We catch up with Jack Sullivan to talk about following in his father’s footsteps, taking over at West Ham Ladies and why he’s playing for Debden FC
A lot of children end up rebelling against their famous parents [his father is David Sullivan currently joint chairman of West Ham United] – but given how early you started in football, did you always find your father’s work inspirational?
I fell in love with football at around six-years-old, so I always dreamed of working in football. By about 11 I knew I wasn’t going to be good enough to play so I suppose the next best option was to work in it. I really love how the business side of football is, it’s about six different businesses in one big business! From commercial to ticketing to retail there is so much variety, it really makes every day exciting and so different. I also love the people side of football, thousands of fans make things so exciting. It’s such an unpredictable sport that keeps everyone on the edge of their seats with always so much happening on and off the pitch. Its like a bug like no other.
How did taking over as MD at West Ham Ladies come about?
I left school at 16 and decided instead of A-levels I would go do an internship at West Ham United as I didn’t want to go to university – I wanted to learn the family business. After a year of working at the club I went to watch the WHUW V Spurs at White Hart Lane. The game ended in a 4-0 defeat, however I really loved it and felt that we could really take the WHUW to the next level and the rest is history. I was lucky enough that my dad believed in me to do the role and take the team from the 3rd division to the WSL.
Was there any self-doubt as an 17-year-old in such a key role?
To be honest, I think there was more optimism and as a foolish 17-year-old, I really thought I could do anything – which I quickly found out wasn’t the case. I was extremely lucky at West Ham as we were supported by such a brilliant group of staff from the club.
What achievement are your proudest of in your time there?
There are a mixture of personal and team achievements that we are all proud of. Personally, I think our best achievement as a team was reaching the FA Cup final in our first year as a professional side. After an extremely tough season it gave us all such a sense of achievement.
Since leaving, you have joined Debden FC – as manager?
I am not managing Debden, I am actually playing for them! This summer a friend of mine decided to set a team up and there are about 25 of us that play. It has been fantastic and so much fun. I’ve really loved playing again and having a laugh with the team.
What are your targets for the rest of the season?
We are still in the cup so our target is to get as far in that as we can and hopefully have a positive league finish. It’s only our first season as a team so we just want to do the best we can!
How professionally run is the club?
The club is just a grassroots club. We have eight teams currently as part of Debden and it has been fantastic. For our team it’s all about having a good time with your mates, which I think is great. Obviously, we want to win, but it’s all about that team camaraderie. Debden has a real family feel, which Is the whole point in Sunday league.
Does it help when you have the support of a company like WOW Hydrate?
WOW Hydrate have been amazing, not only for Debden but via their ‘Harry hydrates’ campaign – they have helped thousands of grassroots teams. We are WOW Hydrate’s local team, and we are so thankful for all they have done for us and grassroots. Their drinks are fantastic and really help us during and after the games. A lot of companies work with professional teams, so it’s great to see WOW work atboth ends of the scale showing they really care about their everyday consumer.
Do you live close to Debden?
I live in Epping, so only about ten minutes from Debden. I really love my area. Firstly I think the people are great and all my friends live around here. The transports links to London are fantastic also, which makes it easy to travel into town for work. However, my favourite thing is probably the amount of green spaces alongside also having lots of great restaurants and pubs around the area.
Are you looking forward to what 2022 holds in store?
I’m hoping that 2022 is exciting, but who knows what it has in store. I’m hoping to start a few bits myself in 2022, however time will tell. On the football side I hope West Ham can have a strong end to the season and Debden can hopefully have a cup run too!