17 February 2020
Fleur Robinson - a driving force behind Burton Albion's meteoric rise from non-league to the Football League
Burton Albion's rise from non-league to the Football League with father and daughter duo, Chairman Ben Robinson and Commercial Director Fleur Robinson, at the helm, has been one of the games' greatest success stories in recent years.
For Fleur, who lives and breathes Burton Albion, the world of football has been a central part of family life for as long as she can remember.
So much so, that if you had an A-to-Z of careers at a football club, the Brewers' Commercial Director would most likely be able to tick them all off.
From being an integral part of the team that launched their £7.2m stadium to becoming a Founder of Burton Albion Community Trust, Fleur has been instrumental in shaping what the club is today.
She also has hands on, grass roots experience of football basics including contracts, ticketing, health and safety, hospitality and operating a turnstile. It’s fair to say Fleur has experienced it all during her 24 years working at the club.
Football is a world she continues to have a huge passion for, especially being able to get involved in influencing positive change in the game through her role as a Council Member of The Football Association. She also has a strong interest in investing in young people and improving mental health and wellbeing.
But her association with Burton goes way back to when she was a young girl, as she explains: "My journey is a bit of an unusual one. My father was heavily involved in football and had the first of his two spells as chairman when I was very small.
"I would go to the old ground and be left with the tea lady on quite a few occasions, so I always had a connection with the club!
“But then in 1995, Dad became Burton chairman for a second time and I’d just completed by Business and Innovation degree at Staffordshire University so joined him on what was the start of a huge adventure.
"Before I knew it I worked on the hospitality side of things, was the football secretary for a number of years and took on many other roles as the club grew, leading to where I am today. In fact, the only job I haven’t done is cut the grass on the club tractor!"
With Burton's growing success on the pitch – they had progressed from the second tier of non-league to the Championship in 2015 – the demands on Fleur were growing hand-in-hand too, who also has two daughters Darcey and Betsy.
"By 2004 we thought that we'd grown out of our old Eton Park ground, so needed to identify how and where we could grow into the business that we are now.
"The new stadium project was a steep learning curve, but a tremendous one too. We used local builders to really involve our community rather than hire larger contractors, and the result speaks for itself."
The official opening of the Pirelli Stadium in November 2005 was one of Fleur's proudest achievements.
"There have been some amazing experiences during my time at Burton," she says.
"But sometimes if you have grown a business as we have, you can get sucked in to the day-to-day mechanics of it, finish one job and move on to the next thing.
"I try when I can to stop, reflect and remember what the game brings to me personally, and one of the highlights has to be when we opened the new Pirelli Stadium with a match against Manchester United.
"To see the stadium take shape from drawings to the diggers working, local builders help construct it and then the organisation needed for that first game was amazing. From start to finish it was a huge effort by everyone at the club to prepare for the first-ever game in our brand-new stadium."
The magic of that opening game, and then an FA Cup Third Round tie against the Red Devils that same season, were unusual for Fleur in that she actually got to watch the action unfold with her family. Normally she would be behind the scenes making sure everything is running smoothly.
"Match day for me is about making sure the fans and guests have the best experience," she says. "So much focus is on getting the job done, making sure the ticketing system is working, catering sorted, car park spaces allocated, stewards are in place – the list goes on and on.
“I'd love to be a fan for the day, but I hardly get to see any of the football because I'm busy helping out or deputising when needed. My two girls love watching the game so if they're not watching it on the day we look at the highlights together when it's on TV later."
With so much experience gained from running a football club, Fleur was excited to accept the opportunity to share her knowledge when she became a Council Member of The FA nearly four years' ago.
"An opportunity came up with the Council, which has responsibility for managing the national league system, sanctioning competitions and matches, approving changes to FA regulations and also debating current issues in the game," she explains.
"The FA recognised that it needs to change and it is taking steps to do that, so I am grateful to have the chance to be a part of that change and make a difference."
And having this opportunity has only reinforced Fleur's determination to make sure that girls and women are afforded similar chances too, whether that be playing football, working in football or choosing a totally non-sports-related career path.
Just over two years' ago, Fleur was selected as a BTEC Ambassador. It is an organisation close to her heart having studied for a BTEC qualification and she has since helped to introduce ‘Inspiring Your Future’ personal development workshops for students.
"I’m really proud of all the work that the Burton Albion Community Trust does but the Inspiring Your Future events are the start of something special," she enthuses.
"The events are currently run for sixth form students who are starting to think about potential career avenues. As part of this we help them to explore their personal development.
"We are also about to also introduce events for students in years seven and eight to support them with transition into secondary school.
"I coasted a little as a youngster and careers were never really well signposted – so if in any way we can help give young people confidence to know what pathway they might want to go on, and explore the choices open to them, then that is a start.
"Football has changed a lot over the years and there are many more females involved in the game, and also in key roles. But like most industries, there are not as many as there should be and certainly not at a senior level.
"At the end of the day in every walk of life we all have a responsibility to open up opportunities for all. In football this means looking at policies and promoting more opportunities for women within football, which has certainly come a long way.
"I’m really looking forward to playing a part in the development of women in football and can see exciting opportunities ahead."
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