In episode #12 of the Student Sport Insights, we spoke with Ricardo De La Cruz, a recent graduate who has just completed his educational journey in the UK.
Ricardo’s story is one of perseverance, passion for football, and the pursuit of academic excellence that has taken him from the border city of El Paso to the home of European Champions, Manchester City Football Club.
His story embodies the spirit of international students pursuing their dreams in the UK, a country where sports and education intersect to create a pathway to success.
Find out all about his UK university experience and how it has helped pave the way for a rewarding career in the football industry below.
Name: Ricardo De La Cruz
Institution: University of Portsmouth
Degree: MSc Sport Management
Before coming to the UK, where did you live, and what motivated you to pursue your education in the UK?
“Originally, I am from El Paso, a city in Texas located on the US/Mexico border. I was born in El Paso but grew up on the Mexican side of the border. Weekly, I would cross the border to attend school in the US. We are a binational community that embraced the American culture, which empowers opportunity and the American dream. However, we will never forget our Mexican heritage and lovely culture. I consider myself fortunate to have had the best of both worlds.
Given my Mexican roots, football is deeply ingrained in our culture, and I became captivated by the sport from a young age. I started playing football when I was six years old at a local school. During one of the games, I managed to score six goals, but unfortunately, I did not participate in any organized teams until I turned thirteen. Nonetheless, I remained an ardent football fan and passionately supported my favorite Mexican team, Pumas. My enthusiasm for the sport intensified when YouTube became popular in the mid-2000s, flooding the platform with football content from around the world. It was then that I discovered the unparalleled appeal of European football, and a dream took root in my heart – to one day play in Europe.
Throughout my educational journey, I have always placed a strong emphasis on academics and have been an exemplary student. When the time came to decide on where to attend school, I knew I wanted to pursue my dream of playing football in Europe. Leveraging my academic prowess, I gained admission to Richmond American University London, and combining my athletic skills, they offered me a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to join their unique football academy – the Richmond International Academic and Soccer Academy (RIASA). Needless to say, I was over the moon!”
Above: The Richmond International Academic & Soccer Academy is based on the campus of Leeds Beckett University.
Can you tell us about your educational journey in the UK, including the universities you attended and the degrees you pursued?
“I attended Richmond American University London from 2013 to 2017. However, I did not live in London; I was based at their Soccer/Football academy in Leeds, UK. I was drafted to their academy right out of high school and played professional football, albeit at the youth levels, for three years. It was an incredible time of my life. While at the football academy, I pursued a BA in International Sports Management and graduated in 2017.
After graduation, I moved back to the US and worked for a football foundation and a professional soccer league. As a result of COVID-19, I was furloughed and eventually terminated from both jobs. Most of my colleagues who held a master’s degree were able to retain their jobs. This situation prompted me to decide on returning to school to pursue a master’s degree. Furthermore, I founded RDLCMarketing.com, a company that provides marketing packages at affordable prices for small and medium-sized businesses. As a result, I was able to fund personal and accommodation costs for my postgraduate studies.
After weeks of searching, I came across multiple student recruiting agencies and was connected to a recruiter at the University of Portsmouth. Upon further investigation, I found that they had an excellent school of sport, so I decided to apply. I was accepted into their MS in Sports Management program and graduated in 2022.”
Above: Ricardo completed his master’s degree in Sports Management at the University of Portsmouth, located in the city of Portsmouth.
Could you share some highlights from your experience as an international student in the UK? How did it shape you personally and professionally?
“The UK, along with its extensive football infrastructure, opened my eyes to the abundant employment opportunities within the football industry. I came to realize that football is not merely about 22 players on a field with cameras focused on them. The football business encompasses thousands of contractual synergies across numerous industries. Playing in the English football pyramid allowed me to experience this extensive labor network, not only within football itself but also in sports academia and commercial interests. This experience gave me hope that even if I couldn’t play football in the future, if I continued to pursue my education, various employment opportunities would still be available to me.
Also, and perhaps most importantly moving to the UK allowed me to explore the world. Living in a different country exposed me to new cultures, traditions, and way of life. This engagement with diverse perspectives fostered a deeper understanding and appreciation of global diversity. Living far from home fosters independence, adaptability, and resilience. As an international student I gained confidence and problem-solving skills, as I navigated new challenges often by myself. The option to run back home wasn’t available.”
What inspired your decision to study Sports Management specifically in the UK and what do you feel makes the UK such a great destination for sports related courses such as this one?
“I wanted to remain part of the football industry no matter what happened with my playing career. It was quite beneficial to me to study sports management in the UK, where sport is rather integral to the culture. The UK provides access to the most important sports market, not necessarily in terms of revenue but a market that dictates culture around the globe. Specially in football which its organized sport dynamics emerged in the UK.
