ben knapper with arsenal team on tour bus


How to build a winning career in professional sport management – Ben Knapper, Arsenal FC

He’s been there, done it and got his hands on the trophy…literally!

As Loan Manager at Arsenal Football Club, Ben Knapper has worked alongside Arsene Wenger and helped the team collect six trophies, including four FA Cups.

Ben graduated with a degree in Sports Coaching and Performance from the University of Hull in 2008. He recently returned to his roots to speak to students presenting their final-year dissertations at the annual Student Thesis Conference and give them some ‘Premier League’ advice on how to carve out a successful career in professional sport management at the highest level.

ben knapper with arsenal team on tour bus
Ben graduated with a degree in Sports Coaching and Performance

Here are Ben’s top 8 tips for ambitious sports graduates:


  1. Be proactive – You can increase your chances of being successful if you are proactive – put yourself in the position which gives the maximum opportunity for good things to happen. You have to be bold, suggest things, be willing, and make it happen.

  2. Build good relationships – This is something I still have to remind myself to do. We are all so busy and today’s world moves so fast, but it is so important to maintain your relationships and keep building contacts.

  3. Be an effective communicator – The ability to be able to translate complex information, whether that be scientific principle or some performance data, into valuable insights is massive. The way you do that with a player may be very different to how you do with it a coach or an owner.

  4. Find relevant experience to add to your degree – The more experience you can gather during your time at University, the better. Don’t just graduate with a degree, it is so much more competitive than that now, you need something which makes you stand out.

  5. Don’t be a superfan – Sport is emotional enough as it is, but if you are also emotionally invested as a fan it can really cloud your judgement. Having a lot of that investment as a fan can be quite damaging – you are going to have to engage with lots of different people, and some of them are high-profile, and you need to carry yourself in an appropriate and professional way.

  6. Back yourself – When you are young and trying to make your way in the industry, you will work with some very decorated, respected individuals, and it can be hard to say what you think. It can be easy to sit back, so it is important to back yourself, and as long as you carry yourself in the correct way, you will be OK.

  7. Do what you say you will do – Your personal brand is everything, so if you say you will do something, you’ve got to deliver it. If you don’t think you can do something, then don’t promise it. The way you market yourself and people perceive you will underpin where your career goes.

  8. Enjoy it – Make time to reflect on what you have achieved, and don’t lose sight of the things you have done and the places you have visited. One of my regrets so far is not having taken enough photos of all the incredible places I have travelled to with Arsenal. It is easy when you are working to get so caught up in the tasks at hand, you don’t give yourself that moment to really enjoy where you are and what you have achieved.


Read more about Ben's experiences at the University of Hull here.

Find out more about studying Sport, Health & Exercise Science at the University of Hull here.

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