Education, education, education

Sports business and management courses have proliferated worldwide as the sports industry has grown more sophisticated. Today there are a multitude of programmes designed to prepare students for the specific needs of the industry and its increasing number of specialist executive roles. Here, SportsPro has assembled five experts in the field for a roundtable discussion.

Original article from, November 2013 edition

The Panel

PROFESSOR SIMON CHADWICK is the Professor of Sport Business Strategy and Marketing at Coventry University. With more than 20 years’ experience working in sport, business and management education, he is also the director of the university’s Centre for the International Business of Sport (CIBS). His faculty provides a large number of education and training opportunities, ranging from undergraduate and postgraduate degrees to Continuing Professional Development courses and bespoke training and development programmes. PROFESSOR LEV BELOUSOV is rector and chief executive of the Russian International Olympic University (RIOU), which opened its doors in 2008 under a Memorandum of Understanding between the Russian Olympic Committee, the IOC and the Sochi 2014 organising committee. Set on the only dedicated sports business campus in the world, the RIOU recently welcomed its first intake of MSA students. A doctor of history, Belousov is the author of more than 100 scientific articles on the political history of western countries. VINCENT SCHATZMANN is the general secretary of the International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES), a multidisciplinary and independent study centre located in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. Created in 1995 as a joint venture between world soccer governing body Fifa, the University of Neuchâtel, and local municipal authorities, the centre offers the Fifa Master in Management, Law and Humanities of Sport in partnership with three universities – De Montfort University in Leicester, England; SDA Bocconi School of Management in Milan, Italy; and the University of Neuchâtel. The intensive one-year postgraduate programme is now considered one of the leading sports management programmes in the world. DR DANIEL FUNK is a faculty member at Temple University in Philadelphia, where he is also Director of Research and PhD Programmes for the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management. Funk’s programme is the largest provider of sport and recreation management education in the Philadelphia region, offering a comprehensive curriculum of classroom instruction, experiential learning and executive education. A pioneer of the global sports marketing industry, PATRICK NALLY is often invited to share his knowledge and wisdom by mentoring students studying on a wide range of programmes, from master’s degrees to specialised courses such as the Fifa Master.

SportsPro: Is there a growing need for professional, bespoke education within the sports industry and if so, why?

Chadwick: Sport is no longer just ‘for sport’s sake’, it is now a multi-million pound industry generating significant levels of economic activity, export earnings, employment and so forth. As such, both the industry in general and organisations within it require appropriate skills and competences to ensure sport is delivered effectively, efficiently and, in some cases, profitably. Without relevant education, training and development, the skills requirements of the industry will not be met, and the industry as a whole will be unable to fulfil the clear growth potential it is now demonstrating. Nally: Yes, the industry has become significant in both its scope and size. Initially there weren’t any education opportunities and people in the industry had to learn ‘on the job’. As more people are attracted into the industry it is important that they have access to dedicated industry education. Without structured education the industry will not set the standards and be taken for the professional business it is. Schatzmann: Yes, there is a need for tailor-made sport management education. For individuals to be able to enter and make a positive contribution to the industry from the start of their careers, it is extremely important for them to have the skills and knowledge to be able to work with conf dence. Many of the problems and day-to-day operations of sport are unique to the industry and therefore if you have acquired specialist knowledge you are better equipped to respond.

SportsPro: What non-sporting functions within a sports-focused business need specific training/courses?

Nally: Understanding of sport helps but it’s not the sports understanding that drives the industry. Clearly a good understanding of business administration, accounting, legal, technology, etc is helpful but a detailed understanding of how all the elements link to make sport the powerful medium that it is, is essential for ‘new recruits’. Belousov: Sports federations, NOCs, organising committees and other agencies all require people armed with competence in areas such as sports law, finance, marketing, security, sustainability and accessibility – to name but a few. The best courses ensure that their students not only grasp the importance of these areas, but also understand how they work together and impact on each other. Schatzmann: Clubs are more professional now and far more like a traditional business in their departmental structure than the more amateur management style of, say, 20 or 30 years ago. All of these areas require specialist training and qualifications. Chadwick: Sport needs to continue learning from other industrial sectors and not just rely on its own experiences and unique features as the basis for learning, training and development. Clearly areas like, for example, competition design are something quite unique to sport, which requires a particular knowledge base and set of skills.

SportsPro: What advantage would a sports graduate have in finding employment within the industry over a graduate from a more traditional/ academic discipline?

