We interviewed former St Ivo school pupil, Ian Foster, who rose to become Editor of the UK’s best-selling Sport’s Magazine.
What’s The Buzz? has continued to push education as an important value in our issues. In the past, we have interviewed students, teachers and university professors to provide information to our readers on a number of career paths and how you can go about chasing them. That’s why, this October our educational perspective is focusing on the nation’s most loved sport… football.
Do you love reading the Match Of The Day magazine? We interviewed editor and interviewer for Match of the Day magazine, Ian Foster, to find out all about his day-to-day job, how he got to reach his success at the top of his profession, and how you can follow in his footsteps.
So Ian, you’re the Editor of Match of the Day magazine. Was this the dream from an early age or did the job find you?
It did become a dream to write about football, considering I wasn’t good enough to play professionally. I got some career advice about going into journalism, so I did a media and business degree which included a term of work experience at the Town Crier newspaper, based in St Neots, and at MATCH football magazine in Peterborough. I spent a few years on music and tech titles after graduating, then secured a full-time job back at MATCH, working my way up to editor, and was headhunted by the BBC to set up Match of the Day in 2007.
You’ve most likely interviewed a lot of famous footballers and managers, can you name a few favourites?
My very first assignment at MATCH was to work my way through a list of 40 ‘tricky’ players who the other journos didn’t want to call: that was a baptism of fire! Being a Liverpool fan (sorry), I was lucky enough to meet all the players in my early days there (circa 2000), so the likes of Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard and Robbie Fowler, who was a big hero of mine. Roy Keane was highly opinionated, which always made for amazing copy: he and Dennis Wise were chest-beating warriors on the pitch but the nicest guys to interview off it. Pele, a living and breathing legend of the game, was so friendly, engaging and a pleasure to talk to about football. That was a good day!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Always tell your audience something new: research has to go further than what’s already in your head. Good advice from a former editor of mine was to ask your audience what they want, give it to them, check they like the changes, and repeat. That goes for business generally, I think: your customers will tell you everything you need to know if you ask them. The best bosses I’ve had have been demanding but fair and supportive, so I’ve tried to embrace those qualities.
Wise words! What do you think the elements of success are for reaching the top of your profession?
It sounds clichéd to say hard work, but it gets you noticed. If you’re prepared to go beyond what is expected, you’re showing that you can take on extra responsibility. In my role as editor, it’s important for me to create a good team environment and involve everyone – including editorial, marketing, advertising, buying, production and PR departments – in creating our strategy to improve and evolve the product. People end up doing business with the contacts they like, so building good industry relationships with clients and organisations is vital as well.
What advice would you give to a school leaver looking to work their way into your industry?
One of the most rewarding parts of my job has been recruiting and developing talented new journos, so I’m keen to offer advice to anyone who’s looking to get into my industry. Media companies look for applicants with a degree qualification, although it shouldn’t be that way. More publishers are opening up to apprenticeships (see nctj.com), which is encouraging. There’s a big demand for social media skills, with digital channels like TikTok experiencing exponential growth, so school leavers can start creating their own sports content now: on Twitter, YouTube and websites like Reddit. Influencers have turned the media industry on its head and they haven’t needed a degree, they’ve just produced content that millions of people want to consume.
We are grateful to have you here Ian, but one more question to finish off – what do you love about your job?
Producing a topical weekly magazine about football. It’s the thing I’ve been passionate about since I was a kid, determined to do 100 keepy-uppies in Warners Park, St Ives! Match of the Day has been the UK’s best-selling sports magazine for a decade now, so the success has been extremely satisfying. I’ve been lucky enough to cover the biggest matches and tournaments in the world, play on the hallowed Anfield turf, meet a Prime Minister at No.10 and interview my all-time sporting heroes (some were great, others not so great), but working with a brilliant team is what I love the most: if we didn’t really enjoy what we do, it would be a real slog!
Find Ian on Twitter at @ianfoster_motd