The match operations sector is the closest any UEFA employee gets to the pitch without actually playing themselves. We had a chat with senior match operations manager Keith Dalton, who has worked at the UEFA since 2001, to find out more about his work and to give you an insight into what it actually takes to land your dream job within match operations.
So what is it?
The match operations unit is part of the competitions division and is integral to all UEFA competitions, including the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Women’s Champions League and national team competitions. It deals heavily with a lot of the admin work associated with competitions, but don’t be fooled by the use of the term ‘admin’. Competition admin means checking and coordinating fixtures, managing the competition database, organising stadium inspections, registering players and organising and training match officers.
Alongside a lot of the more admin-based tasks, there is a strong operational aspect, as you would expect. From an operational standpoint, the unit is the main point of contact for delegates and venue directors at all UEFA events and provides a 24/7 service. Anything from a security issue to calling off a match because of bad weather, the match operations staff are the first go-to guys. On matchdays, they spend time in the command centre, watching the games and keeping an eye on everything that is going on. This requires availability at all times of the day as matches are frequently played in the evening. Often, match operations staff also play a dual role, serving also as venue directors or match managers, which gives them a fully rounded experience of the entire match process and a walk in the shoes of those who will call on them for advice on all manner of issues
So what does it take to thrive in this kind of role?
According to Keith, match operations require people who are good at connecting with others, people who are adaptable and understand the social environment. It’s a lot easier to deal with an issue if the venue director or match manager on the other end of the phone is someone you know.
Responsibility isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but that’s one thing you have to be ready to assume in a match operations role. As the major point of contact at UEFA where match operations are concerned, there are going to be times when you need to deal with difficult issues.
Attention to detail
A role in match operations entails a lot of administration and the use, production and scanning of complex documents. You need to have a good eye for detail in order to deliver match support to UEFA’s high standards.
A match operations role is incredibly multifaceted. You need to be able to concentrate at a computer for long periods of time, but at the same time, you also need to be comfortable meeting new people, discussing things and being present on site as the main UEFA representative.
UEFA is a fast-paced, high-pressure environment, particularly in the run-up to competitions. There’s no doubt about it, a match operations role involves a high volume of work that requires commitment, enthusiasm and reliability. You need to be someone who can throw themselves into situations, use your initiative and work independently.
Be an innovator
Innovation has become a bit of a buzzword, but it’s one to which UEFA attaches great importance. It needs ideas people. To thrive in match operations, you not only need to excel at the fundamentals that will make you successful in your job; you also need to have a ‘what next?’ attitude. You need to always be thinking about what you could do differently and better next time.
This unit deals with some pretty hands-on aspects of the game. The only way you can get closer is by playing yourself. A love for football and really caring about every aspect, from the players to the stadiums, is a huge asset for someone who wants to take on a match operations role. Perhaps women’s football is your thing. So what better role could you possibly have than to be a match operations coordinator for the UEFA Women’s Champions League? For some jobs, it isn’t always quite as important to be a huge football fan, but match operations isn’t one of them!
Why not view the latest Match Operations Coordinator job at UEFA.