Celebrating International Women’s Day with a career that unites a passion for sport and international development
It’s International Women’s Day today, when the achievements of inspirational women across the globe, both past and present, are celebrated. So what better day to share news of Lucy Mills, alumna, who has forged a fantastic career since leaving Richmond School and Sixth Form College – one that has united her passion for sport and international studies, taking her to South Africa, Denmark and, most recently, Spain.
Since completing her studies, Lucy has held senior roles in the field of football. Working in the Sport for Development sector in South Africa, Lucy was responsible for promoting social development among children and youth across Africa. She also worked on the official legacy campaign of the 2010 FIFA Men’s World Cup, using football to promote social development (education, gender equality and health).
Moving to Denmark, Lucy took up the role of Head of Women’s Football for a professional club, and was the only woman on the Senior Leadership Team, which was a huge learning curve about the realities of sport business. Day-to-day, Lucy was lobbying for girls and women to have better opportunities and representation in football.
Three years ago, Lucy was appointed Programme Manager at FC Barcelona, based at the famous Camp Nou stadium. She manages sport and social programmes in Europe and the Middle East for refugee children and youth on sports fields in and close to refugee camps.
For any students who are considering a career in international development and/or sport then Lucy’s experiences will certainly be of interest and value – from the skills she learnt a school and university, the importance of teamwork in sport, her knowledge about international development and the world of football and much, much more – so please do read on!
Lucy Mills shares her experiences from Richmond Sixth Form College, to university, South Africa, Denmark and Spain:
Richmond School and Sixth Form College
I studied A-Level English Literature, Art and German. Although my professional career seems far from these subjects, there are aspects of my A-levels that have greatly helped me over the years. Studying English Literature taught me to analyse and organise ideas and information, which are important skills I apply in my job today for tasks such as writing sponsorship proposals. Studying German gave me the fundamentals of language and grammar, which helped me to learn Spanish when I moved to Barcelona three years ago.
I studied an Honours degree in International Development at the University of Leeds (2004 – 2007) and a Master´s degree in Development Studies at the University of Cape Town, South Africa (2008 – 2009).
I did not actually know that I could study International Development when I was at Richmond School. During my A-level years, I was really interested in international political and social issues. It was only when I arrived at the University of Leeds (originally to study English) that I realised such a course existed and enrolled on it.
Studying a degree in International Development includes learning about global and North-South economics, development theories, non-governmental organisation management, environment and sustainability, and wide-ranging social issues such as education, public health and HIV/AIDS, and gender equality. It´s an exciting course that can take graduates in many different directions, including international institutions such as the United Nations and the World Bank, international charities such as Oxfam and Plan International, and UK government programmes for international aid and diplomacy.
I always loved sports at school and university. I learnt so many important skills that have helped me in later life. I played on the Richmond School hockey team throughout middle school and sixth form and my teammates are now life-long friends. At university, I played football, both socially and competitively. I captained my team at the University of Cape Town and we had nine different nationalities on the team, from Namibian and Angolan to Danish and Norwegian. We travelled together for tournaments, advocated together around issues like unequal pitch time or funding, but most of all we laughed together – the best thing about team sports.
Jobs Since University
South Africa – Sport For Development
My professional career combines my two big passions: international development and football. I entered into a new sector that was emerging in international development called “Sport for Development” (there are now university degrees specialising in this sector). After I graduated from my Master´s degree, I continued to live in South Africa for a further five years (2008 – 2014). I worked on the official legacy campaign of the 2010 FIFA Men´s World Cup. The legacy campaign was about using football to promote social development (education, gender equality and health) among children and youth across Africa. As a Programme Manager I worked on football and social programmes in 16 countries, including Botswana, Cape Verde, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Denmark – Professional Football
In 2014, I returned to Europe and continued to work in football. I worked at a professional football club in Denmark as the Head of Women´s Football. I was the only woman on the Senior Leadership Team which was a huge learning curve about the realities of sport business in that the majority of the decisions are made by men and for the interests of men and boys. I sat in on meetings about strategy, sponsorship and media along with 10 men. My day-to-day was lobbying for girls and women to have better opportunities and representation in football. There were times when I was out of my comfort zone, made to feel unwelcome, and ended work days feeling exhausted and demoralised. I did find a supportive network outside of the club which women in male-dominated sectors often do. The football world is changing, though, and starting to wake up and take female athletes and leaders seriously, so -while there is still a LOT to be done to make the sport accessible for everyone – I am optimistic about the future of the sport for women. There are many more professional opportunities for women who want to work in football and it is possible to apply almost any professional vocation or skill to the sport (think business, law, media, marketing, journalism coaching, physiotherapy, social work…)
Current Role at Futbol Club Barcelona
Three years ago, I moved to Barcelona, Spain. I am in my third season at FC Barcelona, based at the famous Camp Nou stadium. I work in the International Programmes team in the Barça Foundation, which plays an important role in Catalan society and in 60 countries worldwide. The Foundation runs sports-based programmes that promote social inclusion, prevent youth violence, and improve access to education among children and youth in the most vulnerable communities worldwide. We never focus on improving football ability or competition; instead, we focus on inclusive participation, fun, and improving life skills and transmitting positive values.
In my role as Programme Manager, I manage sport and social programmes in Europe and the Middle East for refugee children and youth on sports fields in and close to refugee camps. We have around 250 coaches and 8,000 girls and boys in the programme every year. We also do cool stuff like involve the FC Barcelona men´s and women´s team players and hosting festivals. As a big women´s football fan, it´s fun to leave the office and watch a Barça Women´s match in the stadium across the road. The team has international stars such as FIFA player of the year Lieke Martens (Netherlands) and African player of the Asisat Oshoala (Nigeria), and the team was in the semifinals of the UEFA Women´s Champions League Final last season.
Get In Touch!
If anyone wants to contact me for advice or to ask any questions, it would be great to hear from you. Please ask Mrs Lundberg for my contact details.