Ian Flanagan - Commercial Director, Leicester City Football Club
This week’s graduate of the week was centre stage for Leicester City F.C.’s meteoric rise from the relegation zone in April 2015 to winners of the Premier League a year later.
Ian Flanagan worked in sports marketing with brands such as Samsung, Hugo Boss and Red Bull before becoming the Commercial Director of Leicester City Football Club. He is now flying the UCC flag in the Champions League where Leicester are currently top of their group.
Subjects studied in UCC
English and History (BA Joint Honours). English (MA)
Best memory of UCC
So many to choose from! From Rag Week pub crawls to great gigs in the (old) College Bar, great lectures from Dr Pat Coughlan, endless waiting outside the Boole to try to see a friend walk by (in the pre- mobile phone age), lock-ins at the Abbey Tavern with Brian Keenan and Roddy Doyle and lifelong friendships. I'll go for any number of nights in Trinity Term, the sunshine lasting, sneaking out of the Boole Library early to walk through the lower grounds past the tennis courts, along the river and down to the beer garden in the Western Star. Happy days!
Greatest challenge during your time at UCC
The usual conundrum (at least back then): balancing academic work with a thriving social life. Trying to work out a realistic career path based on my qualifications.
How has your time at UCC helped you to get to where you are now?
After UCC, I did a PhD in the UK and I was fortunate that the world of professional sports had matured to the point that organisations were open to the concept of transferable skills from advanced degrees like PhD's and MBA's (if not yet proactively recruiting them). Studying English was invaluable for writing countless presentations and corporate introductions over the past two decades. Most of the time these days, the first impression you can make is in written form, whether that is an email, a presentation, a LinkedIn page etc. Having a sound grasp of language, the ability to sift information and prioritise key points, to write the narrative of you or your company and to be able to do it well is a lot more difficult than it sounds and lots of people can't do it. Writing all those essays for my BA and, later, MA and PhD dissertations were fantastic preparation for this. Researching the official UCC 150 photo book (edited by the late Sean Dunne) was also good experience.
In a non-academic sense, I was always a bit entrepreneurial, I remember setting up a student discount scheme with local retailers when I was Finance Officer on the Student Union committee and running student club nights at Sir Henrys and Gorbys. That gave me a pretty good grounding in negotiating a deal and in staging an event which made money. It sounds low-key stuff but the basic principles of business are always the same. Handling money, creating a P&L sheet and ending up with a P rather than an L at the end of it! I would also say some of the larger author events we hosted for the English Lit Society, (a capacity Boole 4 for Seamus Heaney/Roddy Doyle/Brian Keenan etc) was also great preparation for my career: giving me some understanding of dealing with "talent", promoting and staging an event and managing an audience and venue. These days, it's a 32,500 capacity stadium and Jamie Vardy but the principles are similar....
What is your advice to current UCC students?
Dream big! It's a very small world and the education provided by UCC is world-class so go out there and make the most of it. If your dream job doesn't exist, then create it yourself.
Were you involved in any Clubs or Societies?
Strangely enough, I didn't do any sports while I was at UCC. I was heavily involved in the English Lit Society throughout my time in UCC and was Auditor for 2 years. I was awarded a Bene Merenti in 1994 for my contribution to Clubs and Socs, which made me very proud. The Clubs and Socs funding system at the time, where you essentially had the responsibility to use the grant to create a programme of events over the course of the year and balance the books, was another fantastic grounding for life in business. In 1994 or 1995, we hosted a weekend conference on the future of Irish writing, featuring emerging young Irish writers. Our speakers that weekend included three future Booker prize winners (Colm Toibin/Anne Enright/Emma Donoghue) so I think we had a good eye for talent!
Favourite UCC legend or superstition
You couldn't walk through the central path of the quad until you had graduated, or you would be doomed to fail your exams