Robin Bairner | Freelance Sports Writer

Our latest guest is freelance sports writer, Robin Bairner.

Tell us about yourself, what you currently do and how did you end up where you are right now?

I’ve basically been working in football journalism since I graduated from university and almost stumbled into the role. I actually studied geography and economics at the University of Edinburgh but graduated around the time of the financial crash, when there weren’t so many jobs going in the sectors I was qualified for. I picked up a part-time role working for one company writing betting previews for what is now Scottish League One and worked my way to Goal via a contact I had there. Ultimately, that became a full-time subbing role before I went on to become a site manager — essentially a junior editor — and although I’m no longer working on a day-to-day basis there, I still write features on Ligue 1, which has been my speciality for the best part of 15 years.

I’ve also worked for three years with the WTA on tennis, so I’ve got broader experience than just simply football, and it has been good to see how things are done in other sporting cultures.

I’m now editor at a new site — http://FootballTransfers.com — which will, as the name suggests, focus on all aspects of the transfer market. It’s a very exciting proposition to be working on a brand new site, and while there are challenges to overcome, and while we’re still some way from having the finished product, the team is strong and we’re excited about what we can achieve.

What does a normal week look like for you?

I typically cover five eight-hour shifts a week on the FootballTransfers news desk and have other tasks, such as budgeting and rota creation to do around that. On desk, we’re monitoring and writing up news lines and focusing on spin-off content we can do around it. As it is a small team, everyone is expected to chip in with everything, from subbing to news writing and social, so there’s always plenty to do. Around that, I’ll write features for other publications. It’s fair to say that I keep myself busy!

You were full-time with GOAL for over 13 years, any standout memories/highlights or pieces of work you’re proud of and would like to share?

Covering three major championships — the World Cups in 2014 and 2018, and Euro 2016 — were undoubtedly career highlights so far. The opportunity to work in these environments is great. It’s really intense but hugely enjoyable. I especially liked being able to see countries that I may not have visited otherwise — Brazil and Russia — and while there were unique challenges in both, it was a privilege to be at these incredible events.

What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?

Simply trying to do it to the best of my ability on any given day.

What is the most enjoyable part of your role?

I like that from a day-to-day basis everything’s different and you’re never quite sure what you’re going to be faced with. You’re never quite sure what’s going to happen and you’re always kept on your toes.

What is the most difficult part of your role?

Personally, it’s juggling work and family life. My wife and I have young twins and it’s been difficult at times to judge how much time I should be working and how much time I should be spending with them. That’s been a particular challenge during lockdown, when they’ve often been around the house.

When did you know you wanted to work in football?

I think I’ve always known I’d like to work in football, so I think the question should really be when did I think it would be possible? That was probably only when I got a full-time job at Goal. Before then, I wasn’t really sure what route my career was going to take. I was juggling a couple of regular freelancing gigs along with working in a bar and working in a wine warehouse — none of which individually were able to sustain me. It was just a case of making sure I took the opportunity that was given to me by Goal, which was a very new site at the time. Looking back on it, what we were being asked to achieve was almost unfeasible and it was very hard work but the rewards have been worth it.

What are your thoughts on the current freelance market for football writers/journalists?

My personal circumstances have been very lucky in that I’ve not had to look too far for work over the last couple of years. I hope that’s a reflection of the content I produce, but I’m equally aware that there’s more than an element of fortune about it. Opportunities seems to be limited at the moment and pay rates seem to be low, and with newspapers struggling, it can’t be an easy industry to be trying to break into.

What general advice would you give to those individuals looking to pursue a career path similar to yourself? What are the key skills required to work in football journalism?

I think I was a little lucky when I broke into the industry that digital journalism was still new and there was perhaps a generation of journalists who didn’t understand how it would work or its potential. If I was leaving university in similar circumstances now, I doubt I’d get the opportunities I did. Luck certainly played its role in how my career panned out, but that would have been irrelevant if I hadn’t worked really hard at it — and I did, and do, work hard.

As an editor, I’m really looking for younger writers who will 1) use initiative and 2) follow instructions, whether that’s on a story brief or simply correct style errors that have been flagged up.

Where do you see your career in the future? Are there any specific objectives you hope to achieve?

First and foremost, I’d love to make FootballTransfers a huge success and establish it as a go-to website for football fans looking for transfer information. As I mentioned earlier, we’ve got a good team and I’m really eager for each of us that it does well. On a more personal basis, I’d love to be back covering major tournament football.

And finally Robin, where can people find you on social media?

My Twitter handle is @RBairner and I’m also on Facebook with the same user name.

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