Professor Rob Wilson

Could you tell us about your contribution, Rob?Prof. Rob Wilson

My Professorship has recognised my contribution to the applied sport finance field, bringing together my international profile as a media commentator and policy advisor (my External and Professional Engagement E&PE)) with my research and innovation (R&I) output and contributions to academic citizenship and leadership (AC&L).

Since my first TV interview on the financial irregularities at Sheffield Wednesday Football Club way back in 2008, my profile has steady increased, and I now regularly commentate on some of the biggest financial challenges in the sport market. Most recently, I have advised the Department for Culture, Media, and Sport on the value of an Independent Regulator for the football industry and worked with the English Football League on the potential of salary caps across the club network. All this work is evidence based, via the research papers and books I am part of, nearly always with Dr Dan Plumley.

What has been particularly pleasing is how I have been able to pivot my experience in the sport industry to better connect Sheffield Business School with other external partners, using the profile I have secured in the media to generate higher quality leads in mainstream business communities to benefit our student population.

What does it mean personally to you to be a professor at Hallam?

Naturally I was delighted in being awarded a Professorship. It acknowledges a 20+ year career seeking to advance what we understand about financial decision making in the sport industry and how we can deliver more applied and innovative solutions to complex problems. The academic chair, in many ways, enhances my legitimacy as an applied expert.

Tell us a bit about your career story so far.

I’ve been part of the Sheffield Hallam community since being an undergraduate – dating back to 1998 – as part of the University’s first sport management cohort. Quite soon after joining I realised that I enjoyed having an enquiring mind and was supported by two stellar Professors in Simon Shibli and (the now late) Chris Gratton.

Both were absolute in the view that research had to be applied in nature so that it had value to the sectors it purported to represent. This philosophy has stuck with me throughout my career, becoming a definitive factor in all the work I undertake, be that as a Head of Department in Sheffield Business School to enhance our graduate outcomes, or as an applied practitioner when advising major sport organisations about their financial strategy. If we can’t translate our work into tangible outcomes, and in a language that general populations can engage with, we have no business being academics. I’m fortunate that our university mirrors this approach as it provides seamless alignment with our objectives.

After completing my UG and master’s programmes I settled into a lecturing position but always had the drive to increase my sphere of influence and add value to others – providing those that work with me the same opportunities I was afforded by Simon, Chris and the academic team in the (now known) Academy of Sport and Physical Activity. It was my move to the Sheffield Business School in 2019 that amplified my work though. The stretching environment, so inextricably tied to business practice, that moved my work on. Having brilliant collaborators also helps!

If you could go back in time and give yourself some career advice, what would it be?

To remember that titles don’t define you. They are a by-product of hard work, resilience, and perseverance. Once achieved, they are only the start of the next chapter.

What’s next? How do you want to further develop your contribution?

While the application for a Professorship asks you to outline your future strategy it’s difficult to see what you could, or should do, beyond ‘more of the same’. After all, it’s what got you there in the first place. That said, and in the words of someone who emailed me with a congratulatory note, one of the benefits of getting a Chair relatively young, I turned 43 this year, is that you can use it to make a difference and to advance yourself, and others. Whilst you’ve done pretty well as it is, you will find that the title of Professor will enhance your credibility, improve your strike rate on bids, and open doors that previously were closed.

I’m looking forward to working with those around me on a strategy to fully activate the title, bringing benefit to our team and the University.