Lee Mansell, the former professional footballer and manager, has recently taken on a new challenge working as a Player Services Executive at the PFA.
With a successful 17-year playing career and experience in management, Mansell is eager to bring his wealth of knowledge and skills to the table to support and guide players in navigating the challenges of professional football.
Mansell's playing career began as a trainee with Luton Town, but it was his time with Torquay United that really defined his career. He served as the club's captain and PFA Delegate, and was the club's highest appearance holder, making him a fans favourite at Plainmoor with a reputation for hard work, dedication and leadership.
In 2014, Mansell moved to Bristol Rovers and was part of the team that achieved two successive promotions to the Football League. After retiring from professional football, he worked as a Coach across all phases for Bristol Rovers' academy for four seasons before leaving the club in 2021. He was also briefly interim manager of National League North club Gloucester City in 2021-2022.
Speaking to Markus Fjørtoft, Mansell describes how he plans to transfer his experiences from his time as a player, coach and manager to his new position with the PFA.
"The opportunity to work for the players' union was a big motivator for me," says Mansell. "Management is a fantastic job, but the reality is you may only ever be six games away from the sack. After losing my job at Gloucester, I was looking for more stability for my family, but I still wanted to be involved in football, which I really enjoy."
As a former player, Mansell understands the ups and downs of the football industry and is looking forward to using his experience to help players navigate the complexities of the sport. "I've got 17 years of playing experience and I have come across a lot of things that are encompassed in this role. From negotiating contracts to handling disciplinaries, it all gives you a good head start into going into this new position."
Mansell will operate out of the South West and joins a department with other veterans of the game such as Ritchie Humphreys, Fern Whelan, Paul Allen, Fabrice Muamba, Scott McGleish and Simon Barker.
"One of the real attractions of joining the Player Services team, is that you are on the front line, out in the dressing rooms. We act as the initial point of contact for players who seek assistance from the union. Our role includes representing players in disciplinary matters, providing guidance and advice, and directing them to the other services available through the PFA. So it could be a coaching or education query or a more serious matter. But, our objective is to establish relationships with the players and have a strong presence within the clubs."
Mansell's previous experiences have also given him confidence in his ability to communicate with players, "Working in professional football, you get accustomed to microphones and cameras being thrust in your face, so you're kind of used to that type of presenting, it prepares you well to speak in front of people.
"Speaking to players isn't a problem for me, the biggest adjustment for me is remembering that I am now on the player side again. In coaching and management, you can be on the other side of that dynamic, but in this role, I am here to represent the players and support them."
In his new role, Mansell is eager to help players understand the complexities of professional football, and feels that his time as a player and manager has prepared him well to share his experiences.
"Throughout my football journey, I mixed with a lot of people, I have seen how the game is constantly evolving, and there are always new challenges for players. Areas such as social media and the pressures that can bring or the number of people surrounding players now, advisors and agents. Navigating that can be daunting, especially for younger players. It can be hard to ensure you are getting the right information and knowing which are the right decisions for you. It can also create a culture of dependency for the players, where they might not be as mature or self-sufficient, which can lead to issues further down the line."
Finally, Mansell feels he is well placed to help advise players on making the most of their union membership, having benefited and participated in the services as a player, "Aside from Coaching qualifications, I’ve taken advantage of the opportunities provided by the PFA, initially a taster plumbing course, which in turn led to full evening course, and then I trained as a tiler. I was also fortunate enough to receive a lump sum payment from my pension, which is an amazing benefit for players. My qualifications in plumbing and tiling, combined with my pension payment from the PFA, enabled me to renovate a property which my wife now works from.”
"I want to encourage players to take advantage of the opportunities for personal development available during their spare time instead of just engaging in leisure activities. You need to invest in yourself and educate yourself. You never know when you’ll hit that transition point. The support and services are there, so you need to make the most of them.”