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SportBusiness Postgraduate Course Rankings 2017 | Emerging markets – When will developing regions make the grade?

  • Postgrad courses are becoming more common in markets such as China and India
  • Links are being forged between schools in emerging and developed markets
  • Schools in emerging markets must focus on commercial sports management

A quick check through this year’s top-40 list reveals the continuing dominance of North American and European schools at the top end of sports business academia.

But notable institutions in other parts of the world are eager to elevate their standing in the sector, with emerging markets such as China and India taking fledgling steps.

The two Asian countries with billion-plus populations are becoming increasingly important to the sporting world. Now, almost a decade since China staged the 2008 Summer Olympics, one of its major schools is, quite literally, no longer willing to keep its ambitions in the sector on ice. 

With the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics set to attract billions of viewers and turn over billions of dollars in revenue, the capital city’s Tsinghua University is in the process of introducing a postgraduate winter sports management course with an annual intake of 30-50 students.

Nationwide initiative

Developed with the Polytechnic University of Turin, the course is now under the approval process of China’s Ministry of Education, but should be looked upon favourably by officials who have set up a nationwide initiative to engage 300 million people in winter sports over the next five years.

With recent projections released by the government showing that the industrial scale of winter sports shoussld reach RMB 600bn (€78bn/$87bn) by 2020, Xueli Wang, director of the Center for Development of Sports Industry at Tsinghua, told SportBusiness International there is growing demand for highly-skilled experts.

“The market is in great need for these qualified people,” says Wang. “Lots of new arenas are under construction, and games and competition are being developed.

“The whole industry is asking for the talents and we hope our course could be the leading programme in providing the best and most influential business leaders in China’s sports industry.”

IMAGE: The Chinese authorities have ambitious plans for winter sports (Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

The winter sports course coincides with the opening of Tsinghua’s Center for Development of Sports Industry (TUDSI), which was built in response to China’s wider sporting ambitions. In a bid to ensure the quality of its research capabilities and academic offerings, Tsinghua has partnered with Mark H. McCormack Department of Sport Management in the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, taking guidance from what Wang describes as “the best”.

As well as offering assistance in the development stage, TUDSI faculty and students will in August spend five full days at UMass, discussing major sports business topics and embarking on technical visits to the region’s sports organisations.

Strategic partnership

Steve McKelvey, associate department chair and graduate programme director in the McCormack  Department of Sport Management, said that while future collaborations could include faculty members delivering guest lectures in China and online learning modules, the benefits will very much be mutual.

“The strategic partnership will enhance our department’s understanding of emerging sport business issues in Asia-Pacific,” says McKelvey. “On Tsinghua’s end, it will also develop their faculty and students’ knowledge base of North American sport management research and application across topics such as sport marketing and consumer behaviour, leadership, sponsorship sales, negotiations, and agency/player representation.

“Our McCormack Center for Sport Research & Education hopes to cultivate additional partnerships in the future, to help grow and mature the industry we serve.”

The McCormack Department has also engaged in high-level dialogue with industry executives in India regarding potential education-based partnerships. In further links between Western institutions and emerging markets, EMLyon is now running sport programmes out of its new campus in Shanghai, while Business School São Paulo and Escuela Universitaria Real Madrid – Universidad Europea are partnering on an MBA in Sports Management course.

The International Institute of Sports Management (IISM) in Mumbai already offers a Master of Sports Management course that covers sports marketing, operations, strategic management and sports entrepreneurship.
“Armed with a specialised business administration degree in sports management, we at IISM develop students who become the pivotal elements in sporting and entertainment events worldwide,” IISM says.

According to Simon Chadwick, professor of Sports Enterprise at Salford Business School, it is “noticeable how many academics and students are now spending time with overseas institutions, in places like Qatar, Kazakhstan and India”.

While “most impressed” by the progress made by many of the schools in emerging markets, Chadwick is concerned that courses are not sufficiently removed from exercise science. As well as noting a political rather than commercial focus within the syllabus in some nations, he has also identified two specific areas of improvement that should be targeted. 

“Firstly, they often do not fully embrace the specific nature of the markets in which they are delivered,” he says. “That is, they can be too generic, based upon a US or Western European view of sport.

“Secondly, there is rather too much ‘me tooism’ in the world of sport education. Courses often simply appear as a homogenous mass. Programme developers need to be much more mindful of the need to innovate and create competitive advantage.”

While “the early years of delivering sport management are difficult,” according to David Shilbury, sport management programme director at Deakin University in Australia, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic. He notes the importance of students, teachers and leaders gaining experience in developed nations, but says that commercial opportunities and levels of sophistication within the country’s sports business sector will ultimately raise academic standards. 

“The problem most developing countries confront is that the sport industry is taking shape rather than already established,” says Shilbury. “In other words, jobs will be few in the short term as the industry evolves.

“However, in some markets such as India, the industry is taking shape and graduates can grasp the opportunity to lead, or be pioneers in the field of sport management by contributing to its evolution.”


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