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January 8, 2014

Aussie in England: Part 1

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‘Are you where you want to be professionally’ was the tag line of a book on personal branding that I happened to glance over in a book store about a year ago. It stuck out like Maradona at a beauty pageant, it made me question if I loved what I was doing with my career and ultimately it changed my life as I set about reinventing my career.

Blair taking in the sights of Loftus Road, home to QPR.

Blair taking in the sights at Loftus Road, home to QPR.

For the past seven years I have worked two careers side by side which is a testament to my hard working nature. I worked as a high school teacher and as a venue, tour and artist manager in the music industry where I ran a successful PR and events business. With both jobs I was able to travel the world. I taught in a small village in Suffolk and in challenging classrooms in London, worked in the famed London Hammersmith Apollo, Brisbane’s iconic Zoo Nightclub and trekked across the globe to 40+ countries promoting Australian music artists.
However by the end of 2012 I realised that I had accomplished everything that I set out to achieve in the music industry and then sadly in early 2013 with the deaths of two students I was close to, I could see that the emotional weight of dealing with seriously diverse adolescent issues was really bringing me down and I knew I needed to take a break from the stress of teaching.
When I was running my business in the music industry from 2006-2012, I would travel to various countries a few times a year and conduct meetings with key industry leaders and at the same time take in sporting and musical events in order to learn how they run these major shows.

In March I decided to do another professional development trip and headed back to Europe where I set up meetings with major football clubs from Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and RSC Anderlecht to Bayern Munich, West Ham and Queens Park Rangers. The aim was to learn as much as I could about how these major businesses facilitated their fan engagement, marketing, social media management and operations. These are all the areas which I’m keen to work in within the sports business. At the end of every meeting I asked for an internship and as luck would have it QPR saw something in me and agreed to take me on later in the year.

The process wasn’t easy with visa and immigration not believing the offer from QPR and I even got a bit of stick and warnings from a UK Immigration officer who made it clear that she was a Chelsea fan and oddly warned me against applying for the business visa. Still unsure if that was some unique pommy joke but eventually it all worked out and I resigned from one of my jobs and made it to London the day after school broke out.

Therefore as I knew I needed a change I went through a career reinvention which included reevaluating what I was passionate about and of course sports, event management and fan engagement were top of my list. Along with setting up the internship, I set up a website, created a unique physical business card in the style of a football jersey, had professional photos taken, cleaned up my linkedin, read books, subscribed to sports biz publications, wrote a personal brand statement, created a logo, networked over social media with people I wanted to emulate and overall set about redefining and reinventing a career in the sports business.

Fast forward to mid December and I’m now in London having completed my first full week of this incredible two month experience at Queens Park Rangers football club undertaking a sports business internship in the fields of fan engagement, operations, marketing and operations.

In the first week at the club I was tasked with researching the e-cigarette polices, membership schemes and season and match day prices at all EPL and Championship stadiums. I was able to call the Premier League and various major clubs to gather research and at the same time make valuable contacts at these clubs. I helped facilitate a QPR fan forum, sat in on the operations room on the match day against Leicester City to learn about crowd safety and footballing policing, learnt about the rising issues of flare and smoke bomb mules and saw first hand how a stadium should deal with animals on the pitch after a squirrel ran onto the field and ended up stopping play in the game against Leicester City. Getting my official AAA QPR staff card was also pretty sweet.

Everyone at the club has been incredible by providing me with resources, advice and most importantly their valuable time and it’s been great to get stuck in to any work I’m given and be treated as one of the team from day one. In the first week I also travelled up to Aston Villa, down to Southampton and across the Thames to West Ham for both meetings and matches. I’m networking in the Premier League, does it get any better? The sports business is where I need to be!

The end goal is to use all the life experience I have gained through working in the education and music industries and putting my skills to game changing use in the sports business. One of the main goals I have with this internship is to research how fan engagement is used over here and bring that knowledge back to Australia and work with an A-League club or the FFA to help improve and add a creative spark to their fan engagement strategies. I’m also going to be pushing hard to secure a full time gig with QPR but I also have meetings lined up with about 15 Premier League and Championship clubs so the future is truly unwritten and I’m out to carve my name in the sports business with my unique personal brand.

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4 Comments


  1. Jason Doyle

    Great read Blair and kudos for taking a risk and getting into sportsbiz. Looks like the risk has paid off!


  2. Blair Hughes

    Cheers Jason. It’s been an incredible experience at QPR. They’ve really pulled out all the stops to help me learn as much as possible. Thanks for reading. Blair


  3. Aaron Petrass

    Great article, Blair. As a fellow Aussie who’s just moved over to the UK with the desire to be involved in the football industry, it’s encouraging to learn that with your hard work you’ve had some success.


    • Blair Hughes

      Hey Aaron, thanks for reading the blog. Massive thanks has to go to the SBI guys too. Let me know how I can help you. Maybe I can give you some more networking tips or something. Add me on twitter if you’ve got it (if you don’t, you’ll need it for connecting in the #sportsbiz). Thanks again



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