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Haverfordwest CEO preparing for Europe after ‘devastating’ Arsenal redundancy

13 Jul 2023 5 minute read
Haverfordwest chief executive Georgina Nicholas (Credit: Simon Galloway/PA Wire)

Phil Blanche, PA Sport

Georgina Nicholas was “devastated” to lose her job at Arsenal due to the coronavirus pandemic but will now join them in Europe in her role as chief executive of JD Cymru Premier club Haverfordwest.

Nicholas spent eight years at Arsenal after managing multiple retail businesses in London’s West End and being headhunted by the Premier League club to work as their retail operations manager.

The 38-year-old “loved my job” of overseeing five stores, 27 managers and 300 people, but her world was turned upside down in August 2020 when Arsenal responded to the Covid crisis by announcing plans to make 55 staff redundant.

Nicholas was among those to get the dreaded call to join a Teams meeting and hear the bad news as Arsenal publicly defended their actions by saying they had looked at “every aspect of the club and our expenditure before reaching this point”.

She said: “I was devastated, it was really difficult to manage. It was also devastating to see people you spent so much time with lose their jobs.

“I was told: ‘Look, this is the situation we’re in, this is the decision the club has made and this is the result of that’. You’re told to go through a consultancy period where your job is potentially on the line and you can argue why you should stay in role.

“But it’s hard to argue when they’ve already made the decision. I did put some options forward about other roles, but I knew what was going to happen and that my life was going to change.”

Haverfordwest chief executive Georgina Nicholas (Credit: Simon Galloway/PA Wire)

Arsenal drew strong criticism at the time for making a swathe of redundancies in their football, commercial and administration departments.

But Nicholas remains philosophical about the call, saying: “Ultimately it was a business decision, nothing personal. It didn’t come as any shock to me.

“I’m certainly not going to criticise Arsenal because that was right for their business. I was a casualty of it as millions of other working people were during that period.”

Nicholas had left her native Pembrokeshire at the age of 17 but with few opportunities in the London retail market post-Covid she returned home to west Wales.

She helped her family provide care for her sick grandmother and briefly took a retail role that involved an “unfeasible” amount of travel across the UK.

“I’d done a complete 360 coming home and felt I had been knocked off my pedestal,” said Nicholas, who spotted on social media that Haverfordwest were seeking a general manager.

“I thought ‘That’s really interesting’ and the chairman Rob Edwards was looking for someone with in-depth experience of working in football.

“I went through the process, put a presentation together, and got the opportunity of putting my vision for the club into life.”

Nicholas was appointed in March, with Haverfordwest so impressed with her CV and ability that her role was upgraded to chief executive officer.

Two months later Haverfordwest qualified for Europe for the first time in 19 years, and only the second occasion in their history, by beating Newtown on penalties in the Cymru Premier’s European play-off final.

Haverfordwest chief executive Georgina Nicholas (Credit: Simon Galloway/PA Wire)

The Bluebirds meet Shkendija of North Macedonia in the first qualifying round of the Europa Conference League, with Thursday’s away leg to be played in the 33,000-capacity Tose Proeski Arena.

Haverfordwest, whose squad contains Wales Euro 2016 semi-finalist Jazz Richards, must make the 95-mile trip to the Cardiff City Stadium for the return game as their Bridge Meadow ground does not meet UEFA standards.

“We’re definitely ahead of plan but our ambition is not only to be in Europe but to be successful there,” said Nicholas.

“We know it’s difficult to attract players because our location is off the beaten track. But the higher the profile of the club is raised the more attractive it becomes.

“Rob is quite a visionary and we want to be a trailblazer that sets trends. Leadership positions in sport tend to be male dominated and it’s important we see more females coming into sport in general and taking up roles.

“But it’s not just about being a female. It’s about having the right person in the right role and meeting the objectives of the club and the board.”

And what about the possibility of going back to the Emirates Stadium in European competition one day?

“That would be a good story to tell,” she said. “I don’t think we’re quite there yet, but one day who knows?”

Haverfordwest play Shkendija tonight in the first qualifying round of the Europa Conference League, kick off 7pm.

The return leg will be played at the Cardiff City Stadium next Thursday, July 20, kick off 7.45pm.


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George Thomas
George Thomas
8 months ago

They have a good youtube documentary series which is worth a watch.

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