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Why sports management degrees are becoming more popular

Find out from the faculty and alumni of one of the world's top 10 sport management programs
BY Uma Asher |   28-10-2016

Just two years ago, the postgraduate sport management program at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, had about four or five students from India. This year’s incoming class has around 50. Clearly, interest in this field is growing by leaps and bounds, and it’s not just a fad.

As Australia’s Deputy High Commissioner to India Chris Elstoft noted at a workshop in New Delhi earlier this month, sport development is much more than sending talented individuals abroad for training – there is a need to build an ecosystem in which they can flourish. Sport is becoming a business and therefore needed to be managed, he added. He underscored the need to encourage diversity by making sports more inclusive of women, tribal groups and other sections of society, and noted that even NGOs are engaged in such community-based aspects of sports.

It is this potential for growth in India that draws not just Davis Cup players, but even people with backgrounds as diverse as engineering, industry, and digital media, to study sport management, says Dhruv Mohan, a former Ranji Trophy player and a graduate of Deakin’s sport management program.

Students in a sport lab at Deakin University, Australia

In contrast to India, where there is more private investment, sports in Australia are substantially government-funded and organizational accountability is crucial to sustainability and success. This makes Australia a good place to learn about sport policy, governance at both organizational and sectoral levels, and fan development and engagement, says Adam Karg, senior lecturer at Deakin. He teaches undergraduate and postgraduate courses in sport marketing, strategic management, sport promotions and public relations, sport broadcasting and sport organization. He is also engaged in consulting, research and advisory roles with a range of sport organizations, including startups.

Based in Melbourne, which is home to a couple of dozen sports teams, Deakin features in the global top 10 in the latest Sport Business International Postgraduate Sports Course Rankings. Deakin research fellow Geoff Schoenberg notes that the practicum – which usually involves working with an organization – is built into the university’s undergraduate program, and often leads to the first job students get after graduation.

Students in a sport lab at Deakin University, Australia

Karg points out that while many sports degree programs, especially in the US, are based in the school of health, Deakin’s is based in both the faculty of health and the faculty of business and law. So it is possible to earn a bachelor’s degree in exercise and sports science (health faculty), or one in sports management (business faculty), or one in sport development (both faculties together). There are numerous master’s degree options, including sports management, nutrition, and exercise physiology.

Karg says about one-third of the units in Deakin’s undergraduate sport management program are in business – similar to a commerce degree in Australia. Another third is in sport – subjects such as sociology and law – and the remainder is electives in areas such as accounting and management. Deakin’s two-year postgraduate program is equally divided between business and sport unites, and covers areas such as finance, leadership, and analytics. The university also offers Ph.Ds in sport management.

Introductory classes provide students with frameworks that can be applied to any context, not just Australia, says Karg. Schoenberg, who is working on a research project focused on sport in India, adds that information from international contexts can enrich learning for all students. He adds that even Australian students, especially at the undergraduate level, are not necessarily fully aware of the structure of a sport at local, regional and national levels, even if they have been playing that sport.

So what do admissions officials look for in applicants? Karg says the focus is on interest and exposure, and Schoenberg adds that students need to understand that the workload is as intensive as it would be in any business degree. As he puts it, “not a walk in the park”. Karg says an undergraduate degree in business is an advantage, and some applicants have a background in physical education, possibly even work experience as PE teachers.

Graduates of sport management programs typically take up jobs with sport organizations, government, brands such as Nike or Adidas, or events such as Formula One or the Australian Open. Many take up jobs with brands that are not directly sport-related, such as consumer goods or banks.

Organized and professional sports are growing in India, with the rise of leagues and tournaments in football, basketball, tennis, and kabaddi, among others. Thus there is a demand for specialized professional skills and knowledge in management and governance. India’s industry and government are partnering with organizations and universities abroad to develop the ecosystem that can help sports flourish, and that is opening up new opportunities for students.


Images are stills taken from this video

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