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Sharona Friedman

Postcard to Home: Inspiration in football education

Story by Sharona Friedman (BBA '00)

Being raised in southern Ontario, I grew up wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey and a Blue Jays cap. So some might find it odd I found a career in the United Kingdom working for University Campus Football Business (UCFB), a higher education institution focused on football, or soccer as some readers might better know the game.

But, first, a little about how I arrived here.

You might call me the true example of a globally educated individual. As well as at Laurier, where I earned a BBA degree, I've studied and worked at schools around the world, including in Australia, Ecuador and France, to name just a few of the places my travels have taken me. But I've been in London for 13 years now and know it better than most any other place in the world. I even have a British passport, earned because I've been in the UK for so long.

It was after coming to the end of eight years of studying 12 months a year that I realized I wanted to work in higher education. The UK has a strong and reputable education sector, so I went to England, eventually landing with the University of Chicago’s London campus and then Imperial College London before moving on to work for UCFB.

UCFB’s first campus was born at the UK's historic Burnley Football Club in 2011 with a goal to professionalize the football industry. Since its foundation, UCFB has grown tremendously and today offers bachelor of arts degrees in football business, finance, marketing, media, law, coaching and broadcasting, as well as a bachelor of science in sports psychology. UCFB is also the world's first institution of higher education to be run inside sporting stadiums, with campuses at the iconic Wembley Stadium, world-class Etihad Stadium and historic Turf Moor.

Sharona Friedman, Brendan Rodgers
Sharona Friedman speaks with Brendan Rodgers, manager of Scottish Premiership football club Celtic.

I serve as UCFB's chief marketing officer, a role that encompasses global brand and product marketing, international and domestic student recruitment, marketing and recruitment partnerships and program admissions.

After starting with an initial intake of 50 students, UCFB has grown to 2,000 students with plans for significant growth. It is part of my mandate to assist in opening UCFB campuses on every continent during the next two years. While that may sound like a lofty goal, the reality is that football is one of the biggest industries in the world – equal in size to the pharmaceutical industry in terms of revenue – and demand for our programs is constantly on the rise.

One of the best parts of my job is the inspiration I have been able to draw from football, a game that unites people around the world and is accessible to everyone. Football can effect political change. Football can change economies. Football can bring people together in times of happiness and sadness. What I have seen in my four years of being involved in the game has moved me beyond most anything in life.

Sharona Friedman

I also love living in England. London is the heartbeat of the world in many respects – a city so connected to the rest of the world. With five airports and international train stations, people are always coming and going. As a result we have everything here. Any food you want, it's here. Any concerts, they come here. England also offers a very social lifestyle and that's a big part of what keeps me here. I'm a people person and much of life in England is about getting out of your house and being with the community.

But even after years of living away from Canada, the time I spent at Laurier continues to hold a very special place in my heart. While I earned a law degree and MBA at other institutions, Laurier is where I was inspired the most. It has more heart than any school I've attended and served to instil the most passion. You can always spot a Laurier graduate: team players, naturally confident, the kind of people who can change the world.

I genuinely believe the community that Laurier offers is unparalleled and we should all be very proud of that. In fact, my team aspires to instill that same sense of community here at UCFB.

As for what comes next, I can't imagine leaving UCFB. I feel like I'm a part of something really big and am very passionate about what we do. I don't know if that means I'll always be in England, though. If we opened a new campus abroad and I was needed there, well, I'm pretty easy going when it comes to getting to know new places.

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