Spotlight: Interview with Rita Revie, CEO and Co-Founder of Soccerex
You founded Soccerex with your late husband Duncan in 1995 but, prior to this, had developed a successful career in the events industry. Can you tell us about this early part of your career and the experiences that have helped you in running Soccerex?
Sure. My career in events began in my early twenties when I first came over to England. I got a job working in accounts for SuperSports which at the time was founded by Ranjit Anand, of Expotel. This then became Keith Prowse. Ranjit was perhaps the founder of modern hospitality as we know it today. It was a challenge but I quickly found my feet and after moving into the operations team and becoming more involved with the event delivery I really found my niche and started moving up the ladder. After a few years, I was heading up the operations team – I was one of only a very small number of female management at the company and was proud to manage a team of 10 people who were mostly women. We went on to deliver the hospitality at many marquee events, including Wimbledon which I managed for 5 or 6 years.
It was at Keith Prowse that I met Duncan and in the mid-eighties, we left to start our own hospitality business which we ran for a number of years, working at events such as the Royal Windsor Horseshow, Cheltenham, Henley and Royal Ascot, before establishing Contrast International, the events company through which we first hosted Soccerex!
The years working at Keith Prowse and then running our business taught me so much, not just about the events industry and managing people, but about the belief and resilience needed to go out on your own and make a success of a new venture.
Rita Revie, Karina LeBlanc, Victor Montagliani and Alexi Lalas attending a panel at Soccerex USA
How has the industry changed with regards to the opportunities & respect for women since you started Soccerex?
It was very male dominated when we first started – you’d walk the floor at our events and you’d barely see another woman! There is still a long way to go in terms of the gender balance in football but looking at our events it has definitely improved and we are seeing more of a focus on the women’s game and more women involved in high profile roles.
I have seen proof of this at Soccerex, with several of the women who worked for me go onto to take senior roles at high profile footballs clubs and agencies.
One turning point, I think, was the appointment of Fatma Samoura as the first female Secretary General of FIFA. To have a woman in such an important role in the governance of football is a huge step. I have been fortunate enough to meet Fatma on a number of occasions – she is such a lovely person and her passion for championing equality and diversity is truly inspiring.
With Soccerex you have worked in 12 countries in 5 different continents – what has been your experience of these markets and the way in which women feature?
Every market is different but I have been fortunate enough to work with a number of high profile woman in the industry. From the likes of Moya Dodd and Samar Nasser in Asia to Karina LeBlanc and Amanda Vandervort at our most recent event in the US. These women have all been strong, vocal, inspirational characters – these ladies set a high standard and are roles models for any young woman looking to get into the industry.
Speaking of roles models, who are your role models both in business and in life?
Firstly, I’d have to say my Mum and my Grandma. They were both such strong women - they had to be; Grandma had eleven children and mum was one of only two girls. With nine brothers you can imagine just how male dominated their house was and so they to be tough and stand their ground! They were very hard-working women and I definitely got my work ethic from them.
My second choice won’t be universally popular. I’m going to have to say Margret Thatcher. Love her or hate her you had to admire her strength of character and what she achieved – becoming the first female Prime Minister is no mean feat!
Finally, a little bit of a left field one, but I’m going say JK Rowling. She is obviously such a smart and talented lady but she started out on the dole, writing Harry Potter in a café while looking after her young daughter. It is this tenacity that I find the most inspiring.
What advice would you give to women who are just starting out on their careers?
My mantra in life is “Lead by example”. Always has been. I think this is really important. You must set high standards if you want others to follow. This helps you to gain the respect you deserve regardless of your gender. And don’t be afraid to jump in at the deep end – it is often that you learn the most when you are really challenged.
Philippe Moggio and Rita Revie at the Concacaf exhibition at Soccerex USA
Finally, what does International Women’s Day mean to you?
I think the fact that we have an International Women’s Day is both a good and a bad thing – on the one hand, having a global day dedicated to celebrating women is a very powerful and positive thing; something that can change perceptions and help make a difference to society. But the fact that it is needed means that there is a problem with inequality which still needs to be addressed. I suppose it is positive that society has recognised the need for greater equality but ultimately, we want to be in a position where there no longer needs to be an International Women’s Day as there is no longer a problem to highlight.
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