Truthfully, life brought me to the UK. It was not a tactical pre-meditated move on my part. Also, I did not have any family resources to buy my way into this path, it had to be earned through academic and athletic skills. Which sounds quite rough but on the contrary its to show that anybody can do this. If your forte is academics, then give it your all and I guarantee you that it will open doors for you. If you can combine those academic skills with another passion likes sports, performance arts, or anything that you can think of – undoubtably you will excel.”
Above: In June 2023, Ricardo secured the role of Senior International Content Manager for the LATAM market at Manchester City Football Club.
Congratulations on securing a job with Manchester City! Can you share the process of how you obtained this opportunity and how your degree from a UK university played a role?
“While working at RDLCMarketing.com, I continued to apply for jobs in the football industry. Although I understood the importance of my work at RDLC Marketing, I knew it wasn’t a viable long-term plan. I established the company as a response to the impact of COVID-19 on small and middle-sized businesses, providing a way to navigate marketing budgets through the challenging situation. However, my ultimate goal was to return to a more football-focused environment and be part of a larger team.
Throughout my job search, I applied to nearly 600 positions and received several offers, but none of them felt like the perfect fit for my next step. That was until I received a call back for a management position at Manchester City. I didn’t have any connections at Manchester City, but my UK University degree enabled me to obtain a UK work visa. This liberty in professional mobility allowed me the flexibility to work in either the US or the UK, which proved to be crucial in accepting an offer from a prestigious company like Manchester City Football Club. As soon as they offered me the job, I could immediately move to the UK and begin my journey with the club. Rather than be rejected due to a lack of permit to work in the UK or go through a lengthy visa process.
Above: Ricardo’s first project in his new role, a preseason show in Spanish and Portuguese. Watch the full version here.
My degrees in the UK were more than just a means to meet the technical requirements for this job. Certainly, the sports management degrees equipped me with essential skills such as team management, effective business communication, budget control, content creation, video editing, graphic design, and more. However, these practical skills are not the primary reason why studying in the UK holds significant value. Such knowledge can be acquired anywhere.
The real advantage of studying in the UK lies in the favorable relationship it grants you with the immigration system, providing the opportunity to legally work in the country. This benefit becomes instrumental in pursuing career opportunities like the one I have now. It opens doors and broadens horizons, allowing international students to establish a foothold in the UK and explore professional pathways that might not have been easily accessible otherwise.”
Could you share any specific examples of how the knowledge and expertise gained from your degree helped you secure your role at Manchester City?
“I was always told by my professors and mentors to choose a more general degree but focus my work on a more technical field. My professional career has always involved international marketing and content creation, while my degrees have always focused on a general business management path. I also often chose courses within my degree that involved more marketing knowledge. These two approaches perfectly merged in this role at Manchester City. I am the Senior International Content Manager for the LATAM market. So, my previous marketing and content creation experience and my management degrees allowed me the ability to manage a team of brilliant producers to deliver excellent and compelling content for our language markets.”
Above: As the Senior International Content Manager for the LATAM market at Manchester City Football Club, Ricardo is responsible for overseeing and strategizing content creation, distribution, and engagement initiatives specific to the Latin American market.
Looking back on your educational journey and current success, what advice would you give to other international students considering studying in the UK and pursuing their dreams?
“No matter what you aspire to achieve, it’s crucial to understand that it will demand your full commitment and effort. There are no shortcuts to success in any endeavor. Be prepared to invest even more effort than you initially think, especially if you choose a less conventional path. However, it’s essential to recognize that despite your best efforts, some factors may be beyond your control, and things may not always work out as planned.
In my pursuit of playing professional football, I gave it my all, pouring in 300% effort. Despite being a skilled player and even making it to play in the UK, success didn’t always align with ability. The true key to success lies in your perseverance and willingness to keep trying, no matter the setbacks. Though my dream of playing may not have come to fruition, I never stopped pushing myself academically. Even amidst personal challenges, I persisted in my studies, refusing to give up. There were moments when I considered giving in, especially after the heartbreak of not being able to continue playing, but I knew my education was an investment in my future, one that would eventually pay off and surpass my ability to play as players retire quite young.
For those considering studying in the UK or anywhere abroad, your desire to explore and expand your horizons puts you on the right path. Pursuing education beyond familiar borders can lead to great opportunities and personal growth.
Remember that even if some paths don’t work out as expected, staying resilient and dedicated will ultimately lead you toward success and fulfilment. Please embrace this passion, and never let it fade.”
Interested in pursuing both your football career and education in the UK? We can help!
We proudly work with the leading sporting and academic institutions throughout the U.K. and are able to offer international students of all ages and levels of study the opportunity to combine their preferred academic qualifications with their sporting ambitions.
Learn more about UK University Football below or register your details for our free service to embark on your exciting journey of education and sports in the United Kingdom.