The bona fide value
Published: 12 Feb 2014
There’s a very interesting video interview on GlobalSportsJobs this week - which will effectively have been last week by the time this is published - with boxing promoter and Matchroom Sport MD Eddie Hearn talking about his career in the sports industry. For all sport degrees that hundreds of students pursue every year, Hearn is effectively saying ‘don’t bother’ - before easing into a statement that it’s a ‘case by case’ situation.
Before taking up my degree, I contacted the former Finance Director of a company I used to work for - who had previously been FD of Crystal Palace FC - for his opinion on the value of a MBA in sport. Interestingly, his answer too was ‘don’t bother’. I took his advice in stride, went ahead and applied, eventually enrolled and commenced classes. It’s the thing about advice - it’s nothing more than an opinion. A well-informed opinion if the advice is any good, ultimately aimed at enhancing your probability of success, but effectively an opinion.
The sports industry is a very peculiar industry. In a spectacular way because you can get to work with what you are absolutely passionate about - what others simply enjoy as a pastime or leisure activity - but which makes it no less eccentric. While it’s true that the industry has been evolving, there doesn’t seem to be a norm, a path all must trail for a successful career. Historically, the business of sport has seen many former athletes but also many professionals without any background in sport occupying high ranking positions. This was somewhat reflective of the lack of sport-specific education.
While the industry has been rapidly maturing over the past 20 odd years, hoards of sports degrees have cropped up on a global scale, yet somewhat curiously a quick browse on vacancies posted on GlobalSportsJobs or any other site will highlight how the vast majority of vacancies don’t actually require applicants to possess a degree in sport. Yet students are flocking to undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in sport.
The sports industry is not likely to get any less competitive - in fact I would argue just the opposite. Facing an influx of professionals with a factual, albeit theoretical, understanding of the industry, however, can only benefit it in the long run. If 10 or 20 years from now, the sports industry is almost exclusively composed by highly qualified individuals I fail to see how that can be a bad thing. Right now we are likely to be experiencing the first - potentially the second - generation of highly qualified individuals slowly seeping into the business of sport. A decade from now the industry will likely have taken a great leap in terms of professionalisation.
Assuming of course the degrees are all up to standard, which I’ve come to question over the past couple of months. The real value I personally see in a possessing a degree in sport isn’t actually the degree itself - a piece of paper or the chance to update your CV and LinkedIn account to state you have a qualification in sport - it’s the experience, knowledge and network you get from it instead. A degree won’t guarantee your job in the industry - it might not even increase your chances significantly - but the learning experience, the expertise you can get from it, no one can take that away from you. And that is its bona fide value.