Schatzmann: Clearly, candidates who have gained a specialist sport management qualification will be in a better position to make a positive contribution as they enter such a fascinating and dynamic area of work. Sport is becoming increasingly more specialised and recruiters need graduates with specialist skills and knowledge. Belousov: Over the last few decades, the sports industry has grown and evolved. As a result, it has its own language, its own modif ed practices. A sports event is very different from a music event. A sports PR campaign is very different from a political PR campaign. Chadwick: Many sport programmes are highly practical, combining elements of work experience, internship programmes, volunteering opportunities and ‘live’ site visits. As such, many students are given regular and high-quality insights into the way sport works. This is especially important as sport as an industry and sport organisations have a distinctive culture. If students are exposed to this culture throughout their programmes, it helps them understand the challenges of working in the industry, enabling them to adapt more quickly to the sphere of work they are seeking to enter. Funk: The Sport and Recreation Management programme prepares students interested in sport and recreation careers in the private/commercial sector, public recreation and park agencies, professional sports, athletics, youth sport agencies, voluntary agencies, campus services, armed forces, and corporate/ industrial settings. The key advantages we offer beyond sport business curriculum are networking opportunities and work experience. Every fall for more than 20 years, the school has hosted its annual Career Day event. Our students have the opportunity to participate in this valuable day that features an impressive list of industry partners. Students come prepared and professionally dressed, and enjoy meaningful conversations with professionals from across the Greater Philadelphia region. It is a fantastic chance to network, seek internships, schedule interviews and fnd out more about the sport and recreation felds. Schatzmann: One final advantage for graduates from sporting courses is their instant connection to alumni from earlier years who have already carved out impressive careers in the sport industry. Those links are very valuable.

SportsPro: Internships in sport – crucial platform and learning experience, or exploitative use of free labour?

Funk: Internships provide valuable experience and opportunities to build a network of industry professionals. In many cases, internships lead to future employment. Nally: Internships could be very valuable but have unfortunately in the past been abused to secure free labour. If the industry wants to improve its standards, education has to be an integral part of the recruitment process. Just because ‘Your Dad’ knows a person in the industry shouldn’t be the criteria for selection. Schatzmann: Any opportunity to gain relevant work experience is always of value. It is also important to remember that many of these internships can be the frst step to a more senior role within an organisation. However, internships should be limited in time, and the working conditions of good quality. Chadwick: As with any organisation in any industrial sector, there are good internships and bad internships. Good internships and those who provide them do not exploit students. Such internships are normally well structured, carefully managed and appropriately expose students to the kind of tasks they will routinely face when working in the sport industry. By working on this kind of internship, students can and do secure a competitive advantage over their labour market rivals. I do worry, though, that rather too many internship providers use sport to seduce students into accepting internships that are indeed exploitative. This needs to stop – it refects badly on the organisations, detracts from a student’s experience and casts the sport industry in a bad light.

SportsPro: What process do you go through to gauge whether your students and graduates are fully prepared for life in the sports industry?

Chadwick: We incorporate various mechanisms into our programmes; many of our staff have worked in various occupations and roles across sport and so bring a wealth of experience in insight into the training, development and assessment of students. Added to this, we try to engage practitioners in feeding back to students about their strengths, weaknesses and preparedness for work. Belousov: Our students are required to prepare projects tailored to a specifc area of the sports industry in a specifc country. They must provide an outline of how their project will work early on and then incorporate a full spectrum of practical factors – such as social, economic and environmental. The most successful projects will be those that can recognise all these factors, utilise them and so accurately refect a real-life project. There’s a quick tip for our students! Schatzmann: We have an extensive candidate selection and interview process before candidates are offered a place of study. We also utilise our extensive global alumni network by encouraging applicants to talk to former students so that they are fully aware of the course and the attributes they will need to be successful both during their studies but also upon entering the sports management workplace.

SportsPro: Which territories are most developed in terms of education services in the business of sport? What are the emerging markets?

Chadwick: In truth, I don’t think that any market anywhere in the world has really perfected the art – or the science – of education services in the business of sport. The United States probably has the most mature and sophisticated offerings right now, but these tend to focused mainly on North American sports. Australian sport business and management education has been growing for some years and is now reasonably robust – the same too with countries like Germany, France and Great Britain. However, I don’t think the sector in any country has yet reached full maturity. That said, this is a fast-maturing market and I would expect to see major advances in provision over the next ten years. One reason for this is the emergence of new markets and the growth of sport provision in territories like Qatar, Russia, China and Brazil. Not only is such a growth servicing market need, it is taking sport business education in new and innovative directions. Nally: The USA has excellent courses; Europe is becoming strong, as is Asia. It’s interesting to see the wide participation at dedicated courses; in one class of 25 we had 22 different countries represented. There have been a noticeable take-up by Chinese, Brazilians, Russians and Koreans – all of which are countries hosting mega events. India, most South American markets. indeed, any nation active in soccer is attracting dedicated students. Belousov: Russia is undoubtedly one of the world’s fastest-growing sporting nations, but we are not alone. Other former CIS states have their own hosting ambitions: Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine. The countries that make up the former Soviet Union are a bloc of emerging markets with great potential.

