CAROLYN PREVIEWS THE SEASON
Interview: Carolyn Radford, Mansfield Town FC
July 16 2017, by Sam Metcalf
With the 2017/18 football pre-season now in full swing, we spoke to Mansfield Town Football Club CEO, Carolyn Radford, on her plans for next season, and whether it’s becoming any easier to be a female in a male-dominated sport and industry.
How are pre-season preparations going for the Stags?
We have enjoyed an excellent pre-season to date. Our new-look squad recently returned from a hugely beneficial one-week trip to Malta, which helped our new players integrate with the squad, enjoy several high-tempo training sessions and meet with hundreds of supporters who travelled to the Mediterranean to back us. Moreover, the squad was split into two teams in each half for a match against a Malta FA XI, which we won 5-0. The feedback from our new players regarding the trip was superb, with many stating it was the most worthwhile pre-season trip they had been a part of. While little can be determined from a pre-season, there is no doubt that we have some very talented players in our squad, and management and staff that are absolutely determined to bring success to the club in 2017-18.
You bought a lot of players early in the close-season - what was the thinking behind this?
Since John [chairman John Radford] and I took over the Stags, we have progressed year upon year. After the conclusion of the 2016-17 season, we held several very thorough recruitment meetings with our manager, Steve Evans. Eleven players were released, and to date, 13 have been added to the squad. Our priority was to bring quality in all areas, targeting a blend of youth and experience. To be the best in any league you must recruit the best players and have fierce competition in each area. We’re really pleased with the squad which has been assembled, whilst knowing that there is much hard work ahead of us.
What are your minimum expectations of the players and the manager next season?
We want to win the title, that is our ultimate aim next season. Reaching the play-offs is our minimum target, but we have a manager who has a track record of delivering promotions and a squad which features players who have enjoyed promotions at various levels. We are capable of automatic promotion and now we embark on a journey to set about delivering those targets.
How do you balance the playing budget with this expectation? Is it promotion at all costs next season?
We endeavour to maximise every penny we spend. During my time at the club, I have increased commercial revenue whilst cutting expenditure. The club broke-even last season, still a rare feat in football. Leading a football club is slightly different to running another organisation as there are so many different facets involved. On a financial level, the bottom line must be to ensure that the club not only survives, but prospers.
Who do you consider your main rivals in League Two next season?
Chesterfield are our biggest rivals. It is one of the most keenly-fought rivalries in the lower leagues and the rivalry was sharpened during the Miners’ Strike in the 1980s. Notts County run a close second, and we’re also looking forward to playing Lincoln City after an excellent campaign last term.
Do you think there’s still a stigma attached to women in football?
There are still so few women in top positions in professional football, so there is surely some sort of stigma in the game. I’d like to change that by example and show young women that you can achieve your goals, whether you’re in a male-dominated arena or not. Nothing is impossible.
What’s the most important business lesson you’ve learned since being at Mansfield Town?
The most important business lesson I’ve learned is that some people want it to happen, some think it can happen, and others make it happen. I consider myself to be in the latter group. Nothing can be accomplished without clear focus and determined action, and of course, making things happen by never giving up.
CEO says Mansfield can clinch promotion
Stags conduct pre-season in Malta
Monday, July 17, 2017
Carolyn Radford has been a pivotal figure for Mansfield Town FC since her appointment as CEO back in 2011 at the young age of 29. As the Stags head into their fifth League Two campaign in a row, Ms Radford is optimistic about the club’s chances for promotion.
Mansfield were recently in Malta for a one-week training camp and Ms Radford shared her thoughts about the club’s prospects with Gianluca Lia.
Mansfield Town is already a familiar name here as former Malta international Luke Dimech featured for the club between 2003 and 2005 but the Stags have other links with the island.
“Malta has been a natural choice for us,” Ms Radford said.
“Personally, we’ve been coming here for the past seven years now due to our insurance company because it is based in Malta. We love the island, the people and the climate. The team has been delighted with the facilities and also with the environment.
“Hopefully, this pre-season puts us on the right track in the league. At Mansfield, we believe that pre-season is there to bring the team together and I think Malta will be a really positive stepping stone for our campaign.”
In Malta, Mansfield’s senior squad figured in a friendly against a selection of Maltese players representing the Malta Football Players Association, defeating them 5-0.
