As the sports industry is flourishing with job opportunities, more and more students and young professionals are pursuing an education in sports management. If possible, they are looking to make a breakthrough in the sports marketing and sponsorship, sports media, sports facilities and even higher education institutions.
On the other hand, regrading their talents training strategy, sports organizations have to face more challenges as well as more opportunities. Against this background, we plan to hold a forum this Saturday afternoon in Beijing, to discuss the future of the sports talent market. Prior to the forum, we have interviewed Diego Valdes, Director of the Sports Business Institute Barcelona and Professor Simon Chadwick, who is ‘Class of 92’ Professor of Sports Enterprise, Salford University Manchester UK & Director of Research and Consultancy 2022 World Cup, Doha, Qatar.
Diego talked about what a good career would need in the football industry based on his vast experience in the field, and Professor Dr. Chadwick shared his valuable insights on sports sponsorship field.
1. In the western world, what kind of candidates may be qualified for a position in sports industry? Any requirements for their characteristics, skills or education background?
Diego Valdes: One of the most important factors to have success in football is to understand how to generate revenue within the industry, so core business skills in marketing, accounting and finance are always in demand. It is important that aspiring professionals deeply understand the business side of sports and must demonstrate that they have relevant experience.
Simon Chadwick: It is important to firstly stress what good managers should not be-fans! While it is important for those working in the sport and sponsorship industries to be passionate about their work and these sectors, fans working in sport often making decisions based upon emotion rather than business logic. Those working in the industry should nevertheless have an appreciation of the specific nature of sport which is a product like no other. This simultaneously creates opportunities and challenges for those working in the industry, which managers need to be acutely aware of and understand. Otherwise, prospective employees seeking to work in sponsorship need to bring a full array of business and management skills with them: strong leadership, innovation, management, enterprise, planning, and so forth. There is much for sport to learn from other industrial sectors.
2. How could a candidate be equipped with those knowledge or experience?
Diego Valdes: There are several avenues to acquire knowledge and experience. Specialized courses that provide the necessary training are always an excellent alternative. At the Sports Business Institute Barcelona that is our area of expertise. We provide the hands-on training that allow candidates to fully understand the real-life work environment within the industry. Also, industry experience through internships and voluntary roles are an excellent alternative to learn first-hand how the industry works.
Simon Chadwick: Education, training and development are imperative– those who are working in the industry or seeking to work in the industry must be helped to acquire the appropriate skills and knowledge to work in sport and sponsorship. A professional development scheme across the industry would help, but universities, private training organizations and in-company programs must all make a contribution. It is also important too that sport opens-up to recruiting staff from other industries so that sport and sponsorship can learn from the likes of the banking, electronics and aerospace industries.
3. Could you introduce what a sports professional’s career path looks like?
Diego Valdes: There are numerous career paths in the football industry. Most people tend to think that in order to work in football you have to work for a club or a governing body. The truth, however, is that there are numerous other positions and career paths available. For example, there are multiple event management organizations, media outlets, representation agencies, brands among numerous other organizations that are directly linked to football. The main thing is to have a clear objective in order to set the path to achieve it.
Simon Chadwick: One route could be as a student studying business or management completing an internship and then becoming a trainee venue manager or a brand manager. Another route might be for an accountant to work for a practice and then make a move into sport to work as, for example, a Financial Director for a sports club. Otherwise, you may find marketers, risk managers or lawyers switching into sport from other industrial sectors.Many people in Europe also utilize their experiences in a variety of industries to set-up consultancies in sport and sponsorship.
4. How could Chinese young people break into the business of sports? What kind of environment should the government, universities and sports companies provide?
Diego Valdes: In my opinion, young Chinese professionals that are looking to get into the industry should focus on two main factors. The first one is by acquiring the knowledge, whether it is by a specialized training course or by having industry experience. The second is to develop a strong network of contacts. China is a growing football nation and numerous opportunities are arising within the sport locally. Furthermore, many European clubs are also beginning to have a strong presence in China, so this represents another opportunity in the market for aspiring professionals.
Simon Chadwick: It could be either working in Chinese or in international industries. The most important thing for China, its people in general and its students to do is to see sport as a viable career option. Too many people across the world see sport as something that either involves being a good athlete or working in jobs that are neither highly-skilled nor well regarded. However, as the sport industries in countries like the United States and Germany show, people can build long-term, well remunerated and prosperous careers in sport and sponsorship. Sport and sponsorship are no longer considered to be ‘second best’ career choices; there are many people across the world who are hugely successful, wealthy and massively respected for their work in sport.
5. How could employers in Chinese sports industry recruit qualified employees, both domestically and internationally?
Diego Valdes: The advice that I would give to Chinese clubs would be to learn from the best. Because it is not a mature football market, China still lacks professionalization in the industry and there is lots to be learned. I believe those in charge of clubs and federations should enroll their staff in training courses that allow them to learn from the latest industry cases from abroad. For example, at the Sports Business Institute Barcelona we have worked with numerous clubs, federations and governing bodies around the world that have greatly benefited from learning from our case studies and input. It allows them to benchmark and apply many of the concepts learned into their day-to-day activities.
Simon Chadwick: Many organizations are very worried that they don’t have the right people now. China already has some of the best talent in the world at its disposal. I have been teaching sport business management for nearly 20 years and some of my best students have been Chinese. Several of them are now very successful figures in the sport and sponsorship- industries. Hence, the challenge for China is identifying, understanding and matching its talent to the jobs now emerging. At the same time, the education, training and development organizations of China need to fast-track the development of programs designed to build a domestic talent pool. At the same time, China shouldn’t be afraid to ‘import’ talent; there are some excellent people working in sport and sponsorship industries across the world who can provide invaluable knowledge and experience in helping China’s sport and sponsorship industries develop. For instance, China has always been very kind to me and I have many good friends there, a large number of whom are my former students. . I am always happy to show my appreciation to China by helping where I can.
6. What kind of employees should be hired to ensure the success of a Chinese football club? Do they need managing professionals for further development?
Diego Valdes: Chinese clubs should remain committed to developing their own staff and open to the idea of learning from external input. The main thing to remember is that football, at a professional level, is also a business. Therefore clubs need to hire professionals with the right skill set that can manage projects with a long term vision that are sustainable and measurable over time.