Pierre Ducrey was part of the third intake of students on the CIES Fifa Master, which he graduated with distinction in 2003. He was appointed as Olympic Games operations director in March 2020, having joined the International Olympic Committee as an intern shortly after finishing his Masters degree.
Why did you choose a postgraduate degree in sport management?
I was already studying for a master’s degree in International Relations, and I was really trying to figure out where that will take me. I wanted to work in international environment and sport was always something present in my life, so I tried to figure out, ‘okay, what’s my next move?’ And then I happened to have dinner with a friend of a friend who turned out to be the former secretary general of Fifa, and he mentioned the programme. And it seemed to tick all the boxes I was looking for, so I thought international sport management could be a place I would fit.
What in particular about the Fifa Master appealed to you?
The fact that it was across three countries, so you would get a little bit of insight into three different industries and different ways of doing things at three different universities; one of them, SDA Bocconi in Milan, being really recognised for business. I knew that to get into the sport environment you would need kind of a pathway, because it’s not something where you can just be suddenly knocking on the door of some of the bigger companies and be welcomed in. So I thought it would be a good way in, and I liked the idea of living for a year with a group of people of international background as well.
It was a risky move. I was 28 when I signed up and the Fifa Master wasn’t very well known at the time, I was in year three of the course, so there were very few alumni already in position. Today, it’s a much safer path because you can see how many people have managed to go through the course and ended up in the industry, which is a very high number, and you know that you have a lot of alumni you can contact, but we didn’t really have that at the time. The fact that it was endorsed by Fifa, that the universities were well reputed – there were lots of things that appealed to me.
How did the course help to prepare you for your career at the IOC?
I had a solid background in social economy, politics, management, but not at all focused on sport. I figured that if I want to go into the sport industry, I’d better learn a lot. And the thing I really enjoyed about the course is that it was really giving you the opportunity to see from inside a lot of events, a lot of clubs, federations – it’s very well connected with the industry. Beyond the alumni, you’re also getting opportunities to meet people that you probably would not get a chance to meet be outside of the programme, trying to create those connections by yourself. A number of well-known people, reputable companies, clubs, agencies, came to present or we went to visit, and that really also gives you a good idea of what it takes to be in that industry and create your network, or at least the first steps of it.
How does being a Fifa Master alum continue to play a role in your career today?
I think really the value of the course today is that it has grown to become a very well established programme that is recognised so when you refer to it, people are favourably impressed, because the other alumni are also in important positions today. When you’re going through a programme and it was the early days, you’re hoping that it will develop to be something that will be a good line on your CV, and today it definitely is. The alumni network has grown, I’m very close to all the people in my class, we still have monthly video calls trying to update each other on where we’re at. It’s kind of a big family. When you live for a year with people abroad, you create bonds that you can’t really create in other circumstances, so that that’s really important to me.
What advice would you give to someone starting the course this year?
If you invest in the course, you will be rewarded. You can do this course and sit back and not really talk to anybody, just receive the information and pass the grades but to me that’s not what it’s about. I’d say if you really invest yourself and be smart during the course, you maximise your chances to have an easier way into the industry afterwards.
Getting in is just a starting point; contributing and making sure that the class stands out that you stand out and that you also already establish communication with the alumni during the course, that’s making it a much more rewarding experience than just taking the course to take the course.