo, I’m 26 years old, and I work as a Press Officer and Content Producer for the Portuguese Football Federation since 2019. Currently, I am the press officer for the Under-21 National Team, and I have also worked in press roles for other national teams in the past.
What do you do in your current role?
As we work with National Teams, the primary focus of our work is not always managing team communications since they are only together for certain periods of the season.
During these other times, we produce content for the Portuguese Football Federation’s website and handle communication for the events and competitions organised by the federation.
“Normal” isn’t a thing in sport so what does an “average” week look like for you?
I often say that my job has two worlds: when the Under-21 National Team is together and when they’re not. When I’m with the team, a week of work for me is completely focused on managing the team’s communication. It involves deciding which player is going to speak, when he will speak, what message to convey, to anticipate scenarios based on the results, try to predict the questions, and briefing the players as effectively as possible, among other tasks.
When the team is not together, much of my work revolves around creating content for the Portuguese Football Federation’s website. Almost every day of the year, national teams are working, whether it’s football, futsal, beach soccer, male or female, ranging from under-13 to the senior team. Each of these teams is entitled to one news piece per day, featuring a player’s statement.
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
I always knew that my professional life would have to involve sports. It has been a dream since I was a child, but it wasn’t until my last year of college that I began to realise I could become a press officer. Since I was 12 years old, I have said that I wanted to be a sports journalist, and it has always been my professional ambition. With that in mind, I pursued a degree in Social and Cultural Communication at the Portuguese Catholic University.
However, midway through the program, I started to develop an interest in the strategic side of communication, and shortly after completing my bachelor’s degree, the Portuguese Football Federation opened its doors to me. I started as an intern, finished my master’s degree in Communication Sciences while already working at the federation – my master’s thesis was on the topic of “The Relationship Between Football Players and Social Media,” the first of its kind in Portugal – and I have been here ever since.
What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?
I believe that the focus of any worker should be to convey an exemplary, respectful, and responsible attitude, not only at work but also outside of it. Furthermore, the communication (whether it’s mine, the players’, or the coaches’) should adhere to the same principles. My concern is that the message conveyed through speeches is delivered in a way that is not detrimental to either the team or the Federation.
Can you tell us about a time you failed and what you learned from it?
I like to think that the time when I made the most mistakes was during my internship, and that I have learned from them. I know that I don’t do everything perfectly now, and I acknowledge that I will make mistakes in the future. Nevertheless, I want to believe that I will learn from those mistakes and not make the same one twice.
During my internship, while pursuing my master’s degree in the evenings, with assignments and tests, and working full-time, I would sometimes neglect certain details due to accumulated fatigue. I have become more attentive to the details, whether it’s in writing or in the strategic planning of communication.
What are you excited about in your industry at the moment?
There are three things that bring me tremendous excitement in my work in the football industry. First and foremost, representing my country. Feeling that I am contributing to Portugal’s success in football is incredibly rewarding.
Secondly, I have always been highly competitive since childhood, and this job gives me the opportunity to work in a very competitive world. I love participating in major competitions – recently, I was involved in the Under-21 European Championship, and it was a fantastic experience. That feeling of nervousness before the game starts and working together to achieve that sense of happiness and accomplishment at the end, is an incredible sensation. It’s when we have that feeling of victory after the games that we realise all the efforts and sacrifices were worth it.
Additionally, it’s worth mentioning the pleasure I derive from being able to connect with and assist football players who are already idols to many people. Being able to help them with their communication and be a part of their careers is also very fulfilling.
Regarding the industry of communication itself, the emergence of new platforms, the way we communicate, new technologies, etc., have made communication very different now compared to ten years ago. And I believe that ten years from now, it will be completely different as well. This ease of change forces us to keep up with the process, and it gives me immense pleasure to constantly be following those changes and adapting my work and way of thinking accordingly.
If you could change one thing about your industry, what would you change?
If I could change something, it would undoubtedly be the mentality of people and the sports culture. Often, in football, there are unjust criticisms directed at players and coaches because a player plays for club X and is a rival of club Y.
In a National Team, ideally, there should be no such division. We are all rooting for the same thing, wanting our country to win. It’s already disheartening to see criticisms when the team plays poorly or a player has an unfortunate moment on a given day.
If, on top of that, players are criticised based on the club they represent, it’s even more disheartening. I don’t want to speak about other countries since I don’t have sufficient knowledge to do so, but as a Portuguese, that’s what I would change in the football industry in Portugal.
Sport is a hectic industry, what do you do to switch off?
Those of us who work in football and communication almost have a duty to be constantly up to date, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If news comes out today about a player who could be called up for the Under-21 National Team, whether it is a coach’s decision in the club, a transfer rumour, or even a post they made on social media, I already know that topic may be addressed in a future press conference, so it’s up to me to think about the best approach to take.
However, during those moments when I “disconnect” a bit, I enjoy watching series (not related to football), spending time with family, my girlfriend and my friends, taking photographs, or… playing football!
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
There is a lot of advice that can be given, but the one I consider most crucial is the one I would give to anyone who wants to work in any industry: network. Whether it’s in person, through social media, or at events, make yourself known and seek to establish connections with people who can help you in the future, even if it’s just with advices like this.
Not everyone is fortunate enough to send an email, be called for a job interview, be invited for an internship, and even be offered a permanent position after the internship, as happened to me. I have friends who have been waiting for that opportunity for years… with contacts and people who already know your personality and your worth, these opportunities become more accessible.
How to connect with Tiago Sardo…
To all those interested, you can follow me on Instagram and connect with me on LinkedIn. Do not hesitate to reach out if you need anything.