Alumnus becomes policy researcher in football regulation

Jonny standing holding papers next to a sign for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Sports Science with Management alumnus Jonny Kilgallon has recently landed a new role in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport as the new Policy Researcher in Football Regulation.

From Loughborough to sport to a role in the government, we chatted to Jonny to find out more about his career so far and what the new role will look like.

Jonny graduated from Loughborough in 2018 and immediately began life after university as a sports coach. Having engaged in a range of activities at university including as a Men’s Basketball Volunteer Strength & Conditioning Coach, the natural route was into sports support and coaching, and one of his first roles was with Ealing Trailfinders Rugby Club as a Sports Data Scientist.

How did his career begin?

“For six years I worked as a sport scientist and coach in a range of professional sports, before heading into the political realm as a Policy Advisor in Government.

“My coaching career took off following a streak of team successes, including winning the Guinness Pro 12 with the Scarlets Rugby team and the 2018/19 Drivers and Constructors Championship with the Mercedes Formula One team, respectively. Before long I had a coaching business which, among my clients, includes a wheelchair rugby athlete who under my guidance springboarded from division 3 to winning gold for Team GB at the 2022 World Games in Alabama, USA.

“Away from the field, with the help of Loughborough University, I authored three publications in world-renowned journals in the field of biomechanics and physiology, which enhanced my expertise in data analytics and the structuring of effective arguments in both written and oral form.”

A couple of years later he decided to move into politics and law. It’s that route that has helped land him his new role:

“By 2022 I decided to move beyond sport into politics and law. When the opportunity came to take part in a worldwide sports law debate, my sport science research skills came into play, and my team finished 3rd place from a total of 58 teams worldwide.

“With this backdrop, fate came into play when the Department for Culture, Media and Sport advertised the vacancy for a Policy Advisor in Football Regulation, as it seemed all my prior experience had something to offer.

“Elite sport is unlike any other environment in that there are a range of pressures; be it commercial, political, psychological, and physiological. Learning to navigate these pressures and to surpass stakeholders expectations as a coach placed me in a uniquely competitive advantage.”

What is the new role about and what does it involve?

“As of 2023, I am a Policy Advisor in Football Regulation at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, currently involved in the setting up of a regulator to ensure the financial sustainability of the English Football Pyramid.

My role as Policy Advisor in Football Regulation is to plan the process in which persons or clubs affected by the Football Regulator's decisions can bring legal challenges against the government in courts of law. Put simply, I will be deciding which courts hear certain types of disputes, with a view to striking a fair balance between the principles of justice and the government's objectives.

“On a day-to-day basis I consult with leading sports lawyers, football club owners, civil servants, and the Minister for Sport to inform policy decisions. My work will inform the drafting of a Bill which will be debated in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and will thereafter become legally binding legislation. No country has ever attempted to regulate the finances of professional football clubs, which brings a lot of excitement knowing that I am at the cutting edge of policy and law making in England.”

We asked Jonny how skills gained at Loughborough and his passion for sport have supported his career so far. He added:

“All high-level jobs require an analytical mind, that is a given, and the academic rigour at Loughborough certainly fosters that. The skill I've most consistently relied on is the ability to distil complex concepts and use data to persuade others and, at times, overruling another's opinion in a diplomatic way. The more I progress into management roles, the more this skill is required – I am still working on it! Students can get a head start on this by engaging in difficult conversations in lectures.

“Everyone knows that Loughborough is a cauldron for athletic excellence, but the sky's the limits as to where that talent can take you. It inspired me greatly to see that our alumni, namely Lord Coe and Baroness Campbell, could turn their world beating talent into a force for good in the political realm. I am now inspired to prove that just as athletes can change the world, so can sports coaches.”

Thank you to Jonny for sharing his story.