14th August 2017
UCFB in conversation with… Sky Sports’ Guillem Balague
Guillem Balague must be the busiest man in football. Best known as the face of Sky Sports’ Spanish football coverage, the Catalan is also an international journalist, author, UEFA licenced coach, charity worker… and director of football.
Balague joined UCFB partner Biggleswade United in 2014 with the aim of developing the club’s fortunes on and off the pitch. Plying their trade in the Premier Division of the Spartan South Midlands Football League, Balague’s presence has certainly gained the club more coverage than most in the divison.
We met with Balague on a visit to UCFB to speak with students to discuss the role of media in 21st century football and how UCFB students are helping Biggleswade achieve their ambitions…
You’ve made a great success of your career in England. What advice would you give a UCFB student who’s looking to follow a similar path in a foreign country?
The first thing is identifying what you’re good at and what you enjoy, that is what will help you get far in your career. I quickly realised that I could tell stories and I could write them, so once I identified that, it was just a matter of trying to look for opportunities. The decision that changed my life and has helped me professionally was to leave Spain. The idea was learn English for three months, but I’ve now been in England for 25 years on and off! I share time in both worlds which helps me, but to actually decide, ‘OK, I’m 23, I know nothing. I don’t have enough experiences and I don’t have enough languages, let’s go out there and discover the world,’ is something that everybody should do.
Media in 21st century sport has intensified with the likes of 24-hour rolling news and social media. How important is versatility in a media graduate?
Versatility is everything. It’s about smelling the opportunity and developing your career, not staying still and constantly moving. When we [Sky] started doing Spanish football it wasn’t just about the goals, we had to explain the story, so we made it into a chat show with Revista de la Liga. Don’t have a fixed idea of what you want to do. A lot of people think writing about football means giving an opinion on a game or a player, but that’s only one percent. Be open to being a journalist, a critic, and telling a story in whatever shape it may be.
You’re currently working towards your UEFA A licence. What inspired you to try your hand at coaching, and how important it is for individuals to broaden their skill set and understand different sectors of their chosen professional industry?
I wrote and did radio and television, but at some point I wanted to live the world I was describing from the other side. I thought about buying a football club, but then thought I better not because I don’t have enough money! Then I thought I’d like to try coaching. I think I understand a little bit about the tactical side of things but what if I got a badge? It’s another string on the bow, and it’s fantastic because every single day I have coached or been with other coaches or go to the lessons, I’m learning.
What are the differences between Spanish and English football and what could they learn from each other?
There’s no doubt that Spanish football can learn so much from English football – how the product is sold and how the money is raised. The English league might not have the best players in the world but it looks like the best league in the world; the product has been sold that way and everybody is buying it now. On the other hand, English football could learn from Spain about how it applies the process – the process of learning, developing, creating coaches and philosophies. Firstly, it makes things cheaper, and secondly, it maximises your potential.
What are your impressions of UCFB?
I believe that this institution is going the right way and is giving opportunities to people that previously weren’t there. UCFB benefit from the fact that a lot of people see football and sport as a career, not just something that you practice. There are people who think that sport, and football in particular, is a paradise, but it would be wrong to come into a place like UCFB thinking that. It’s all about hard work, understanding yourself, developing relationships and about thinking that there is a long term objective.