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BW Businessworld

'Not Just The Bottom Line Profits'

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From cricket to Formula1 racing, sports is emerging as an industry in India, generating lucrative and promising career options not only as a sportspersons but also as sports managers and event coordinators. "As sports enters the entertainment arena, a greater need for professionals who understand the business of sports is also increasing, says David Shilbury co-author of Strategic Sport Marketing and Sport Management in Australia, who is a strategist and an expert in sport governance and development. The former editor of Sport Management Review and an editorial board member for the  Journal of Sport Management, Shilbury has worked with many sporting organisations including the Australian Touch Football Association, Cricket Australia, and Australian Weightlifting Fed. Foundation Chair in Sports Management at Deakin University currently, he was recently in India to promote the university's courses. Shilbury spoke to Businessworld Online's Poonam Kumar about the growth and scope of sports management in India. Excerpts from the interview:

Why and how has sports management become increasingly popular in India?  
Sports has a profile in India, mainly through a few popular sports such as cricket and hockey. India's success in cricket has fuelled an interest in sports, and specifically sports management. People are focusing on issues such as how cricket can be managed to sustain long-term success. IPL has also grabbed country's attention on professional sports and the range of careers attached to it. Similarly, decline of India's fortunes in hockey and its inability to remain competitive with Australia, the Netherlands, Spain and Germany has also focused attention on the systems and infrastructure required to rebuild elite hockey so that it can be competitive again. Once again, there is the realisation that professionally qualified staff and expertise will be required to re-launch hockey.

What is the scope of Sports Management in India?
With the growth in professional sports and major events in India, comes the growth in sports management. Careers requiring skilled staff to manage the IPL, the BCCI, golf, tennis and the Formula1 Grand Prix are evolving. As these events generate profile for their sports, attention will turn towards training the future champions in each of these sports. This will further increase the need to participate in and put in place programmes to encourage participation. And the realisation that participation in sports is not just about producing champions, but it is inherently healthy and a 'wholesome' activity will follow. Larger number of participants in sports will also help build future interest in professional sports, which means revenues through ticket sales, television rights and merchandise.

How is a sports management degree different from a regular MBA?  
An MBA traditionally focuses solely on corporate entities. It is normally about profit and loss and the strategies and skills required to manage profit-making entities. A Master of Business (Sports Management) is different and not solely focused on managing paid staff. In sports, paid staff often have to be managed, retained and maintained. One needs to nurture and understand their motivations for involvement in particular sports. Moreover, bottom line profits are not the sole measure of success as most sporting organisations are non-profit entities. Others include how sports contributes to social capital goals within communities, how it helps people with social interaction, how it contributes to health both physically and mentally, and how it contributes to national identity and pride. Because sports is generally something the community feels close to and there is a sense of ownership, national sporting organisations have broader mandates than simply making money.

Is sports management a recent phenomenon?
Sports management courses at Deakin University are just over 20 years old, so it is only a fairly recent course. The courses have emerged in response to the professionalisation of sports and the need to prepare professionals to manage the increasing range of tasks such as marketing a major sporting contest (i.e. Test Match India v Australia), managing the facility as per the standards, ensuring that players are professionally ready, their contracts are legally sound and they get paid for what has been agreed upon. There are many other branches including negotiating television rights contracts and so on.

What kind of recruiters come to pick students who are pursuing sports management? 
National governing bodies like the BCCI, Hockey India, All India Football Federation, IMG/Reliance, Swimming India, Federal government and state departments sports, Commonwealth and Olympic Games Organising Committees, Asian Games Organisers and many others.

What kind of job opportunities do students look forward to after doing an MBA in sports management? 
A variety of jobs in all the organisations listed above including human resources, overseeing professional staff and player's conditions, sports marketing and media, public affairs, licensing and merchandising, finance and law, facility management, event management, player management, high performance team management (such as travelling with Indian Cricket team) and so the list goes on.

What is the future of sports as an industry? What role will sports management play? 
It will continue to grow, and this will be more obvious in India where there is more growth potential for professional sports. In 10 years it will be difficult to recognise sports management in India compared to today. There will be more vents, more professional sports, and more importantly more people playing organised sports. A growing middle class of 500-600 million will dictate the need for more opportunities to fill their leisure time with organised sports.

What kind of students can take up the programme?
Most students who choose to study sports management have an obvious interest in sports. Usually, they are not the elite athletes, but those who have played and enjoyed sports at a variety of levels. People well suited for sports management should also be interested in working as a team and for long hours and travelling.

Any message for the students who want to start a career in sports management? 
Yes, get involved in sports as a volunteer to begin with, enroll in a degree to study sports management, and don't be too fussy in choosing your first job.