Passion. Purpose. Pride. The three words that underpin the UEFA People project could scarcely be more apt in terms of describing the feelings of UEFA staff whose work is dedicated to the growth of European football.

Roles at UEFA are incredibly varied, and the generic job title simply does not exist any more. We have delved into some of UEFA’s more unusual roles, asking staff what exactly they do and why they love their work. Today, we bring you marketing manager Noel Mooney, who tells us what it takes to support 55 national associations on a day-to-day basis.

What do you do, why do you love it and what attracted you to the role in the first place?

My name is Noel Mooney and I come from Ireland, where I used to be a professional player before I devoted my life to growing our beautiful game. I began by managing the marketing function at my club, and then I worked for the Football Association of Ireland for five years, before the opportunity arose to support the growth of football across Europe and beyond.

I arrived at UEFA in 2011 in a newly created role, with UEFA shifting its focus from the organisation of its own marketing activities to the provision of support to the national associations. I guess we had a relatively blank canvas, so we could listen carefully to what the game wanted and needed, before painting a picture of what UEFA and our national associations could look like in the future. We have evolved relatively quickly, with our national associations’ huge demand for vision and leadership resulting in the creation of the GROW 2020 programme. That programme is designed to support all of our member associations by ensuring that they have a clear plan to grow football in their respective countries, with the right objectives, structures and resources. Critically, we ensure that the associations’ presidents and general secretaries will be part of the process by confirming that they really want it before we start delivering the programme. We present each association with independent research to give them a clear picture of the public’s views on key aspects of football in their country. This enables them to adapt their planning and behaviour accordingly and increase football’s appeal. We help all national associations to establish digital marketing strategies and embrace the digital revolution, thereby allowing them to speak directly to their respective football families and encourage new people to get involved in the game. We help national associations to write clear participation growth plans for both genders at every age level and facilitate the establishment of support structures to help them to achieve their goals and see in real time if they are feasible.

 

“I love this role precisely because it goes right to the heart of growing the game that I fell in love with as a boy.”

 

In addition, we support the development of commercial plans with a view to improving the funding of national associations’ operations and programmes. More than 20 national associations are already taking part in the GROW 2020 programme, and many more are in the process of signing up to work with UEFA on this major project. GROW 2020 already needs to evolve, such is the pace of change in marketing terms, and we are committed to achieving this as soon as possible so that we can continue to deliver a world-class service to our national associations.

We also write a number of manuals for the national associations, such as our flagship National Association Guide to Marketing. That guide took four years to write, but we are very proud of it and delighted with the outcome. National associations are forever asking questions on material in the guide, so they are clearly engaging with it.

I love this role precisely because it goes right to the heart of growing the game that I fell in love with as a boy. We deal with fundamental issues, such as the sport’s image, how we use digital content to connect better with more people, how we get more people to play football and for longer, and how we generate the resources required to fund the necessary improvements. The UEFA General Secretary ad interim, Theodore Theodoridis, has always been a major supporter of our work, and it is important to know that the person at the head of the organisation believes in our ability to grow football. The diverse nature of the role means that I need an equally wide range of skills, and UEFA has supported me in my professional development – e.g. by allowing me to study for an Executive Master in European Sport Governance (MESGO) – so that I am better equipped to deal with the various demands of my role.