Industry Insights: Q&A with Phoenix Sports and Media Group co-founder, Carly Barnes-Short

Industry Insights: Q&A with Phoenix Sports and Media Group co-founder, Carly Barnes-Short

Meredyth Grant

Carly has worked for some of the UK’s top law firms and has represented many high-profile stars as a lawyer as well as serving as Chief Executive of a large regional law firm. At Phoenix Sport & Media Group, Carly heads up group operations as Chief Executive Officer.

In this month’s Industry Insights, we find out what veterans and footballers have in common . . .

Carly Barnes-Short, CEO Phoenix Sport & Media Group.
Carly Barnes-Short, CEO Phoenix Sport & Media Group
  • What is the Phoenix Sport & Media Group? PSMG is a business I set up with my business partner Ben Rees and a group of premier league footballers. As a player-led collective, we offer a range of services to sports professionals to ensure that players can access trustworthy personal and professional advice during their careers. We also offer education and training pathways to help sports professionals develop pathways into new careers beyond sport. 
  • What projects are your team working on at the moment? A particular area of focus for us currently is digital training and we have set up a new company called Amicis Group in partnership with PSMG with a group of fantastically skilled cyber security & coding experts and trainers Our aim is to develop opportunities for both our client’s in sport and generally in the cyber and tech world. 
  • Where will Phoenix Group be in 5 years? We will hopefully be more and more involved in the tech space and will be seeing our learners succeeding and flourishing in new careers in the digital industry. 5 year’s in today’s era is a long time and jobs and careers are digitalising and transforming very quickly – especially since the pandemic. I very much hope that in 5 years time we will be looking back at having helped a number of sports professionals, military veterans and young people generally access exciting careers in a real growth industry and helping them lead happy successful lives. 
  • What do footballers/sports personalities and service/personnel veterans have in common? They have a lot in common in my experience. We’ve done a lot of work with military veterans and service personnel and there are so many parallels. You have a real sense of purpose and direction in both industries. When you go to war or when you play professional football, you are part of a team. You develop camaraderie. I find footballers and service personnel / veterans highly motivated and very talented and a pleasure to work with. But, they also share transitional issues and we feel it’s important that employers we work with cater for that. There can be a sudden loss of identity, you loose that camaraderie and sense of purpose. It can be difficult to adjust. We understand the issues and put things in place to help like mentors for example. There is a lot of opportunity out there after sport and military, if you have the right support around you. 

Your inspiration:

  • Throughout your life who would you say have been your main role models and why? My parents primarily. They are good people. Love their family with a really good sense of right and wrong. When I entered the football industry, Glenn Roeder, was particularly helpful and a real role model. I was so sad to hear that he passed away recently. Glenn was so generous with his time and advice and it really helped. In a challenging industry, Glenn always conducted himself with class and dignity. He was such a lovely man. 
  • How hard is it to be a woman working in a traditionally male heavy industry (motorsports/football/music industry)? I can’t lie – it’s not always easy. There have been benefits and disadvantages. I think it gets easier all the time with more and more women entering the industry and breaking through. When I first entered football, there were very few of us in the industry but I think bringing a different perspective to a team is a big advantage. I really enjoyed travelling to Argentina, for example, and seeing barriers broken down in football board rooms, where women were something of a rarity. At first I was ignored but hard work and getting results is the best way to earn respect. 
  • What advice would you give to other women who are perhaps held back from entering traditionally male led industries? I would advise them not to let anything hold them back. Focus on the positive. Have a goal and don’t let anything stand in your way of reaching your goal. I am very passionate about helping women succeed in traditionally male-dominated industries. We have a big focus at Amicis Group on helping more women into cyber, for example. I’d advise women to embrace the skills you bring to the table and to go for it. 
  • Why did you go into law? And why did you leave the profession? I went into law as I like defending people and have a keen sense of justice. I haven’t left law. I’m just not currently practising as a solicitor. I still get involved in fighting cases of injustice though – just more on a pro bono basis now. I wouldn’t rule out a return to law one day but I tend to be more in management positions now than actual legal advice. I do miss it at times though. 
  • Do you or have you ever had a business mentor? If so, why is it important to have a mentor? I always try to have a mentor. I think it’s really important to have somebody to learn from and offer sound advice. Currently my two Chairman’s Brian Deane (the former player) is my Chairman at PSMG and we speak most days. He’s a great sounding board. Also my Chairman at Amicis David Hallam who is a very successful businessman from the cyber industry who is helping educate me and inspire me on the digital industry which is a new sector for me. We believe very strongly in the value of mentoring and are part of platform Cyber Mentor Dojo which provides mentoring to people entering the cyber industry. 

Have you ever made any mistakes in your career? If so, can you give us some examples and how have they shaped you for the better? Loads. Far too many to mention. Making mistakes is part of life. It means you are pushing yourself  Trying new things. Mistakes are incredibly valuable. They teach us new ways of thinking. Some of the best leaders I have seen in action were able to handle mistakes and understand how to turn them into an opportunity. As Churchill said “All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes”. 

  • What’s your top piece of advice for those contemplating a career change? Do something that will really make you happy and motivate you. Choose the right career for you. Think also about how the world is changing and what the future may hold. This is why I am so passionate about careers in cyber security. It’s a big growth industry with lots of opportunity ahead. Technology change is reshaping the foundations of many industries. It’s important to think about that and which industries are going to boom in the future and which are going to disappear. 
  • What book are you reading at the moment? What’s your favourite book/podcast/TV series? I’ve just finished reading Andy Cole’s autobiography Fast Forward and is very good. Andy is one of my business partners and my husband played with Andy at Blackburn Rovers so it’s very interesting to me. I read parts of the book whilst it was being written so it’s good to read it all together and is a very honest account of Andrew’s determination to succeed against all the odds. It covers his on-field successes and recent major health scare and is a really good insight into a very talented man.  Podcast wise I love Michael Coates’a podcast declassified documenting stories from the military community. I just listened to the podcast with MP Johnny Mercer talking about his story and he talked freely about his OCD  I found that really fascinating.  TV Series – I love a good Netflix documentary. I have been watching The Devil Next Door which is about John Demjanjuk who was accused of crimes against humanity and accused of being the infamous Nazi death camp guard known as Ivan the Terrible. It contains real footage from the trial including testimony from Holocaust survivors. It is a very powerful and unforgettable series documenting one of the most high profile and emotive trials in history. 

Ethics & Inclusion

  • Can you tell us about how your company supports young footballers? We are really focused on helping young players have dual career pathways and helping the many players who don’t make it access new career opportunities. We are hoping to bring lots of these young talented men into the digital industry. 
  • What more can be done to make the sports and media industry cleaner and more accountable? One of the biggest off pitch issues in sport, in my experience, is financial abuse. Fraud is absolutely rife in elite sport. There is a lot of exploitation of sports men and women as they are so focused on succeeding in their careers and earnings are high so it attracts nefarious individuals. It’s a huge problem  I understand it has also impacted a lot of service leavers. I and my colleagues at Psmg are particularly passionate about trying to help safeguard the next generation of footballers from investment fraud and will be running fraud awareness seminars and other initiatives within clubs to help try to protect the next generation and to help and support victims who find themselves, through no fault of their own, in financial difficulties due to scams. 

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