For their traditional annual field trip, students enrolled in the MSc in Sport Business Management met some of the most renowned sport industry experts while on a 2-day trip to Switzerland (February 18 to 20) to bridge course material and practical experience.
On day one, students visited UEFA’s Nyon headquarters to meet Mr. Patrick Gasser and Mr. Thomas Junod. Mr. Gasser and Mr. Junod are respectively in charge of the organization’s social responsibility programs and education / relationships with universities. The “Union Européenne des Associations de Football” (UEFA) is probably best known for organizing the thrilling Champions League, the European championship that gathers prestigious clubs such as FC Bayern Munchen, Milan AC, Real Madrid or Manchester United. Yet, UEFA is not just an event management organization. Although the confederation organizes several competitions (for both male and female participants and for clubs and national teams), UEFA is involved in various initiatives. Mr. Gasser provided students with an interesting tour of UEFA’s headquarters, but most importantly, a virtual tour of its activities. Students learnt about the governance of the organization (structured around an Executive Committee which supervises the affairs of 54 member states), event management (roughly 1,800 football games per year), career opportunities, financial structure, and corporate social responsibility initiatives. In particular, Mr. Gasser overviewed UEFA’s social responsibility strategy for the 2012-2017 period and described the rationale and goals behind a series of programs and partnerships managed by the confederation. For example, UEFA advocates for Peace and Reconciliation, Football for All, Better Health, the Protection of the Environment, Football for Development, and Against Racism or Discrimination. The discussion was interesting and encouraging for the students and the staff since IUM, which offers the MA in Sustainable Peace through Sport, shares those values and the desire to educate and train tomorrow’s best talents.
After enjoying a well-deserved lunch in Lausanne nearby Lac Léman, the group went to the Olympic Museum, a magic place where history, glory, and moments of joy and sadness are immortalized for the great pleasure of the visitors. The self-paced visit allowed students to familiarize themselves with what makes the Olympic spirit. Although it is a daunting fast to summarize the Olympic vision in one sentence, it seems fair to quote here the words of Pierre de Coubertin, who is considered to be the founder of the modern Olympic Games: “the important thing in life is not the triumph, but the fight; the essential thing is not to have won, but to have fought well.” Such a spirit should appeal to all of us, students as well as professional athletes.
On day two, students met Mr. Bill Glad, Development Manager at European Athletics. After brushing an enthusiastic historical description of the organization and its closely related partner, the IAAF, Mr. Glad explained what makes the European Athletics association special. First, European Athletics is one of the six area associations of the IAAF. Second, the organization was created in 1970 but has managed athletics events since the 1930s. Additionally, in contrast to other area associations, European Athletics generate about 90% of its revenues from its own activities (which include competitions and TV rights). In particular, European Athletics’ main activity is to organize every two years the European championships for which the 2014’s edition will take place in Zurich. Other events managed by European Athletics include indoor, youth and cross-country championships. Next, Mr. Glad explained how the organization handles and liaises with candidate cities bidding to host the championships. In fact, Mr. Glad pointed out to students how important event management and communications skills are for recruits. An understanding of changes in the geopolitical environment is also valuable, especially in the European context, since the European Commission enjoys regulatory power over the practice of sports. Lastly, Mr. Glad broadened the students perspectives by touching on two interesting points. He described the mechanism that the organization uses to manage TV rights (which involves Octagon and EBU), and opportunities and challenges for European Athletics (including a balance between high performance and participation, road events, and social responsibility initiatives).
Lastly, students met with Mr. Harald Müller and Mr. Marco Verdoia, both affiliated to “Fédération Internationale Equestre” (or FEI). Mr. Müller is the Director and oversees matters related to Education & Standards while Mr. Verdoia deals with commercial, licensing and branding issues. For about an hour or so, our hosts provided the students with a fantastic insight on the equestrian world, as most of them were unfamiliar with its beauty and its challenges. Founded in 1921, FEI is described as a service organization that seeks to meet the needs of its 132 member associations. The organization encompasses 9 regional groups, manages roughly 3,700 international competitions per year and counts 90,000 registered riders and horses, which make the equestrian world so particular. Indeed, the central feature of this sport is that you have two participants competing together: the rider and the horse. The latter must go through antidoping tests (to detect painkillers) because too often horses are abused during painful training sessions. In addition, when competitions require travelling over long distance, participants must plan for transportation logistics (e.g. by air, train, sea or road), costs and the mandatory quarantine period. Since the early 2000, the federation enjoys solid growth for several reasons. A new President was elected in 2003. HRH Princess Haya bint Al Hussein has since spearheaded the rejuvenation of FEI through internal redesign and securing new sponsorship deals (e.g. Longines). In addition, equestrian has traditionally been a major sport and industry in the Middle East and Asia. The FEI also promotes the sport as a recreational activity accessible to all and where men and women compete together, which is unusual in high performance sports. Next, we were introduced to FEI’s business model (structured around sponsorship deals, events, and membership fees). Lastly, we discovered a preview of the 2014 World Equestrian Games which are scheduled in August in Normandy (France). These promise to be exhilarating games.
Once more, students have shown great enthusiasm and satisfaction during this trip to Switzerland. Not only have they interacted with individuals who exhibit expertise and charisma, but they have learned or strengthened important elements related to their studies. For instance, several of their hosts emphasized the notion of competency, effectiveness, valued event management and communications skills.
We sincerely thank all of those who have directly or indirectly contributed to this trip: Patrick GASSER (UEFA), Thomas JUNOD (UEFA), Bill GLAD (European Athletics), Harald MULLER (FEI), Marco VERDOIA (FEI), and Stéphane MERLINO (IAAF), Dr. Antonella PATRAS (IUM), Beverley HILL (IUM).
Reporting from Lausanne, Lecturer Moïse LOUISY-LOUIS
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