Hand over the mic:
Her Football Hub and Sterling Management founder Drew Diamond talks us through his beginnings in women's football, his work within the game and his aspirations for the future.
Photographs courtesy of Drew Diamond
2 January 2022
Sitting down together to chat all things football, Drew Diamond, founder of platform Her Football Hub and agency Sterling Management, immediately confirms suspicions of a long-standing affiliation with the women’s game.
“It’s always been in my household,” he begins, “I lived with my Nan for a long time in my later teens who had always gone on about women’s football.”
Almost ahead of her time, Drew’s beloved Nan ingrained women’s sport as routine, a movement that is thankfully now becoming much more familiar. However, Drew admits that although he was accustomed to it, women’s sport was not his favoured interest.
“She supported Liverpool, that’s where I’m from, and she’d always go on about Liverpool Women so I know all of those iconic names. She’d always go on about Doncaster Belles as well. She loved women’s teams that didn’t have big men’s counterparts, she always had a soft spot for them.”
“But I never really loved women’s sport back then, it was always just a normal part of my life.”
Skipping forward a few years, Drew recalls his time working as a writer covering Liverpool FC where the humble beginnings of Her Football Hub began to surface.
“Eventually I got into writing. Writing about football and sport and I ended up working in a team that wrote solely about Liverpool Football Club, just the men’s side. That was where I first met the other Hub founders, Georgia Goulding and Taylor Kujawa”
After some early interactions over a couple of years, Drew remembers that it was Georgia who broached the idea of branching out to also cover the then struggling women’s side. The outlet that the duo worked for agreed to this proposition and Georgia opened the opportunity to colleagues. A small group expressed interest and subsequently content started to be created in support of Liverpool Women.
“We were that outlets women’s department for around about a year. Then leading up to the World Cup in 2019, myself and Georgia by this point were best mates, she said to me, ‘it’s quite limiting. Each season we’ve rinsed every little bit we can out of Liverpool Women, how can we do more?’”
Photographs courtesy of Drew Diamond
Seed planted; the pair welcomed a surprise third party to the team before taking the plunge. Leaving their full-time employment to found Her Football Hub.
“It was Taylor, who neither of us had spoken to at great length, [he] joined us and showed real enthusiasm about leaving with us and creating something where we could cover everything. And it turns out Taylor is an absolute master website designer, so that worked!”
“We decided to enjoy the World Cup as fans and after that we’ll go into it, and [thought] we’ll make sure that the quality of work is good enough that people know we haven’t jumped on the bandwagon.”
“It was nerve wracking going from an outlet with 150,000 followers to something that we’d created that only our parents and friends followed.”
Drew jokes about the screenshots he still has saved to his phone when the platform, which now has over 9000 followers, had only 20 followers to its name. But he is careful not to get caught up in the numbers or the fanfare that sometimes erupts when a post gains attention.
It’s all about the community for Drew and his fellow founders, a group that exude genuine desire to maintain the very principles and inclusivity that made them fall in love with women’s football in the first place.
“We want Her Football Hub to be a safe space. It’s why our staff page on the website has the teams’ pronouns on there, so everyone who visits the site will know we are aware of the relevance of things like that. In the past we’ve refused investment and support from betting and gambling companies to avoid triggering anyone, it needs to remain as ethical and as safe a space as possible.”
Recollecting the early days of Her Football Hub once more, Drew explains the introduction of volunteers to widen its outreach.
“At that point we needed volunteers, so we reached out and we got some really interesting people.”
“Tom King joined as a photographer, he started trawling the country and taking other writers to games. He was a massive part at the start. Megan Hughes, who is still with us, was playing for Leeds at the time and we did an article on the league they were in. She was so thankful and asked if she could do more, so she joined.”
“One of our close friends, Audrey Corminboeuf, she joined us, and we had this real strong team of people that cared about the project.”
In fact, Drew recalls it was Audrey’s input that landed Her Football Hub it’s first major break.
“Audrey, she used to play for Monaco and one of the contacts she’d made from that was Fabinho and his wife, Rebeca Tavares. So [she] said, ‘not many people know this but his wife used to play, can I interview her and see what content comes out of it?’ We said, absolutely yes, and she came up with the interview. It was a really good piece about how she’s living her dreams through her husband and how nice it was for her to invest in football again via someone else at a higher level.”
“Every national newspaper picked it up – The Mirror, The Telegraph, Liverpool Echo, all the regionals, some outlets in Brazil, in France, and suddenly our website went mad. We logged on to see our statistics and this had hit 45,000 views. Now every time Fabinho scores that article gets about 2000 extra views. People must google and then things come up and it must make people inquisitive, ‘who is his wife?’, and then they realise it’s not just his wife, it’s more than that.”
