60-second interview: Paul Thorogood, Chief Executive, Football Foundation

PaulThorogood1. Please introduce who you are, what you do and what your job entails.

My name is Paul Thorogood and I’m Chief Executive of the Football Foundation. I’m responsible for developing and implementing the goals and objectives of the Foundation, along with providing leadership and direction to all aspects of the organisation, making it as effective and efficient as it can be.

2. What career path have you taken to get to where you are today?

My path is quite a unique one. Before moving into the sports industry I spent the best part of thirty years in the Royal Air Force. I joined the RAF at the bottom of the ranks and then throughout the years worked my way up to the senior levels. When I left the Royal Air Force I held the title of Group Captain which was quite a senior rank within the organisation.

Then in 2006 I decided on a career change and that is when I came to the Football Foundation.

3. Tell us a bit more about the Football Foundation. What are some of your key objectives and challenges at the moment?

The Football Foundation is the largest sports charity in the UK.  It is a unique partnership of the Premier League, The FA and the Department for Culture Media and Sport (via Sport England), all of which provide £36 million to the Foundation each year.  We work closely with these partners and use the funding to develop local community grassroots sport facilities. This is predominantly in the sport of football but we also do a great deal of work in developing multisport facilities.

Since starting in 2006 we have supported 8,700 grassroots sports projects and awarded grants of £403 million into projects worth £970 million. This investment has gone directly into benefitting the grassroots of the game through the development of local sports facilities. The money helps us to build state of the art artificial pitches, floodlights, changing rooms and basically anything that is needed to get the game going at the grassroots level.

4. What advice do you have for candidates looking to get into sport?

Sport is such a popular industry and it’s a tough area to get into. How you should go about this ultimately depends on where you’re coming into the sector from. Like any industry, the earlier you can get your foot in the door the better – be prepared to start from the bottom and work your way up through the ranks.

Alternatively, if crossing over from another industry, I would have two key pieces of advice. One way to get into the industry is by specialising. For example, if you're a coach you need to work on developing your credentials and qualifications in your area.

Secondly, you need to focus on your transferrable skills. My background is in operations logistics management and also in change and process redesign, and these skills were core to my current role at the Football Foundation. When I came to the organisation in 2006 the first thing I did was to instigate a change programme and a review of the charity’s processes. The skills I had gained from the Royal Air Force were perfect for this role which I came in to and as a result the programme has been very successful. So wherever you’re working at the moment – look at what your transferrable skills are and how they benefit the organisation you want to work for.

5. What has been your career highlight to date?

In my role as Chief Exec a huge amount of effort and work went into the change and process improvement programme that took place in 2006 - 2007. The highlight was last year when a Department for Culture Media and Sport report identified the Football Foundation as the most effective and efficient organisation of its kind. To have our vision and hard work towards becoming one of the world’s best grassroots sports organisations publicly recognised by an independent report was extremely satisfying.

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