Following a three-week winter break, the "FIFA Master" class reunited in Milan to begin the Sport Leadership and Organization module at SDA Bocconi.
Home to Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper, Duomo and epic pizza, we were excited to start the New Year by studying the business administration side of sport. This module literally kicked off with one of football’s greatest leaders, Javier Zanetti, who transitioned his own career from the pitch to the boardroom.
We enjoyed hearing about Zanetti’s different experiences throughout his sporting career, right up to his new role as Vice President of Internazionale. Many students in our class were able to relate to Zanetti as former professional athletes themselves and who are now looking to make the transition to the administrative side of sport too.
Zanetti highlighted the importance of maintaining values throughout your career. For him, these values began when he was an athlete and had now been transferred to his new career in sport business as Vice-President at a club. For the non-athletes in class, it was extremely beneficial to see how sporting culture can relate to other aspects of working life.
We are extremely grateful to Mr Zanetti. Thanks to his generosity, we were able to discuss tactics in class, listen to a real leader, and also to attend a live match at his alma mater - the famous San Siro.
San Siro really gave our class the royal treatment, with lectures in the official press room from Chief Operating Officer (COO) Alessandro Antonello, David Garth (Venue Commercial Director) and Mark van Huuksloot (Director of Stadium Operations and Finance). This was followed by a personalized tour of the new locker room and pitch, complete with hospitality and some of the best lasagne we have ever eaten! San Siro was as grand in person as it is in history. With Inter then winning 3-2 against Bologna to qualify for the Italian Cup Match Quarter Finals, the night was even more spectacular.
Our experience at San Siro made the Sport Leadership and Organization Module come full circle as we discussed the importance of stakeholder management – a key theme throughout class - from the perspective of athletes, managers, and owners.
However, the culture at San Siro goes deeper than first thought. Here enters, The Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, which is the alternative name for the stadium due to the fact that San Siro is shared by two teams: Internazionale and AC Milan. It was here that we learned how two teams who play against each other must work together. As both boast different stakeholders, they share the stadium 50/50 – meaning ground staff and game day operations must be divided equally and also that relations between the various interested parties, who all have vast levels of involvement, must be carefully managed. Clearly, this is no easy feat.
Additionally we also had the opportunity to meet with members of FIGC and Serie A who helped us to apply what we have studied in class to the real world of sport. Beyond this, various "FIFA Master" Alumni have also visited the class to speak. This has allowed us to see firsthand the positive outputs of the course in the future as we listened to how their individual professional careers benefited from studying on the "FIFA Master" programme.
The importance of stakeholder management truly hit home after our day trip to Vero Volley which is one of Italy’s top volleyball clubs. Throughout the SDA Bocconi module we have studied the importance of shared goals between athletes, managers and sponsors. These are goals Vero Volley sustains by creating what they call “cultura sportiva”. This can be understood as a culture established from the bottom up and which then moves through youth programmes to their A1 male and female teams.
Most interestingly, our class found the connection between our visits to Internazionale and Vero Volley to be most encouraging as both Javier Zanetti and Alessandra Marzari who is the President of Vero Volley, enrolled on classes at SDA Bocconi following promotions into leadership roles within their respective sports.
As we continue through the management module, we look forward to new experiences that will sweeten not only our tastes in gelato, but also our futures in sport management.
Ashley Hughes and Javier Gonzalez (SDA Bocconi module representatives)