Meanwhile, the Mansfield U-21s also travelled to Malta and took the field against St Andrews in a warm-up match, with the Saints emerging winners 4-2.
“Our aim is to progress and get promoted,” a determined Ms Radford noted.
“We have Steve Evans as manager… he’s well-established in the game with nine promotions in his CV. We know he has what it takes to steer Mansfield to the next level.”
We’ve raise the bar by a few notches at Mansfield Town and we are also looking to focus more thoroughly on the grassroots sectors and women’s football team.
The Stags finished 12th last season, just four points off the last play-offs spot taken by Blackpool who went on to pull an upset by clinch a berth in League One.
“As soon as the league was over we starting our planning to bring the best players we can,” Ms Radford, 35, said.
“We wanted to have our squad settled before the Malta pre-season camp. We thinks that coming here (Malta) would strengthen us as a squad. The bookmakers put us 5/1 favourites to get promoted and we hope they do not get it wrong.”
Having never been involved in football, Mansfield’s supporters had their doubts about Ms Radford’s appointment back in 2011. However, the charisma and dedication put in by owner John Radford’s wife translated the fans scepticism into optimism.
“The fans had their doubts at first but that’s normal I suppose,” she said.
“Now, I think they are pleased with what we are doing at the club to assemble a very competitive squad.
“We’ve raise the bar by a few notches at Mansfield Town and we are also looking to focus more thoroughly on the grassroots sectors and women’s football team. All clubs in the UK want to have their youth players reaching a certain level and then transfering them to bigger clubs.”
Ms Radford is the youngest CEO in the English Football League. In a male-dominated game, it has not always been straightforward for her, yet her commitment to the game and the club has seen her thrive in her role.
“There’s extra pressure sometimes when we come to deal with other club directors because I am a woman, and a mother as well. However, at the end of the day it is about getting beyond that border and move on, and I just keep doing my job,” Ms Radford contended.
“Primarily, my job is to look after the football club and make sure that everything works, in particular financially. In addition, I work closely with the manager, always making sure we get the best deals for the club.
“Being young means that you are passionate, enthusiastic and bring the right energy levels. What I learned in my relatively short experience in football is that you never give up and carry on even if you lose on a Saturday. The Football League is a marathon full of obstacles so you always have to be on top of your job.”
Mansfield Town start their League Two campaign on August 5 with an away match to Crewe Alexandra.
Strength found by Mansfield Town CEO to prove she’s no “publicity stunt”
JULY 21, 2017 ZEN TERRELONGE
Carolyn Radford is the CEO of Mansfield Town Football Club and has been since her appointment back in 2011. She was 29 at the time, which earnt her the title of youngest football CEO in the country - a mantle she still possesses at 35.
While Radford always been sporty, her original passion was for politics, which she studied at Durham before transferring over to law.
That educational combination could have made for a role in a grey corporate, but Radford put her legal skills to use in the colourful world of fashion where she worked for the likes of Stella McCartney.
“Fashion is a mixed industry - there are lots of males and females working together,” she said of her time in the sector. “I really enjoyed it and loved the business, so it was a complete contrast coming into football with Mansfield Town.“
At Mansfield Town, she was met with a male-dominated environment, with the exception of the few women found among the catering staff, she recalled.
“I ended up in football as I was setting up a fashion company for my now husband John, who’d just bought Mansfield Town. He moved me to the football arena, and although I had no background in football, not many [CEOs] do,” Radford explained.
“The thing that raised people’s eyebrows was the fact I was female but also because I was 29 at the time, whereas a lot of people involved in football are typically middle-aged men.”
That’s a fair comment. There are countless male football chiefs, but a very short list inclusive of names such as West Ham CEO Karren Brady and Tottenham Hotspur executive director Donna-Marie Cullen, who spoke with us about the plans to scale the North London club at the start of the year.
“These jobs are quite coveted and there was a lot of comments about ‘why should she be appointed?’ when in reality I went to a very good university and have a solid background in business,” continued Radford.
“I’ve been in the role five years and even now people are thinking I can’t do the job. Someone even said recently it’s a publicity stunt. I continually have to prove myself and I’ve become quite strong to make sure the club is successful.”
Radford attributes the casual sexism around her role at Mansfield Town to the fact football is such an emotive business that operates in an extremely results-based sector, which can change on a weekly basis.
