International Centre for
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Thu. 01 June 2017

“FIFA Master” Alumni – Where are they now? – James Kitching

James Kitching

Current Position: Head of Sports Legal Services, Disciplinary and Governance at AFC (Asian Football Confederation)

Year of graduation: 2012 (12th Edition)

Nationality: Australian / Italian

My current position in sport

I arrived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to do some consulting work for the Asian Football Confederation in July 2012, one week after graduation. Initially, I was briefed to advise on integrity-related cases involving AFC office bearers and engaged for one month. Five years later (at the time of writing!), I'm still here!

As the Head of Sports Legal Services, Disciplinary and Governance in the Legal Affairs Department, I lead a unit of 7 persons (4 lawyers (including me), 2 paralegals, 1 administrator) responsible for all sports regulatory matters within Asian football. This is a varied role with a wide remit; no two days are ever the same. Our primary duty is to manage the caseload and represent the AFC in matters brought before the AFC judicial bodies and the Court of Arbitration for Sport. This involves, among others, prosecution of all conduct incompatible with AFC regulations, including match manipulation, doping, corruption, forgery and falsification, and serious on and off-field misconduct. In particular, we work closely with the AFC Integrity Unit in the conduct of their investigations.

We also, among other duties, draft and interpret sporting (e.g. competition regulations) and corporate regulations (e.g. disciplinary and ethics codes), draft AFC event legal documents (e.g. hosting contracts, stadium agreements), oversee legal issues at AFC competitions, manage the legal aspects of the AFC Congress, and advise stakeholders on governance issues within the global and Asian sports regulatory and legal framework.

I've been very fortunate to have been recently appointed to some panels. In 2016, the Australian Olympic Committee appointed me to its National Federation appeals panel for Rio 2016 selection disputes. In the same year, my peers in the “FIFA Master” Alumni Association (FMA) elected me to the FMA Board. In 2017, the E-Sports Integrity Coalition appointed me as a Disciplinary Panel member. I've also had the opportunity to provide lectures and presentations at sports law conferences and universities globally. Naturally, the highlight has been teaching in Leicester to the 16th Edition (Nov 2015) and 17th Edition (Oct 2016) of the FIFA Master. 

Which aspects of the FIFA Master course have helped you most in your career?

As a lawyer, the biggest academic boost was naturally in the Law module in Neuchatel. The lessons learned from industry experts are still applied on a daily basis in my work. The other main assistance to my career is the FMA network. Second-to-none globally, its quality and depth provides effective (and direct) access to every leading sports administrator and official in the world of international sport.

In my own legal field, my thesis supervisor happened to be the world's leading sports arbitration expert. FMA members include the chief external prosecutor for WADA, the General Counsel of Bayern Munich, numerous in-house lawyers at FIFA, UEFA, and other international sports federations and clubs, as well as top sports lawyers working in private practice.

What advice would you give to future students on the course?

First and foremost, embrace the challenges presented by the course. Its international nature, both through the melting pot of cultures provided within class and the international living arrangements across 3 very different countries and cities, is a true reflection of the cultural diversity and transient nature of working in international sport.

Second, engage with the alumni network. The FMA grows by approximately 30 individuals every year, each with a unique perspective on the sports industry. 


The “FIFA Master" - International Master in Management, Law and Humanities of Sport is organized by the CIES in partnership with De Montfort University (Leicester, UK), SDA Bocconi School of Management (Milan, Italy) and the University of Neuchâtel. In 2017 the “FIFA Master” was ranked as the No.1 course in Europe for the fifth time by the SportBusiness International global rankings.

Discover more examples of inspiring “FIFA Master” alumni career paths by clicking here.

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