SportsPro: Do you think that employment opportunities within the sports industry are suffciently open and transparent? Many companies only recruit graduates who have completed internships with them; does this not limit the pool of potential employees to those who can afford to work as interns?

Schatzmann: With so many people interested in a career in sport it is diffcult to gain entry and networking is very important indeed. Many organisations prefer to recruit from areas they know will be reliable and they have the opportunity to test the skills and commitment of candidates. One way to do this is via an internship system. However, as organisations continue to expand we are seeing the increasing infuence of specialist recruitment agencies. Equally, the more complex nature of today’s world of sport demonstrates the need for better trained managers for the future ­something which is good for educational institutions, the transparency of the employment market and for sport itself. Nally: I think it has taken a while for the industry to wake up to the needs of dedicated education in the sports marketing sector. In the past, internships were the only way young people could access the industry. This is now rapidly changing especially as the industry requires talent around the world, not just in a few markets that house major sports agencies. For example, every major football club in the world now requires a dedicated and specialist marketing team. Chadwick: In too many cases, I think sport still has a reputation of giving ‘jobs to the boys’; that is, to people who already have connections inside the industry. For me, this is a far bigger problem than the issue of whether internships give an unfair advantage to those who can afford to do them.

SportsPro: What can sport learn from other specialised industries, like entertainment and fashion, in bringing through new talent? In what respects is it ahead?

Schatzmann: Sport management is a specialist area of work and it is important for applicants to have a good understanding of it and a good network of contacts. I would say that sport is as open to new ideas as the world of fashion and entertainment. While these sectors may regularly serve as examples of innovation, many new ways of analysing performance, marketing and partnership ideas have frst been unveiled in sport. Sport management is often at the forefront of new ideas in business management but we should always be listening to other industries. Chadwick: I don’t think sport just has to learn from other specialised industries, it can and must also learn from industries like IT, finance, engineering and retailing. My view is that sport is not specialised, it faces the full array of challenges that any business faces, whether it is Amazon, HSBC or Vodafone. I really do prefer not to compare sport to ‘specialist’ industries or niche providers – sport is a mainstream industry, facing mainstream industry challenges and pressures. As such, I think the practice of sport management needs to grow in order to reflect the scale, magnitude, importance and impact that sport can have on economic and commercial activity around the world. In short: the next big challenge for sport business and management is to grow from being a young kid to, at the very least, become a maturing adolescent.

SportsPro: As it grows more specialised, how do you prevent education in the sports industry from sealing in one way of thinking? How do you remain receptive to new ideas?

Nally: By integrating the activities of the industry within the education structure – involving top universities, think tank units, corporate business – it creates for itself the ability for more ‘open’ and challenging debate. Competition between universities and courses will also help keep it fresh. Belousov: Industries today evolve at a rapid rate, and nowhere is that more true than in the sports industry. Our expert lecturers come from over ten countries and their experience and worldwide contacts keep our course fresh, modern and insightful. They are then supported by our system of ‘visiting professors’ which brings specialists to RIOU’s doorstep. We encourage our students to actively seize all the opportunities, intel and best practice available to them from those at the vanguard of sport business and administration. Schatzmann: I think it would be very difficult and also unlikely for the industry to stick to one way of thinking. Indeed, one of the great strengths of the industry is that it is so innovative and open to new ideas. All clubs in any sport are trying to achieve a competitive advantage over their rivals. As a result, new ideas are always considered if this can produce a better result. The sport marketplace is often crowded and sports are always looking for new ways to interact with fans. If only one way of thinking was used this would not be possible. Chadwick: Something I feel very strongly about is the context for sport in the various countries where it is played or delivered, which I refer to as ‘socio -cultural embeddedness’. This is why Indians love cricket, Lithuanians love basketball and Canadians love ice hockey. As such, sports have a rich history, a distinct identity and a narrative that transcends business. Managers in sport would do well to factor such considerations into their decision-making. Otherwise, it is essential that sport managers accept that sport has no divine right to retain its position in the public spotlight, nor to claim that its sport might in some way be at the pinnacle of management best practice. It is essential that sport business management evolves and matures, constantly looking outward ­benchmarking practice and perfor mance both within and outside the industry. The likes of Manchester United or Ferrari often do hold lessons for good management in sport, but so too do the likes of Microsoft, VW and Topshop.