“If you don’t win the match, the whole club and commercial have to change. It’s a very unusual business in that respect,” she explained.
While Radford has found her strength over the years, she confessed she wasn’t ready for the onslaught of abuse to come when her appointment as Mansfield Town CEO went public.
“It was a shock to be honest, I didn’t really prepare. I wasn’t aware of how ferocious football can be, so it was shocking for me,” Radford detailed.
“I had to put my head down and get on with the job and do the best in my role, keeping focused rather than dwelling on people’s negative opinions that you can’t do anything about.”
Daily workouts at the gym, family time with her three young children - all boys; two-year-old twins and a three-year-old - and reading inspirational books from entrepreneurs keep her in check and allow her to switch off from naysayers.
She considered her role at Mansfield Town essential and refused to be deterred from her efforts to turn around the failing League Two business, which she said wasn’t being run as a business at all.
The first thing she did was look at “the basic things”. This included realising Mansfield Town was run as a strictly cash-generated business, which had fans pay cash on the turnstiles that were being run by volunteers. From that point, checks and balances were put in place to combat what was a “lot of dishonesty” going on.
Radford said: “I was clear about putting new systems in place, so an initial outcome was spent to sustain the business for the long-term. There were no bars or restaurants at the ground, so I invested in a 24-hour sports bar.
“Outside of matches, there was no activity in the club. I put in features have a sports night, evenings with, weddings and other functions, really making use of the ground.”
In addition to investments for the future of Mansfield Town, Radford also reassessed third-party contracts, of which there were too many - like a photocopier that had been signed up for seven years.
She said that process was a matter of “small things that had to be stripped back”. Agent fees, meanwhile, had to be monitored particularly carefully.
“Knowing how to handle a contract is useful. Agent fees are one to watch out for. A business can lose a lot if you don’t know who’s taking a cut, so you need to make sure a manager is working towards a target that you’ve set,” said Radford. “I’ve been very fortunate to have worked with good managers.
“Ultimately, I’m working with our own money; our children’s inheritance. I have to be much more frugal in terms of liaising to make sure the club gets the best deal, it’s very personal.”
The Mansfield Town CEO revealed the business almost broke even last season, something she called “very tough”. It remains unclear whether that will happen again given the investments made, including the appointment of seasoned manager Steve Evans, who has his eyes on club promotion.
“We’ve spent more. With any business it matters more when it’s your baby. We want success, but it’s not our only business - this is our fun hobby. The main business is insurance and I’m involved in the legal aspect of that,” said Radford.
As director of One Call Insurance, OCL Solicitors and Beauty at Doncaster, you might wonder how she finds the time for Mansfield Town too, but discipline is essential, she explained.
“It makes life interesting - you have your mobile phone and you’re on the go 24/7. There are cameras in every single business, so it’s very Big Brother-ish,” she laughed.
“I have to be very disciplined. We employ over 1,500 people so have got to make sure we run a slick operation, as well as make sure my home life is balanced.
“With football, it’s seven days a week. Most people are off on a Saturday-Sunday, but if we lose, we need to pick players up on Sunday taking care of emotional wellbeing as it’s such an emotional business. By Monday they need to forget about losing to get on with their job.”
That support can be found through things such as yoga, having a discussion with the club therapist, embracing her open-door policy or jetting off on a team-building trip, the most recent of which took them to Malta.
Radford highlighted that players are ultimately exposed - if a personal problem crops up, there’s nowhere to hide, whereas an office worker can stick their head down.
As something of a champion for women at the club, Radford restored a Mansfield Town girls’ team - of which there are 12 - that had previously been disbanded.
“Down the road at Notts County, they’ve just disbanded their girls’ team. It’s a big thing in football still - girls aren’t valued at the same level. The FA has done a lot, but at a grassroots level I see it a lot, they’re not given the same privileges [as boys],” Radford revealed.
“I think it’s a shame. I want to show them what it’s like at a corporate level, that it can be fun to work in football. It’s a very rewarding industry when you look past the discrimination.”
As if all of that isn’t enough, she wants to give back to the community with the Radford Foundation, which will support training and mentoring schemes, in addition to the nurturing of young girls to turn around female representation in the sport.
“It can be tough. Sometimes I realise I’m not Superwoman, but I try hard to find balance.”
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