International Centre for
Sports Studies

Avenue DuPeyrou 1
2000 Neuchâtel
Tel +41 32 718 39 00


Tue. 12 November 2019

The journey begins...

After the goodbyes and filled with nerves and excitement, 32 of us travelled from 28 different corners of the world to begin the adventure of the 20th Edition of the FIFA Master in Leicester. After a week of getting to know each other, settling into student life, swapping stories and sharing experiences from around the world of sport, our classes began.

Stepping back from our daily consumption and experience of sport, we were encouraged from the outset to analyse its historical and political settings. After debating ‘what is sport’ in our opening lecture, these introductory classes took us on a journey through the birth and evolution of modern sports. Starting in Britain (just as so many of these sports did), we explored the early days of football, rugby and cricket in English public schools, and traced their steps around Europe and the world. We then continued with the professionalisation of sport, before looking at its growth and internationalisation. Before we knew it, we’d completed our first module - time flies when you’re having fun!

It has been interesting to spot patterns in the way so many sports develop, moving from their amateur roots to professional global industries. These first few weeks have been eye opening in understanding that sports do not exist in a vacuum, and have encouraged us to think more widely about how they affect, and are affected by, different political and economic contexts.

This critical approach has the 20th edition asking difficult questions and breaking down our preconceptions, helping us to prepare for dealing with real sporting scenarios in the future. We had a trial run at such a situation, with a simulated ‘crisis meeting’ themed around boycotts and political tensions, complete with role play (and particularly vocal protesters.) We were divided into groups with different stakeholders and motives, and had to negotiate amongst ourselves in order to solve the hypothetical sports diplomacy crisis.

We have been guided through this history of sports culture by the expert DMU team of authors and researchers (working at the University’s world leading International Centre for Sports History and Culture), and a whole host of guest speakers from across the industry. Highlights include a full review of life at the Premier League with Executive Director Bill Bush, a behind the scenes insight into mega event organisation with London 2012, Rugby World Cup Director and now Warwickshire County Cricket Club Chief Executive, Neil Snowball, and an analysis of women’s cricket culture with Dr Rafaelle Nicholson. To engage with people working in such wide ranging and senior roles has helped everyone to better understand the options available for future careers, demystifying the sports industry one presentation at a time.

Outside of the classroom, we have been lucky enough to visit some incredible venues, hear from a range of experts in the field, and get a behind the scenes look at the past, present and future of British sport.

Our day at Wimbledon gave us a chance to experience sporting history first hand, touring the iconic grass courts and hearing about the branding and tradition behind ‘the most instantly recognisable sporting event in the world’.

This was followed by field visits to two of the most iconic football arenas in the world, with days spent at Manchester United’s Old Trafford and Manchester City’s Etihad campus both huge highlights for our diverse and football-loving group. Stadium tours combined with presentations from leading club figures in finance, marketing and operations, for example, giving us a fascinating insight into club life both on and off the field.

The highlight for us all was undoubtedly hearing from Casey Stoney, ex-England Women’s team captain and now manager of the recently formed Manchester United Women Football Club. Stories of her sporting journey were punctuated with lessons on leadership and life, leaving a lasting impression on the whole group.

Closer to (our adopted) home, we were welcomed by Leicester’s world renowned rugby and football teams, with visits  to both Welford Road and The King Power Stadium for tours, meetings and of course, match days.

These academic elements of the course will always be our primary focus, but when you have a group of 32 people from all over the world, the social element has been vibrant and exciting too, and this has often meant an unconventional sports watching schedule. We have had a couple of late nights watching the Argentinean classico Boca Juniors v River Plate in the Copa Libertadores, Rugby World Cup early mornings with crêpes (thanks to the French), international matches from every nation and the usual Champions and Europa league weekday evenings. These, along with our Friday night ‘Rest of the world v Europe’ football matches, visits to other cities and stadiums around the UK, and numerous group evening dinners  have enabled us to form a great bond in a short space of time.

After surviving the stress of our first exam, we have returned to normality as we begin the journey in our ‘final project’ groups, exploring interesting themes in world sport to evolve ideas for the grand finale presentation in the summer. Working in diverse groups with wide ranging experiences and passions, we have been challenged to ‘find our genius’ and come up with fresh perspectives on the key issues in today’s sporting world. We are all back in the classroom on this shared mission, fueled by more lectures, coffee chats and team dinners - stay tuned for updates from the 20th edition FIFA Master adventure in next month’s report!

Erika Urbina Echeverría and James Cronin (Class Reps) 


FIFA Master - International Master in Management, Law and Humanities of Sport, ranked No.1 Course in Europe 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019 by the SportBusiness International global rankings.

Organised by CIES in partnership with De Montfort University (United Kingdom), SDA Bocconi School of Management (Italy) and the University of Neuchâtel (Switzerland).

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

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