18 June 2021
Image: Lynne Cameron
Women in Football sat down to talk with Jen Riley, External Operations Manager at The FA, just days before Jen was preparing Wembley Stadium for UEFA EURO 2020.
Jen Riley is External Operations Manager for The FA and we couldn’t wait to ask her just what her role entails.
“It essentially means that I manage the zone area, which is everything from our stadium perimeter out to the nearest kind of major transport hub. The concept of it is that I liaise with all the stakeholders involved outside of the stadium and make sure that all our plans align and that our spectators can come into the stadium safely and leave safely and just generally have a great day out. So that's the kind of normal day job.”
So how does that translate for EURO 2020?
“It basically means ensuring that all the additional overlays that the UEFA team put in place, which for major tournaments like this is a lot more - so various things like merchandise and spectator info points and activations - that all stakeholders are aware of those... so plans align and we don't have anything that goes against each other on event day.”
But of course, the events of the pandemic have made things a little bit more challenging...
“We got confirmation that Wembley was involved a good couple of years ago. And obviously, with the delay due to COVID, you would think we've had an extra year planning so everything would be all sorted from a year ago. But as you can imagine all the changes with COVID, and the limitations we've got, it's still an interesting operation to pull together and lots of different elements to get right.”
Whilst Jen is involved in the logistics of the tournament, that doesn’t stop her from being really excited about the reality of this summer’s Euros. She filled us in on how the atmosphere is her favourite aspect of the tournament.
“There’s just something about a major tournament, I think it's a different type of spectator. Some people are just here for just a great day out, some of these teams don't expect to get past the group stage. They're just buzzing to be involved in the tournament. And I think you pick that up from the fans that they're just wanting to have a fantastic day and be part of this international experience.”
“It’s a great distraction right now for people to look forward to for the next month whilst we don't know what's happening with COVID. And it's an uncertain world. But actually, we've got a month of fantastic football ahead of us that we can all enjoy.”
We loved hearing Jen’s passion (it’s a passion most certainly shared by our Women in Football network) and were eager to hear about how she got into the position she’s in now.
“I've only been at the FA since September 2019. So 20 odd months now, but I have always worked in sport and always in sporting events. I worked in mass participation; running, rugby, and cricket. And I've now moved into football which I'm buzzing about because it's my favourite sport...it sort of feels like now I've reached the school that I've always wanted to work in.”
And how glad we are that she’s found her way to the footballing world! So how has Jen found building a career in the world of sport?
“So I've actually been very lucky with my bosses over the years, although they've always been men, as you generally expect them to be. But they've always championed me as a woman and, as a young mother as well, working in the industry. I've been very lucky in that sense.”
"So I would say my biggest barrier has probably been my own confidence and my ability to recognise my experience...this sort of personal confidence, especially in a very male-dominated environment which sport and events are, I think sometimes it can be a personal barrier rather than things in the industry specifically that have held me back."
Despite Jen’s feeling that she’s lacking confidence, Jen’s message to women wanting to forge a career in the sporting world is a positive one.
“I just want to be the change I want to see. And that's what I would say to young women in the industry is actually just push yourself into the situation where you can be that person in the future.”
Brilliant advice from a brilliant Women in Football member.
We can’t thank Jen enough for her time and hope she’s enjoying the Euros as much as we are! Keep an eye out for more from Jen and some other brilliant women in football involved in this year’s tournament across our social channels.
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