SUNDAY TIMES ON JOHN & CAROLYN / METRO ON CAROLYN
The Sunday Times, 28 May 2018
(thanks to Alan Broughton for the scan)
Relative Values: John Radford, owner of Mansfield Town FC, and his wife, Carolyn, the club’s CEO
The couple discuss sexism in football, tidy drawers and having to be ruthless
The Sunday Times, May 27 2018
Interviews by Beverley D’Silva
I met John in September 2010 when he interviewed me for a job. He was setting up a fashion brand and needed a director. I knew how to manage contracts - I studied law after doing politics at Durham - and I had worked for a group that owns fashion brands such as Stella McCartney and Bulgari. He offered me the position and I accepted. Four months after we met, we started dating.
John had bought Mansfield Town football club that same year, and when the CEO job came up 12 months after we met, I went for it. I had always loved football and I’m naturally sporty. Football has parallels with fashion - they’re both fast-paced industries, constantly evolving and seasons come and go - as do the players.
At first I found John quite stern and intimidating - I was scared of him, to be honest. I like to get the job done, but I’m a smiley and bubbly person, while he came across as serious and businesslike. After knowing him for a few months, I could see the man behind the boss image and liked what I saw. The physical attraction was there straightaway for me and I was drawn to his mind, too.
I was single when I met John, coming up to 30, and felt ready to settle down. He was single, too, and had grown-up children from his former marriage. We clicked on many levels. John is 17 years older than me, but the age gap has never been an issue. It’s the same as the gap between George and Amal Clooney. The fact he was successful and wealthy didn’t have much to do with my feelings for him. I come from quite a privileged background myself. And his wealth has accumulated since I’ve been with him - we’ve built it up together.
He proposed to me over dinner at our favourite restaurant, Ye Olde Bell hotel in Retford, near where we live now. He got down on one knee and presented me with an amazing diamond ring he’d had made. It was very romantic. We got married in July 2012 and held the ceremony and reception in a marquee at home - I wore a Vera Wang dress. We had our first son, Hugo, a year after that. Four months later I got pregnant again, this time with the twins, Rupert and Albert.
In my first year as CEO of Mansfield Town, I faced awful sexism. I’ve had chief executives being rude to me in boardrooms and chairmen trying to speak to John instead of me. At matches, fans would chant abuse … it was hurtful and demoralising. I felt I’d gone into a nasty, hostile industry. But I knew if I reacted, I’d just look stupid. When I was really suffering, I turned to John and he’d say: “Don’t rise to the bait, keep your head down, just make sure you’re proud of what you’ve tried to do.” He is as strong as a rock and I learnt to let the worst of it go over my head.
Being given a hard time is a problem for all women in the game. But the situation is improving and the more women coming into football at executive level, the better. I’m friends with Karren Brady [vice-chairman of West Ham United] - we watch matches together - and Katrien Meire [CEO of Sheffield Wednesday] lives near me and we support each other.
John is a mile a minute, you need so much energy to be with him. He taught me to be organised - he’s ex-army. Open any drawer in our house and it’s immaculate, like a show house. He is driven at work, but at home he is kind and thoughtful. We travel to work together but have separate offices, mine at the football club and John’s at his legal and insurance companies. We run everything by each other and when it comes to the bedroom there is no boss - it’s equal between us.
John and I are soul mates - I can read his mind now. We’re completely different and that has a lot to do with why we’re so happy.
When Carolyn started working with me, I noticed how enthusiastic she was. She always perked me up at the end of the day - she’s a real spirit lifter. She turned big problems into little problems and that was so attractive. We started seeing each other and it was about a year before I realised she was the one for me. When I asked her to marry me, she was in shock. Time stopped for me. It seemed like an hour before she said yes.
Mansfield is my home town, so when the football club was going into receivership in 2010, I stepped into the breach and took over. It was a heartfelt move rather than a business one. I chose Carolyn as CEO because she was the best-qualified candidate. There aren’t many CEOs in the football league who are qualified lawyers, have such a deep interest in sport and family connections to it - her aunt is the CEO of the Scottish squash association and her mum was a PE teacher. I was looking for someone who could deal with player contracts, who was sporty and intelligent - so Carolyn was perfect for it.
When she took on the club, she found out people had been dipping their hands in the tills and there was quite a bit of fraud going on. She couldn’t get involved with anyone who cheats or steals and sacked the staff involved, so I saw that side to her. I was quite shocked, but she was right. She had to be ruthless. I can be ruthless in my other business - insurance - but not football. I was too emotionally involved. I’m happy to leave Carolyn to run the club. She has done really well to get it to break even.
We have three sons, and although we’d love a daughter, I don’t plan to take the risk because I think it would be another boy. I’d love the boys to be into football, but at the moment Hugo is more into Peppa Pig. We split childcare evenly, we both jump up with the kids in the morning and put them to bed together. Every morning, Carolyn and I go for a four-mile walk with the dog and talk about our frustrations from the previous day. At work, we have separate offices. We’d kill each other if we were in the same one, we’re both so opinionated. I love her to bits. I wouldn’t want to live a day without her.
Carolyn on John He always has to take nail clippers on holiday because he has a thing about having his nails short at all times
John on Carolyn She will try 20 dresses on and as we’re about to leave, she’ll run back upstairs and change again
The Metro, 24 May 2018
Thanks to Mark Watson and Dean Foulkes for the scans
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