11 January 2022
They say you should never meet your heroes – but one woman in football has spent 18 months working with hers and is loving life more than ever.
As an events and publicity guru Laura Wolfe is used to rubbing shoulders with the stars. When she landed the job of running Vincent Kompany's testimonial season, though, she was more than a little thrilled. Being a lifelong Manchester City fan meant her delight was more than just professional.
"I worked with Vincent for 18 months," she says, "which was the most incredible experience, and I'm in no doubt that I will never experience anything like that again."
Not that she's likely to forget that endeavour, but a shirt signed by the player and taking pride of place on Laura's wall serves as a constant reminder. "Mr Kompany's with me all the time in my office now, whether he likes it or not!" she smiles.
The job took Laura's career to new heights. "I ended up doing things I'd never done before – like a deal with Sky TV for the rights to broadcast the match – and various other things which, if someone had told me I'd be doing stuff like that, I'd never have believed them. So it was incredible!"
The highlight, she says, was a fundraising dinner which raised £850,000 to support a homelessness charity established by Manchester mayor Andy Burnham.
"At that dinner I was in a lift with Noel Gallagher, Vincent Kompany and Gary Lineker. That's one of those moments where you're like, I don't think that's gonna happen again. Just insane. Even now it's crazy."
Laura's pride in the north-west extends beyond her beloved City. Describing her home as "the best region for football in the country", she points out that 21 professional clubs are based locally, as well as organisations like the National Football Museum and Professional Footballers' Association (PFA).
The game is financially as well as culturally significant to the north-west, she adds. "The fact that three of our teams will be playing Champions League football next season will bring a huge boost to the regional economy."
Understandably, then, Laura is delighted to be the driving force behind the Northwest Football Awards – an annual celebration of all that's good about the game in her region. After the Covid-19 pandemic forced the event to go online in 2020, she was delighted that the awards could be face-to-face again in 2021.
"That is one of my favourite nights of the year – 600 people at The Point at Emirates Old Trafford in Manchester, all coming together in the north-west football family, really coming together as one.
"It's taken me 10 years to get to this point with that awards, where people want to be part of it, clubs want to enter it, they want to be there and people love the event."
Her 15 years in the football industry are the culmination of Laura's longer career in the events business: "Too long to mention – if I told you I'd be giving my age away and I'm not gonna do that!" And the path she's followed to reach that dream job hasn't always been smooth.
"My fingers have been burnt in business," admits Laura. "I've put the wrong people around me, I've made the wrong decisions, I've made some mistakes and lost everything. And I was thinking, you know what, I'm just going to go and work in a supermarket.
"But I didn't do that. I dusted myself off and said, you know what, this is what's happened, I'm gonna start again and go for it. And now in my life I'm probably happier than I've ever been and feel luckier than I've ever been with the clients I work with."
Today her PR and events business Road3 boasts clients including Women in Football, the PFA, Kick it Out, and the David Lloyd health clubs brand. She also works with Pitch Publishing, managing book launches for a range of sports titles. Currently she's even putting her expertise to work for WIF itself as an interim events consultant.
But when the pandemic struck and football ground to a halt, a rethink was needed. "I did lots of exercise, I learnt to bake, I homeschooled my kids, I went slightly insane for a while. And then I thought, me being me, what am I going to do next, because I can't do this for much longer."
Laura's response was a lifestyle consultancy venture called Road3 Concierge, for footballers and other high-profile people. "The most interesting part of that business is on the charity side where we help them if they want to set up foundations… that's a really exciting part of the job!"
"I'm crazily busy on different projects," says Laura. "I don't seek out work any more – I'm very lucky: it tends to come to me." Outside of work she cares for her two sons "who are my world and my life" as well as a new dog. "My life's a big, big juggle," she smiles, just a little ruefully.
As if work/life balance weren't enough of a challenge, she has to manage City/United balance at the same time. How did her first son end up gravitating towards Manchester's other footballing superpower?
"My ex-husband is a Red. I have been a Blue all my life. I’m Jewish. My ex isn’t. I got the religion and he got the football – that was the deal when we got married!
"So our eldest son took his father’s club. My youngest is a massive City fan, like me, and loves football. He was born in 2011 – we won the Premier League title for the first time when he was a year old. Both my kids have been brought up in a football house. My partner now is also a Red – you’d think I’d learn to pick better partners really!"
Anyone setting out on Laura's career path could get a head start by listening to her advice. Her most important piece of guidance? Networking.
"Talk to everyone. Meet everyone. Everyone who is willing to talk to you, talk to them. Because you don't know who they are, you don't know where they're gonna end up, you don't know what they might be able to help you with.
"I talk to anybody in this industry – whether they're the people who are cleaning the loos in the clubs or the people that are in the boardrooms – exactly the same. And I think that's the most important thing because you just don't know. If you treat those people with respect your name will get round and you will do well. You just work hard and the breaks will come."
It takes determination as well as graft to reach a position like Laura's – and meeting your heroes is the icing on the cake. "Certainly the events are not all glamour and glitz, let me tell you!" she says. But in the end the work pays off.
"I feel very lucky and very honoured to be a woman working in this industry. I've had, as I say, some fantastic times and some not so fantastic times, but ultimately I wouldn't want to be anywhere else."
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