Former England goalkeeper Rachel Brown Finnis talks moving and working abroad to UCFB students
Adapting to a new country and new culture is something sport industry professionals must be prepared for at any given point in their career.
The global nature of 21st century sport, especially football, means a move abroad is never far away, something that’s especially true for athletes.
Former England and Everton goalkeeper Rachel Brown-Finnis had to learn quickly when she moved from her native north west England to Alabama in the United States, where she was between the sticks for Alabama Crimson Tide while attending the University of Alabama.
Regarded as the leading goalkeeper in the country during her playing career and earning 81 England caps along the way, Rachel was an England regular and one of the country’s most decorated players over two decades, which also included a spell at Liverpool.
Speaking to UCFB students during her Executive Guest Speaker session at UCFB Etihad Campus, Rachel said she learnt “a lot” during her five years in the US, and highlighted that her time there not only developed her hugely as a goalkeeper, but also helped her learn more about herself.
She said: “Yes they spoke English but it was a very different culture. The education system was very different, and how people perceived female footballers in America was very different too. It actually made me more determined to change how women’s football was perceived in England because, when I went there in 1998, their women’s team had won the Olympics and the World Cup and they were idolised in the newspapers. They were household names and I wanted that for our country.”
The professionalism of female football teams is something that also affected Rachel. She added: “It made me realise that where we were as an England team was not good enough, as well as how we were viewed from a media perspective. It also made me realise how professional the players were over there; they had a professional league and that was where I wanted to be personally and as a team as well.”
Rachel was part of history when she was selected as part of the first ever Team GB football team at the London 2012 Olympics. Since retiring from the game in 2014, she has enjoyed a successful transition into sports broadcasting and is regularly seen on the BBC and BT Sport. Rachel is also a member of the UCFB Employability and Enrichment panel.
She went on to say that the extra life skills she learnt off the pitch – meeting new people in a new environment and dealing with adversity in a foreign land – set her up for the rest of her playing career and even now since she hung up her gloves.
She added: “If you’re a student thinking about going on foreign placements, I just can’t say how valuable they really are. Go and see the sport industry somewhere else and it will inspire you to do things differently.”