This week game changers podcast stars Fleur Robinson, the new Managing Director of Wrexham AFC. In an insightful interview, Robinson reveals how she became an accomplished business leader in football.
Robinson is expected to begin his new role with Wrexham on June 1, spending two decades at Burton Albion. As the daughter of Albion chairman Ben Robinson, she began her career at the club at a young age, describing her initial job as “very varied”.
During his time at Albion, Robinson was a key figure in their incredible journey from the Non-League to the Championship. The team was then relegated to Ligue 1 in 2018, where it still remains.
Despite being one of the few women in football management, Robinson said she “hasn’t really encountered negativity.”
“When we got promoted, I went to my first business manager meeting at Walsall, and yes, I was the only woman,” she explained. “I was over half the age of anyone in the room, you know. But it was great and really encouraging. Football is a great environment off the pitch, most people get along and we all share ideas. So I was very lucky that way.
In fact, Robinson had to fight her own doubts more than those of the people who worked around her. She revealed that she had occasionally been touched by impostor syndrome, describing it as a “real obstacle”.
“To move on to my next role, I’ve been with Burton for so, so long, and whatever the job, brand new challenge, you know, you always have those doubts. But it’s making those positive nerves or negative nerves turn positive, and make sure that pushes you forward.
Robinson has also balanced a career in football management with family life. She explained how she coped with the delicate task of being a working mom with two daughters.
“Again I think I’m lucky because it’s a family that works in football,” she said. “There isn’t a lot of time for family and a lot of times the kids don’t come first. For me, my daughters grew up to be very strong, independent young girls, and I think that played a role. It’s such a social environment. I was lucky to be able to bring my kids to work on match days.
“It’s been great for them, this social environment, for them to learn to talk to people and to have that social side has been really important.”
But it’s a challenge, it’s a lot of moments of guilt, like there are with all working mothers. But you know, I was lucky to have a good balance.
Robinson announced in March that she would be leaving Burton Albion to take on the new role with Wrexham. For her, it was a truly agonizing decision.
“I never really looked to move anywhere, but the opportunity arose when they approached me,” said Robinson. “And I mean, it was a trip I had to watch and see, and the more conversations I had, the more it turned me on.” And I think, my life time, I think if you don’t take these opportunities, they don’t come very often.
“I definitely feel like I’m stepping out of my comfort zone, but it’s good. You know, we should all push each other. So yeah, it was an opportunity at the end that I just couldn’t turn down. And yeah, it was a really tough decision, but you know, a decision I had to make. For me mixed emotions, I feel very guilty for leaving everyone behind but you know you have to make these decisions in life and I hope it will be the right one for me in the future.
Prior to Robinson’s appointment, Wrexham had caused a stir. In one of the most unexpected stories of the year, Hollywood superstars Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney completed a takeover of the Vanarama National League team in February. What does Robinson think of having Reynolds and McElhenney as bosses?
“It’s exciting, but I think, you know, the owners are the owners, whether they’re Hollywood movie stars, it’s got to be the right person,” she replied.
“And you know, I said that without the vision they’re looking to achieve in Wrexham, I wouldn’t have even considered it. I’m totally convinced that they want to hopefully take a similar trip to what we’ve done here in Burton on the ground, but also, and to an equal extent, that community engagement, which is really important.
After taking Burton Albion from non-league football to the Championship, Robinson discussed Wrexham’s ambitions and the resulting pressure around his new role.
“Wrexham is a great club and has so much potential and there is a lot of enthusiasm around the new owners. Much more excitement than I imagined for my date too, ”she laughs.
It is a huge pressure.
“But, you know, we said from the start that these have to be the basics. Rome was not built overnight. You see clubs rushing into things and the foundations are not good. And it finally catches up. So, you know, the goal is obviously to get into the Football League. And that has to be the one big goal, but it has to be done in the right way, with the right foundations for the safety of the football club, in the future, in the future.
At the end of the interview, Robinson offered advice to the young women in the hopes of following in her footsteps.
“I think if you know what your career path is, I think it’s just a foot in the door, which is really tough with football. And you may have to get creative and set your foot elsewhere and then work your way into the job you want to be, ”she said.
“And I think, you know, don’t be afraid to fail. I think we’re all too scared to take that step, just in case, what if, you know, and it was holding so many people back. So it doesn’t matter if you fail. You have to try, you have to do it to fail. So let’s give it a try and make your dreams come true.
This article was produced in partnership with the Game Changers podcast, which is supported by Barclays. You can listen to the full episode with Fleur Robinson here.