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17 April 2014

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Meet the GM: Julie Harrington

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Julie Harrington is managing director at St George’s Park, The FA’s National Football Centre, but in another life she might have been renovating old houses, Sarah Beeny-style.

 My first real job was in an advertising agency. They sponsored me through my CIM qualifications, which was a fantastic grounding. It really helps you understand that marketing isn’t just about glossy adverts, it’s about understanding the customer’s needs.

A typical day doesn’t exist here, but that’s part of the attraction. On some days, there can be a lot of high-profile sports people and media to deal with. We’ve been open now for just over a year and I can’t say there have been two days alike.

In my spare time I go up to the Lake District. There’s hardly any phone reception there so it forces you to steer clear of work. I live about four miles away from the office, so it’s incredibly tempting to just pop in.

My favourite time of year is dictated by the football calendar. Through the year, we have four or five international breaks when the Premier League clubs aren’t playing. They tend to be challenging as everybody is training at the same time, but they’re the most enjoyable. 

The biggest challenge in my career was when I went from managing multiple venues to running a racecourse. You go from being part of a team to suddenly thinking, ‘Who’s locking the gates tonight?’ But when you’re at the sharp end, it brings everything to life.

My advice to those looking to succeed is to have a good attitude. We have a lot of apprentices at St George’s Park and those who volunteer and really graft are the ones who get noticed.

In another life I’d have loved to be a property guru – Sarah Beeny to be precise! Not because she’s got something like 27 children, but because I’d love to do up properties. We have a very old house, which we’ve put a lot of love into, but you never seem to have the time with a busy job.

I particularly admire the Roy Hodgsons of this world. I meet a lot of people who have to do their job in the glare of media speculation and publicity. For the players, there is an element of celebrity that goes along with it, but for managers, it’s just everybody having a view on how you should do your job. I couldn’t do it!

My motto is: ‘I can be bothered.’ I’d like to think that I’ve always had the energy to, say, get in the car on a Friday night to check an event is going well. I’m sure my other half doesn’t quite see it that way.


This article was first published in Square Meal Venues & Events, autumn 2013

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