Niall Malone studied Public Relations at Bournemouth University, graduating in 2012. During his time at BU, Niall also worked at AFC Bournemouth, providing PR support for them during one of the most difficult times in the clubs existence. Following the club's Championship success, and looking forward to Premier League football next season, we spoke to Niall to get a glimpse of what the club was like when he was there during their more difficult times:
So what did you study at BU?
I read Public Relations BA (Hons), graduating in 2012.
I absolutely loved my time at BU and owe a great deal to all my lecturers and the other administrative staff – the Placements & Careers Office, for example – whom I came into contact with. They were all brilliant and I am still in touch with lots of them now.
How did you first get involved with the football club?
I took a year out before going to BU, during which time I worked for Tottenham Hotspur FC – a dream for a young Spurs supporter who grew up looking at White Hart Lane from his bedroom window! I enjoyed my time learning about the football industry and decided I wanted to continue that on the south coast.
A completely unsolicited approach, I just sent AFC Bournemouth my CV one evening. Fortunately, they liked it enough to stay in touch over the proceeding months and, by the time I moved to uni, they needed someone to help with their PR. The planets aligned and they basically just took a chance on me.
I imagine the club was a million miles from where it is now – what was it like back then?
That’s an understatement! When I started, the club was at the bottom of League Two on minus 17 points and on the verge of liquidation. It really was touch-and-go at times. The players and other staff went unpaid for months. It was tough.
Then along came Eddie Howe and everything changed; things started to click. The team won a few games, then a few more and then a few more and everyone started to think that the greatest escape (ever? Surely!) was actually possible. Suddenly Steve Fletcher is volleying the ball into the net against Grimsby on the last day of the season to win the game and keep the club in League Two and in business – YouTube it.
The unwavering loyalty of the fans was the one constant through all the ups and downs – they are amazing.
Did you meet Eddie? What was his management like back then?
I worked closely with Eddie, helping to facilitate all his media commitments and he was always a pleasure to work with – calm, personable and very focused.
Bournemouth is Eddie’s spiritual home and I don’t think there is a manager anywhere else who is as universally loved by his fans like he is. The award-winning journalist Oliver Holt came down to talk to Eddie after he won promotion in his first full season and sums him up perfectly in the resultant article he wrote.
Did you ever think you’d see the club where it is now?
I always thought over the long term the club had the potential to get into the Championship. Countless clubs much ‘bigger’ than Bournemouth have been relegated from that league though, so I felt just surviving there would have been a massive achievement.
However to achieve promotion to the Premier League is absolutely remarkable. It is one of the greatest achievements in English football history. No one has worked harder to get to the Premier League than Bournemouth and no one deserves the success more than them, especially having come through the darker days.
What did you do at the club?
My role was media-focused. I did everything from making sure the match day reporter from Sky Sports News had a working ISDN line (sometimes tricky when the club couldn’t pay the bill!) to placing stories in the local press, encouraging more supporters to buy commercial packages, for example. There was a fair amount of crisis communications too, as you can imagine!
The precarious situation the club was in brought everyone together. I vividly remember helping to shovel snow off the pitch at 8am one freezing winter’s morning to make sure a game was not postponed. Amongst others trying to thaw the grass that day was the Chairman, CEO and Club Secretary!
What are you up to now?
After graduating I joined the PR team who launched BT Sport, the first major sports channel in the last twenty-five years. They really set about shaking up the status quo in sports broadcasting, which was incredibly exciting to help plan with them.
From there I moved to the Football Foundation as Communications Manager. Here my role is centred on publicising the investment that is going into developing better grassroots football facilities across the country.
I’ll be down at Dean Court next season for the Spurs game but I’m not sure which end I’ll sit in yet!