Southampton Football Club

The brief

Southampton FC, an established Premier League Club with ambitious growth plans both on and off the pitch, were looking to partner with an executive search firm who could deliver on a challenging recruitment brief. The client had approved a new senior management structure with four key hires to be made; Director of Sales, Head of Partnership Acquisition, Head of Digital & Content and Head of CRM.  As part of a new senior management structure, these appointments would be crucial in shaping the client’s commercial & marketing operation moving forward.

The client was committed to finding a recruitment partner who could provide the depth and breadth of networks to source candidates from multiple sectors.  Southampton FC has worked hard to create a positive and collaborative working environment to allow individuals to flourish and develop, therefore culture fit was an essential part of the project.

The solution

psd developed a deep understanding of the client’s culture and priorities, and given the clients open minded approach to sourcing candidates across various sectors, psd set about sourcing candidates from sport & entertainment, FMCG, retail & consumer, financial services, telecommunications, media, technology and travel sectors.

A large emphasis was placed on proactive approaches, utilising psd’s vast candidate network. The importance of these hires warranted a significant amount of time educating potential candidates about the clients growth plans, challenges and opportunities, and defining where the candidate’s skills and experiences would add value to the team.

Relevant candidates were then invited to carry out competency based interviews and assessments. Candidates were reviewed against key criteria based on each individual job brief, alongside their motivations for the role, their ability to lead teams and to promote collaboration.  A final shortlist of candidates were presented to the client encompassing these findings, with assessments and a review of why each candidate had been recommended for interview.

The results

Director of Sales

After an extremely competitive and thought provoking process the client appointed Anthony Cole-Johnson to the role of Director of Sales. Joining from Dixon’s Carphone Group and with previous stints at Sky, Coca Cola, L’Oreal and Deloitte, Anthony brought a breadth of commercial experience from a variety of sectors. With the commercial landscape changing and football clubs needing to adopt a more innovative approach to driving revenue, Anthony fitted the brief perfectly.

Head of Digital and Content

Luke Nicholson successfully landed the Head of Digital and Content position. Joining from Contented, (a short-form video company) he was able to showcase an excellent track record of innovation, creativity and leadership. Luke demonstrated a clear understanding of how a modern day premier league club should approach the ever evolving digital landscape. Having previously worked within the sports media and gaming industry, Luke also possessed a commercial sensitivity that was incredibly important to the role.

Head of CRM

Richard Webley was appointed as Head of CRM. Richard had been running his own business since 2014, successfully building a CRM agency that worked closely with a number of high profile accounts. A strategic, analytical and results driven marketer, Richard was able to demonstrate significant experience of using data and customer insight to drive commercial growth. A life-long football enthusiast, this was the perfect opportunity for him to combine his love for the game with his expertise and knowledge.

Head of Partnership Acquisition

This position required a candidate who could demonstrate a significant history of success from within the sports marketing/sponsorship landscape. Darren Henry ticked all of the boxes. Having spent time with IMG, Manchester United, Harlequins and Two Circles, Darren was able to showcase a broad range of commercial skills and most importantly an approach and mind-set that was in-sync with how the client wanted to move the sponsorship sales team forward.

psd helped the client and each candidate manage the resignation and transition process.  We were very satisfied that our processes, sector knowledge and recruitment expertise provided the right level and blend of candidates that ultimately resulted in four successful hires for our client.


Business Sector: Sport


Southampton FC interview with psd

David Thomas, Commercial Director at Southampton FC, talks to psd about attracting talent from outside of the sports sector to create a unique blend of experience, skills and fresh-thinking. Read the interview here.