CAROLYN ARTICLES IN THE METRO AND GUARDIAN
Carolyn Radford fending off stereotypes to drive Mansfield to promotion
The Metro, October 6, 2017
CAROLYN RADFORD is making progress in her twin mission to be a role model for women in football and get her beloved Mansfield promoted.
The 35-year-old has been chief executive of the Stags since 2011, during which time the club have won the National League and reached Wembley, where they lost to Darlington in the FA Trophy final.
Owned by Radford’s husband John, they are openly ambitious and have a manager in Steve Evans with nine promotions on his CV. Only this week Radford had to fend off an approach for the Scot from Gillingham - ‘the phone’s been red-hot’ - but sees it as a consequence of the club’s success.
Mansfield are eighth in League Two but they’re only looking upwards. For Radford that is vindication she is getting it right despite the fierce criticism she has received, initially, she says, for being ‘blonde and a woman’, and the claims her appointment was just a ‘publicity stunt’.
‘It’s getting easier [but] I still get trolled on social media. But I feel appreciated by the people I work with and that’s all that matters to me,’ she says.
‘People just make reckless and disparaging comments about me. It helps being vocal. I feel I have a social responsibility to show what I can do in a man’s world. The women that come to our games now say they appreciate it.’
Radford manages to take the abuse in her stride. Her energy and enthusiasm has certainly brought something fresh into Field Mill. Evans, too, is a big personality, shall we say.
The well-travelled manager knows exactly what is expected of him this term. ‘He’s under pressure to get promotion - he also wants a tenth promotion for himself,’ says Radford. ‘The deal is, we want two promotions.
‘We were favourites to be promoted after signing Championship and League One-level players. We really want to achieve but everybody wants promotion. We’d love Steve to be our Alex Ferguson. I want us to keep hold of our man.’
Radford wants more women to join her in high-powered positions within football, admitting she is fed up of going to away grounds and being the only woman in the boardroom, feeling she is not taken seriously because she’s female.
She is backing her words with actions, starting a mentoring scheme for young women to come and work with her. ‘I want to show it’s not scary and intimidating,’ she adds. ‘But it might put them off!’
More than anything Radford wants young women to share her enjoyment of a game she had only admired from afar before working in it. It’s certainly not that way now.
‘Football is a bit addictive,’ she admits. ‘You get immersed in it. My football knowledge is a lot greater now. I listen to talkSPORT in the car - much to the annoyance of my kids!’
DID YOU KNOW?
- Radford is one of just two female CEOs in English football’s top four divisions. The other is Katrien Meire at Charlton.
- Radford’s husband John paid £1 for Mansfield in 2010, a year before she joined the club. They married in 2012.
Carolyn Radford: ‘If I’d known the abuse I would get as a club executive I’d never have done it’
Mansfield Town are one of only five clubs from the 92 with a woman in an executive role but sometimes she is still the recipient of crass remarks in away teams’ boardrooms
Carolyn Radford, the Mansfield Town chief executive, has been in situ for six years during which time they have regained their place in the Football League and the aim is to ‘pop the town back on the map with this club’.
theguardian.com, by Martha Kelner, Friday 6 October 2017
Inside Mansfield Town’s One Call Stadium and the mug shots on the wall of Carolyn Radford’s office highlight football’s woeful lack of gender diversity. There are more than 60 individual photographs of players and coaching staff but only one of them, the first team’s sports therapist, Lizzie Read, is a woman.
“That’s the issue,” says the chief executive, one of the most high-profile women in the game. “There are no female managers, assistant managers, or goalkeeping coaches.”
Radford has a keen understanding of how difficult it is to make it as a woman in football. In 2011, when appointed to the role by the chairman, her then partner now husband John Radford, some branded it a “publicity stunt”. She had to endure sexist abuse from the stands and on message boards while some within football derided her ability to do the job.
“I’ve got a degree from Durham, one of best universities in country, and I’m a trained lawyer,” she says in riposte. “If you look at other chief execs and their backgrounds I’m sure I’ve got one of the better CVs.”
