Meet David Ray

AlixAlumnus David Ray shares his journey to the executive team of a soccer club.

Photo of David Ray
Photo of David Ray

The road to the front office of an English Football League club is paved with spreadsheets and hot pies.

So goes the story of Plymouth Argyle Football Club’s Head of Finance, David Ray, who spent four formative years at AlixPartners before moving over to the C-suite of the League One team. “I built all new financial models for the club, but they were all based off principles that I'd learned working on projects at AlixPartners,” he said. "AlixPartners gave me the platform to build a career in an area that I am passionate about."

Growing up in Yorkshire, in England’s north, David said “I just loved football. Everything I did was football." In high school, he interned at Sunderland Association Football Club, spending time in as many departments as he could, from working in the ticket office and the club store to serving gameday treats in the hospitality suite.

After obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance at the London School of Economics, he joined AlixPartners through the graduate program and launched into work for the firm while finishing his accounting exams. Shortly thereafter, soccer came calling again.

“One of the Managing Directors came to my desk and said, ‘We've got this new lead — it's a football club,’” David said. “My eyes lit up.”

Working on the pitch wasn’t just valuable in terms of putting his financial modeling skills into play, but also in joining high-level meetings with the client, a premier-league club. “I learned so much from the whole experience, not just from a forensic accounting standpoint, but about how to write an expert report and how to conduct yourself in meetings with executives,” he said.

In 2020, an unmissable opportunity for David to bring together his two passions came up at Plymouth Argyle where he took on the role of Head of Finance. “We as a football club rely heavily on data both on the pitch and off the pitch,” he explained. “I've been able to help out advising members of the football staff on modeling principles and databases, and, again, all of that started with AlixPartners.”


David as a young football player

David speaking on an executive panel for Plymouth Argyle fans.

David speaking on an executive panel for Plymouth Argyle fans.

With David running the club’s financials, the club recently recorded its highest-ever revenue. He has turned his forensic skills to everything from ticket pricing to the sales of Cornish pasties (meat pies), the favored game-day treat for the “green army” who show up to stadium kiosks in support of their team.

“My team and I look at data across all areas of the football club. In doing so, we saw that we sell [loads of] pasties in the hour closest to the game, but people aren't coming to the stadium early,” he said, “so now we offer promotional offers such as an early-bird discount to encourage people to arrive prior to kickoff.”

“We want to try and maximize profit in order to invest back into the football team,” said David.

Working in the world of the English Football League has also brought other AlixAlumni into the picture: Former AlixPartners Senior Vice President John Potterill-Tilney now works as Director of Club Financial Reporting for the English Football League. Other AlixPartners colleagues will message David when they see Plymouth Argyle has a game in London, angling for a catchup.

From volunteering in the ticket office to making financial decisions that shape the team out on the pitch, David sees AlixPartners as one of the key reasons he has the opportunity to do the work he does today.

“Honestly, I feel like it's not like going to work. It's absolutely fascinating. I can't get enough.”