SportsPro: In the future, what value will there be in having sports executives and operatives with a specialist education working alongside those with a more traditional background who have moved into the industry?

Nally: It should mean that the industry can operate at a higher standard; combining the experienced executives with young, well-educated recruits can only improve the approach and offering. Better standards should be achieved. Chadwick: As with any team, the art of success is bound up in having a well-balanced team consisting of people who each bring different, sometimes unique, skills to the profession. I think it is important that sport organisations continue to employ some ex-athletes because they bring insight, understanding and a genuine desire to compete and win to their work. Schatzmann: Different skills and experience are needed in any organisation and this is no different in sport. Certain areas of sport management are still under-developed when compared to traditional industry and as a result it will always be necessary for individuals to move into sport from more traditional backgrounds as sport organisations move forward and develop. I think this balance is a good thing.

SportsPro: How important is learning on the job? What portion of your courses are focused on putting your students in real-life situations?

Nally: Learning on the job is critical, it is the ‘hands on’ experience that can teach you a great deal about the industry. However, to give a student a good background knowledge, an insight to how the industry has evolved, explanation about all the various facets of the industry, makes the on-the-job experience more meaningful. Students need a combination of teaching combined with practical experience. Chadwick: We try to expose students as often as we can to real-world experiences. For example, we took 40 students to Moscow in June 2013 to work as event management volunteers. Otherwise, we encourage students to consider taking a year placement in the industry or an internship, plus our students are taken on a number of feld trips and site visits. Classroom learning remains important, but we illuminate the learning experience – giving it value, focus and meaning – by staying as close as we possibly can to the actual practice of sport management. Funk: Our undergraduate students are required to complete two internships during their studies: the Junior Internship (minimum 180 hours) and the Senior Internship (minimum 600 hours). Graduate-level students have the option to complete a minimum 180­hour internship experience. Our programme provides many opportunities for industry partners and businesses to make an on-campus presence through sponsorships, events and galas, networking, corporate orientations, and career days. Belousov: Any strong MSA needs to marry the theory with the practical. This is at the heart of RIOU’s MSA programme. 50 per cent of our MSA course places students in practical situations either through role play, led and assessed by visiting professors from the industry, or through placements. This year’s intake will have the unparalleled opportunity to join up with the Sochi 2014 Organising Committee in the heart of the Games. Our students are already talking about it! Schatzmann: It is vital for students to gain both a solid academic understanding of the world of sport management but also to gain industry perspectives to support their learning. The Fifa Master, for example, includes an extensive industry guest speaker and feld visit programme during each module of the course in England, Italy and Switzerland. As a result, our students have the opportunity to meet leading executives from organisations such as Fifa, the IOC and Uefa, both in the classroom but also on site visits.

SportsPro: How should sporting and educational institutions be working together to create courses tailored to the industry? Who should be taking the lead?

Nally: The industry needs to set the standard and to encourage the various institutions to collaborate. ESA is starting to do this with its own approach to diplomas and degree courses. The industry, however, represents a diverse group of stakeholders, federations, broadcasters and clubs as well as sports marketing practitioners. Clearly, collaboration and debate between all stakeholders is necessary. Belousov: I believe that RIOU – as well as other universities running sport management courses around the world – should be leading the sports industry forward, rather than the other way around. But this only works properly when our universities have strong relationships with sporting institutions. Chadwick: This is not a matter of who should lead and who should follow – both should take the initiative in seeking to ensure that our industry grows, prospers and thrives in the future. To facilitate this, I think we do need a national, possibly an international, body that brings relevant parties together to create and deliver professional standards. For example, in Great Britain we already have bodies like the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Chartered Institute of Marketing. I think we need a similar such body in sport and a set of development programmes and standards established within this.

SportsPro: Given the heavy investment in sport from broadcasters, brands and even the state, do these stakeholders have a role to play in shaping educational strategies?

Nally: Yes, there is a need to bring all stakeholders into the debate. Broadcasters and brands recruit many people into the industry and they also have to help set the right standards. Chadwick: This is our industry, it is at the heart of what each of us is engaged in as a profession, and possibly as a passion. As such, I think we all have a contribution to make. From such stakeholders, this could be financial (like funding training and development programmes university scholarships, etc), but also could be in terms of benefits in kind (like internship programmes, facilitating knowledge transfer, etc). Also, I don’t think this is necessarily about requiring organisations that spend big to make big commitments to sport; it is about getting each and every stakeholder to commit to equipping the industry with requisite skills, competences and experiences to help promote the further development of our industry. We should all buy into this manifesto, and we should all make a contribution to enabling it – no matter how big or small the contribution.  
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