Sol Campbell, the former Arsenal and England defender who now runs FBC London, on the banter, birds and sartorial flair involved in game shooting.
Robert Cuthbert (RC): So, what’s going on with you professionally at the moment, Sol Campbell?
Sol Campbell (SC): “Various things with my wife and the interior design company Fiona Barratt Interiors (FBI), and the new furniture company FBC London, which we are taking into LA. We are looking to go to Moscow, maybe Hong Kong, Singapore and Shanghai…
“I’m also in the last six months of my Pro-License Coaching Badges training. Once those are completed I’ll be able to coach around the world at any level. I’m also helping out the Conservatives on various issues to do with sport and diversity.”
RC: You’re very hands on with the business then?
SC: “Yes, very much so. My wife started FBI and FBC London, which is the furniture side of things; Fiona designs everything, and I am joint director of both companies. We are slowly building it all. We have a new store and studio opening in Victoria that will be 6,000 square feet.”
RC: How did you find shooting?
SC: “I’ve only just started really. My wife’s family kept inviting me to shoot and I just didn’t want to go, but since retiring from football I’ve had more time and I thought… let’s get all the kit and practice. I didn’t want all the gear and no idea, so that was my starting point – shooting clays.
“My wife part-owns her family estate in Yorkshire, Farndale. Her grandfather bought it 35 years ago. They have 4,500 acres and are starting to really get it going. It has pheasant, partridge and grouse.
“My first time, two years ago, I managed to shoot 11 birds having never picked up a gun before. Last year I went to a couple of clay ranges, Bywell and another one in Newcastle, and I was quite the natural. I am very competitive so I really listen to instruction. It was enjoyable. This year I shot about 30 birds – much to the annoyance of my father-in-law. That was a mixture of birds. The banter was just lovely… that’s always great.
“We were invited by one of our neighbours up in Perthshire recently but I couldn’t make it… such a shame. I hope we get invited again. You meet really interesting people too, but for me, as long as the birds end up on a dinner table and people are enjoying them, then that’s fine. That’s the point for me. I wouldn’t want to go deer stalking, that’s just not for me.”
RC: Have you got your eye on a particular gun?
SC: “I use an over-under. I think things are starting to change regarding side-by-sides versus over-unders, don’t you? I’ll think about side-by-sides when I’m invited to a royal shoot, maybe. I use a Browning with 32” barrels. I once used my father-in-law’s gun, which has 30” barrels and it makes a massive difference. They say ‘when you pick up a gun, you connect with it’ and the Browning was the one I really connected with. It was a bit heavier than the other guns, which was better for me. They were very good up at the Bywell Shooting Ground, they showed me how to take the gun apart and put it together and how to clean it, which is all very important to someone new like me. It gives you so much more confidence when you know how to look after a gun properly.”
RC: You’re known for your sartorial flair. Does this apply to shooting kit as well?
SC: “I do like the attire. I have all sorts of country clothing because we do live in Northumberland as well as London. You need good quality gear. If it starts pelting it down and you’re in bad gear, you get wet very quickly. The style is important to me, but the quality goes hand-in-hand with it. I love the fabrics, the materials and the cuts. I love the whole sporting side of it.
“For me it’s all a challenge and I love learning. It’s been interesting getting into it and I’m enjoying it.”
RC: Is there a particular aspect of shooting that fascinates you, something you haven’t yet tried…driven grouse, maybe?
SC: “Everyone says grouse are very difficult… so very quick. One day, for sure. They are a different ball game. I want to get going where I am at the moment. I don’t want to get ‘ahead of the gun’, so to speak. I want to be solid and get into my rhythm first, starting off slowly and building up. Hopefully, I’ll have many, many years of this to come.”