Six years on and Radford admits she did not realise at first what she was letting herself in for. “It was overwhelming,” she says, “being young, relatively attractive and female, all those things counted against me. I was made into this caricature and had the most horrible things you can say about being a woman, people calling me a bimbo. If I’d known the abuse I was going to get I’d never have done it but you just have to keep your head down and get on with it.”
Now a mum to three-year-old Hugo and two-year-old twins Rupert and Albert, life is a fast-paced balancing act for Radford, who does the nursery run most mornings, but she is enormously proud of her work at Mansfield. During the 35-year-old’s tenure the club have climbed back into the Football League - going into this weekend they were eighth in League Two - and are set to turn a profit for the first time in recent memory.
“When we came in the stadium was like a graveyard except for match days,” says Radford. “Now we’ve got a 3G pitch which is used by the community, a sports bar that’s open all the time. We have tribute acts playing, from David Bowie to Take That, and the activity is good for business. Mansfield as a town is almost forgotten about, it is on the periphery of Nottingham, the train links aren’t much good and it was very much down on its knees. We’re trying to pop it back on the map with this football club.
“I introduced a women’s team which had been kicked out by the previous chairman. That was important as it was to allow them to use the same facilities as the men. Women at other clubs are not allowed to use changing facilities, but we make sure ours have access to the pitch whenever they need it and full facilities.”
Radford is one of only five women in executive positions at the 92 clubs in the top four tiers of English football alongside Karren Brady, vice-chair at West Ham United, Leicester City chief executive Susan Whelan, Forest Green Rovers chief executive Helen Taylor and Katrien Meire, chief executive at Charlton Athletic. She views it as her responsibility to speak out about sexism in the industry and pave a smoother path for women who want to emulate her. This year Radford decided to run for two vacant spots on the FA Council. An election campaign video, which Radford says was knowingly cheesy, was sent to voting representatives at the 72 Football League clubs and later leaked to the press. “It wasn’t supposed to be for general release,” she says, “so I found the whole thing quite mean-spirited. It was completely tongue in cheek and I called round different clubs and said it was intended to be funny.
“I just wanted to show how old and stuffy the process had got. The other candidates just sent a sheet of paper saying: ‘I trust I can count on you to re-elect me.’ And these were the same people who get elected all the time. So I decided to do a campaign video in the style of JFK. But no, it’s still the same old characters.
“The FA is an old boys’ club and I really want more female representation. I’m in a privileged position to have a voice and be able to encourage other women into football. Maybe there’s a lack of women because they’ve seen what other females have had to encounter in terms of sexism. Or perhaps because football’s run by men and the roles are very coveted by men and closely protected by men and things just aren’t changing.”
The Radford family owns several companies in Doncaster, primarily in insurance , and also a beauty salon, and Carolyn is closely involved with all. She claims the variety makes her a more informed decision maker. “When you’ve got a group of blokes there’s a lot of testosterone and there can be lots of impulsive decisions and I think a female voice rationalises things and can bring more of a rounded opinion,” she says.
“The pace of change in football is too slow. When you appoint a manager he brings his own entourage and they’re usually male. It’s just about giving women a chance and I think having a woman in an executive role making the decisions makes that more likely.”
Radford thinks a campaign against sexism launched by the Football League after the former Chelsea doctor Eva Carneiro was sidelined in the wake of her dispute with José Mourinho has lessened the extent of abuse she receives from rival fans on match days. But Radford claims low-level sexism from other executives is a persistent irritant.
“On match days you go into each other’s boardrooms and a lot of the time they’ll direct conversation to my husband and it’s not just me being paranoid,” she says. “There’s lots of casual comments like: ‘Hope you’re behaving yourself today …’ or, ‘Oh look at you, you look absolutely gorgeous’ in a leering kind of way. Just not things you would say to another man.”
Radford, whose mum is a PE teacher, says she has always been interested in sport but now follows Mansfield everywhere and is close to getting a helicopter pilot licence so she can fly to away fixtures.
“I’ve got TalkSport on in the car the whole time and when we lose it’s so, so painful,” she says. “I never thought I’d work in football but now I do I love it even though I hate it as well, at times. I’d love to take the club into the Premier League so my children could take over and do a good job too,” she adds. By then Radford also hopes there will be a few more female faces on her office wall.