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    From the classroom to the field

    The sports world is changing dramatically. Niamh Ollerton takes a closer look at how hands-on learning, digital transformation, and media consumption are just some of the ways the industry is getting a shake-up, and how universities are preparing graduates for this new landscape.

    Sport is an important element in the lives of many people from all walks of life across the globe. An afternoon watching your favourite football team. An evening watching basketball teams shoot their shot. Admiring figure skaters from the bleachers as they attempt gravity-defying routines. The sports industry has something for almost everyone.

    Sport has the power to move people, entertain, and in some instances give people a purpose to get through each week. But it’s not just the players and athletes involved in putting on these performances; there are sports stars behind the scenes helping them shine too. Coaches, scouts, managers; every team needs someone with the skills and expertise fighting in their corner, helping them improve and reach the next level.

    To really make it as a coach or manager today, students and graduates alike will need a Sport Management and Coaching degree on their resume.

    “Diversity allows for interesting debates and we also learn from one another.”

    The business of sport

    Sports Management degrees combine educational and practical elements of business leadership skills with passionate knowledge of the sports world.

    The business-oriented degree focuses on how an individual can lead an organisation in the sports industry, with students undertaking classes in finance, marketing, public relations, leadership skills, and communications.

    To hone necessary expertise, Sports Management students will also study laws and ethics specifically related to the sports industry and finesse important skills such as negotiating a sponsorship contract or managing a sports facility. The opportunities that come along with the degree are also growing. PwC figures predict the sports market will grow at a compound annual rate of 3.2 percent in North America alone, rising from $71.1 billion in 2018 to $83.1 billion in 2023 through a mixture of established and emerging areas.

    Among its outlook predictions for 2022, PwC identified betting, streaming and rights negotiations, mergers and acquisitions, the resurgence of live audiences, smart venues, NFTs and digital assets, sports documentaries and reality TV, sponsorship data, fan-created content, and mixed reality.

    A changing sector

    Emlyon Business School’s MSc in Sports Industry Management is designed to provide students with global perspectives of the sports industry.

    “Although we name it Sports Industry Management, the MSc SIM could be looked at first as a Master’s in Marketing and Innovation where sports are our field of study,” says Antoine Haincourt, Head of MSc in Sports Industry Management.

    “We see sport as a starting point, not a finish line. Why? Because sport is a fantastic playground, multifaceted, culturally coded, but more interestingly a sector facing major transformation challenges. This is what we are here to help students gain the core competencies needed to effectively lead change in just 18 months.”

    Emlyon’s programme started in 2012, and essentially looked at sport through the lens of the sporting goods market. Haincourt believes the boundaries from the past have become blurry, and today, sport meets with lifestyle, technology, entertainment, and health.

    Other examples of change in the sector may not seem as obvious, such as digital transformation, media consumption, and global political instability and its impact of mega events. “We should look at some other factors, probably less visible,” Haincourt says.

    “Sport is historically driven by males for males. What we see today is a major shift towards feminisation.

    “Some may essentially see the rise of female teams in the major sports and leagues. However, just to name one example, one should also take into consideration that the greatest shift and growth driver is the rise of heartbeat sports among females, outside of most institutional organisations. Another shift is how organisations embrace CSR, and sustainability issues.”

    Changing the sector

    In addition to teaching concrete and theoretical knowledge, Sports Managements programmes put cohorts in the shoes of sports professionals by allowing students to work hand-in-hand with renowned brands.

    “From startups to international sports companies, we had the chance to learn and put into context and action the different notions learned,” says Zoé Gerdil, a MSc in Sports Industry Management student at Emlyon Business School.

    “The programme also has a long list of professors and speakers which are either current or former sports professionals.

    “By sharing not only their knowledge but also their personal experiences, the cohort benefits from getting a deeper understanding of the requirements and demands of the sports industry,” Zoé says.

    Emlyon’s diverse range of classes and experiences which, in Zoé’s case, offer the professional learnings needed for the career she wants to build in the sports, and more specifically, in the outdoor industry.

    Zoé believes these programmes are essential to build strong and competent professionals and allow diversity in an industry as specific as sports.

    “Programmes such as Emlyon’s MSc SIM offer opportunities for young professionals and leverage for an international career,” she says.

    “These programmes don’t only focus on the surface of the industry, they also teach what the future challenges will be and how the industry will adapt to the issues of tomorrow turning us into true leaders and innovators.”

    Emlyon’s cohort is generally half international and half French, 60 percent male, 40 percent female on average. Students also come from different backgrounds, countries and previous study, something Zoé thinks is very important.

    “Diversity allows for interesting debates and we also learn from one another. As a woman entering the sports industry and one of the six girls on the programme, I’m looking forward to seeing more women apply to such programmes!”

    This article was abridged from 2022 QS World University Rankings by Subject. Download the full edition.