“That’s the thing about women’s sport. Until recently every person in it was sort of overshadowed by someone else. That is why we started, we wanted to help these women and players become their own personalities, become their own stories. Not the next Messi or anything like that. We want them to be Marta or Formiga, whoever they are.”
At its core, Her Football Hub is a place to share the untold stories of these footballers, to fill the gaps and allow players to scribe their own narratives. Drew uses Georgia’s interview with Southampton defender Laura Rafferty as an example, specifically noting Rafferty’s candour to the ebbs and flows of the game and the impact this can have in broader life circumstances.
“We wanted to add to, because we can’t do it all ourselves, but we needed to add to the culture [of women having their own spotlight], and I think we’ve started to achieve that.”
Certainly, one would argue, Her Football Hub is well on its way to achieving that and more. As well as the UK, the platform now provides regular coverage of leagues and clubs in Poland, India, Kenya, Spain and Germany amongst others, exploits Drew insists “wouldn’t be possible without our volunteers.”
Photographs courtesy of Drew Diamond
Following from the continued success of Her Football Hub and his growing input into women’s football, Drew has branched out into talent management alongside fellow enthusiast Ajani Pile-Gray.
Laughing as he mimics his Mum’s words “you should be an agent”, Drew goes on to recount the many times he reminded her that “most players already have agents and you need to know what you’re doing…it’s not as easy as, ‘I’ll just be your agent.’”
However, after meeting through Ajani’s project, ‘Throw in the Kitchen Sink’ - a women’s football documentary highlighting ongoing issues surrounding the game, Drew’s Mum’s words came to fruition.
“He came and interviewed me and from then on our professional relationship and friendship really started to grow.”
Sterling Management was founded by Drew and Ajani last year and has already secured moves for Women’s Championship and Women’s Super League players, including Amber Stobbs from Crystal Palace to Watford, and Jade Pennock from Sheffield United to Birmingham City. Drew cites the connections he made through Her Football Hub as a starting point for this venture.
“We made some content for Jade after realising [she followed HFH] and then put a few pieces out. She got in touch with the Hub.”
And she just so happened to need an agent.
“I cried when Jade scored [her first goal for Birmingham]”, Drew admits, “I had about 50 texts from people all saying JADE in capital letters. It happened to be on Sky Sports and I was like, ‘ah it’s happening!’”
“It was a really good moment, actually brought a tear to my eye. I wasn’t sobbing, but it was a very intense feeling of pride because I know how much she has grinded in the Championship scoring a goal a game, goal a game, and had not had that big move.”
“To see it all pay off, and her face when she was celebrating, honestly my eyes were watery!”
After spending time with Drew, this reaction is not wholly surprising. This is a man who cares as deeply for his friends and colleagues, as he does for the sport itself. A man who makes a point of getting to know, not just those immediately around him, but those much further afield across the women’s football community. A man whose presence makes the game inherently richer.
Drew speaks with enthusiasm and clear value for each individual he mentions. Through the stories he tells of friends, every moment exuding a compelling compassion, it becomes all the more obvious that the consideration of others is high on his list of priorities. This affection becomes noticeably apparent as his face lights up when circling back to Georgia.
“I’m so proud of her. She is now one of the most respected women’s journalists within women’s sport. She’s been working for that for years. It genuinely makes me really happy.”
Reminding Drew of his own accomplishments, he acknowledges his fortune in being offered opportunities. As he reflects on his growth since Her Football Hub was launched, Drew picks the 2020 FA Cup Final as a personal highlight.
“There was only about 50 people there, and there was the light show, and I thought to my Nan again. She’d probably be proud of me right now. How much she loved women’s football, and obviously now I’m working in that base, and here I am at Wembley where only accredited media are allowed. It kind of invoked all emotions in me. It was an overwhelming privilege to be in that situation.”
Drew goes on to commend those who have offered their time to cover the game in years previous to have gotten the game to a point where FA Cups Final’s are played at Wembley Stadium. He specifically names Tim Stillman, Girls on the Ball and Jen O’Neill as people he has looked to.
“They’re the people that have inspired us.”
Although Drew aspires to follow in footsteps, and to lay some of his own, he insists that the Hub is in no rush to turn fully professional. For now, focus remains on maintaining a respectful and inclusive stance within the industry, and providing a space for their writers and volunteers to grow. Yet as he looks forward, Drew plants a sentiment that stirs a sense of forthcoming jubilation.
“It’s going to be really cool in about 50 years, when we’re a lot older, to look back, because the game’s going to be so different. There’s going to be people like myself, and you, and those that have been doing it way before us, and we’re just going to be able to feel like we all did something. It’s going to be a real special feeling when we get that nostalgia. I can’t wait for that moment.”
Drew, neither can we.
Her Football Hub
Drew Diamond, Her Football Hub, Sterling Management