Another day, another Industry Insider sharing their story with us! Our latest guest is Mexican football expert, Tom Marshall.
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
Hello I’m Tom Marshall. I’m originally from Rochdale in the UK and I have been working in Mexican football for the last decade. I’m currently based in Mexico City — I’ve been in Mexico for 13 years — and am now the International Communications Manager for Orlegi Sports (a group that owns Liga MX clubs Santos Laguna and Atlas FC and second division Mexican team Tampico Madero FC).
I joined Orlegi Sports last January and before that I worked for six years for ESPN covering the Mexican national teams and Liga MX. I got that job after a few years freelancing for ESPN and outlets such as Goal, The Associated Press, MLSsoccer.com, The Guardian and others.
What do you do in your current role?
It is pretty interesting! It feels like Mexican football in general isn’t given as much coverage in English as it perhaps deserves, given the men’s national team has had an average attendance of around 50,000 in games in the United States over the last decade and Liga MX is by far the most watched football league on U.S. television. (If you look at the numbers for the second half of 2020, a total of 83.1 million tuned in for Liga MX regular season games, compared to 20.2 million for Premier League games over the same period).
Orlegi Sports is trying to push for that U.S. market and also has big ambitions outside of Mexico, with the ownership looking potentially in the future to buy a club in Europe.
So, my job right now within Orlegi Sports is to get people talking and writing about the clubs; encourage a culture internally that fosters an openness to internationalization and reaching out to people and organizations that can help with the project of promoting the clubs outside of Mexico.
Aside from that, I oversee the clubs’ social media in English, write stories for the websites and chip in with domestic PR issues when it is necessary.
What does a normal week look like for you?
It changes quite a lot from week to week. Much depends on the stage of the season. It’s definitely not a standard 40-hour, Monday-to-Friday, 9-to-5 kind of job.
Monday and Tuesday are generally for meetings with the clubs and higher-ups to catch up on the games and ongoings from the past weekend, plan the week ahead and check in regarding the longer-term projects.
At the weekend, there are plenty of games — each Liga MX club has a professional women’s as well as men’s team — lots of storylines to monitor and it is also important to keep in contact with the TV rights’ holders in the United States (Fox Deportes in the case of Santos Laguna).
But then if there is playoff play — all three of Orlegi Sports’ teams were involved in knock-out games during May — it gets extremely hectic, with so much going on and that unknown about whether the team will make it to the next round or not. In Santos Laguna’s case last season, the team was so close to winning the championship, but lost 2-1 on aggregate to Cruz Azul. The result affected dramatically what my schedule would’ve been for the days immediately after the final.
The post-pandemic plan is also to travel more often to the United States for friendlies, to meet with media, discuss the Orlegi Sports project, and basically do our bit in helping to connect North American soccer ahead of the 2026 home World Cup and beyond.
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
I came to Mexico (Guadalajara) in 2008 to work for the Guadalajara Reporter newspaper, shortly after finishing my undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto. From covering general news stories in the city, I was naturally drawn — given I’ve always been a massive football fan — to the local scene and started my own blog and Twitter handle to start writing about it.
Javier Hernandez signed for Manchester United in 2010, the World Cup happened the same year and from that small blog I started to pick up work here and there. I couldn’t believe I was getting paid for something I loved to do and the seed had been planted. It made sense to see where it would take me!
What are you excited about in your industry at the moment?
I’d say two big-picture things. Firstly, what the 2026 World Cup will bring to North American soccer. There’s talk of increased play between Liga MX and Major League Soccer clubs — the CONCACAF Champions league and Leagues Cup already provide some — and Orlegi Sports chair Alejandro Irarragorri is one of those that think that over the long term, both leagues would benefit from deepening the current strategic partnership. Seeing what the end result is promises to be fascinating, not just for the region, but also the global game.
The other issue isn’t perhaps as headline-grabbing, but the way Mexican football is becoming more institutionalized and professional at league level is very encouraging. It feels as though at certain points Liga MX has been held back, but that appears to be changing.
What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?
Helping people outside of Mexico and perhaps without much of a background in Mexican football understand its relevance internationally (especially in the United States), obviously with a focus on Orlegi Sports.
In your area of work, what is something you feel most people don’t talk about or focus on enough?
At the risk of repeating myself (!), I really don’t think that people outside of the North American game understand the power and potential of Mexican football in the United States. Also, in terms of the quality of the product, I think Liga MX can comfortably compete with the European leagues outside the “big five,” although that probably isn’t the global perception.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
Never forget that working in this industry is a privilege, at least for those of us that grew up obsessed with sport.
How to connect Tom Marshall and others on social…
You can follow @AtlasFC_en and @ClubSantosEn to keep up with @Orlegi_Sports’ Liga MX clubs in English!!
Thanks for reading our Industry Insider with Tom Marshall! If you want to read more from the series, you can do so by clicking here.