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SportBusiness Postgraduate Course Rankings 2020

Welcome to the 2020 SportBusiness Postgraduate Rankings.

Welcome to the 2020 SportBusiness Postgraduate Rankings.

It goes without saying that this year has been the most difficult edition of these rankings to produce. The sports and education sectors have been severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, which will leave its mark on both for many years to come.

Nevertheless, our aim remains unchanged, and we believe we have produced the most comprehensive and detailed ranking of the world’s best sport management courses in our history.

Adam Nelson, editor, Postgraduate Rankings

The goal, as ever, is to to provide students and course leaders alike with the most dependable and respected rankings system for postgraduate sports management programmes around the world. That task gets a little more difficult and complex each year, as we continue to adjust and expand our criteria to ensure the fairest and most reliable outcome, and in 2020 we’ve made some significant changes to both the methodology of the rankings and the outlook of this report.

In terms of the content, given the events of 2020 so far, we have focused on the intersection of academia and the wider world, with features on how universities are attempting to navigate the complex issues of race, gender and, of course, the Covid-19 pandemic.

To highlight the career paths that start with a postgraduate degree, you will find interviews with some of the highest-profile graduates from the courses we survey, now employed by the likes of Fifa, the IOC and WWE, discussing how their studies helped to kick-start their careers and how their alma maters continue to support them.

We also take an in-depth look at some of the most impactful research being produced and published by the schools, to give a sense of how the sport industry still relies on work being performed in academia, and look at why universities are increasingly exploring partnerships with major sporting organisations. Meanwhile, top academics from across the sector give their views on the challenges and opportunities facing sport business education in the coming years.

As ever, profound thanks go to our advisory panel, who this year more than any previous have helped to guide the direction of our rankings, offering generous feedback on how we could adjust our criteria to improve the reliability, validity and credibility of the rankings.

The winners are

Ohio University’s Masters of Sports Administration programme has reclaimed its place on the top of the pile, marking the seventh time it has topped our table in the nine years we’ve been running these rankings. Though it is the oldest sports management degree in the world, having been founded in 1966, Ohio’s strength has been in its ability to modernise, and in its strength across the board, posting scores in the nineties in almost every criteria on which we evaluate.

The competition this time out was closer than ever, with the gap between second and third particularly tight. The University of Massachusetts Amherst may have lost the crown it won in 2019, but second place this year is a no less admirable achievement, while the course remained top in the Professors’ Choice category, again demonstrating the esteem in which its MBA/MS Sport Management programme is held by course leaders across the sector.

CIES’s Fifa Master holds on to its bronze medal placing, and is once again the highest-ranked European course. It scored highest or joint-highest in the key categories of alumni network and career value, showing the high regard in which graduates of the course hold it.

As the data table on pages six and seven shows, UMass and the Fifa Master slightly out-scored Ohio in several categories, with both of them bettering the winner in the job support and alumni network criteria. Ohio’s consistently high scores across almost all of our measures, however, ensured it came out on top. An extra one-quarter of a point overall would have seen CIES overtake UMass, while just over one point separated it from Ohio, demonstrating that while the latter may deservedly have claimed the top spot, the difference in quality between our top three is minimal. The three are also the only three schools to have ever finished in first place in the rankings.

George Washington University’s Masters in Sports Management finished fourth overall, and is the third-highest placed programme in North America, coming in just behind Ohio and UMass.

Among the highest risers this year were both the MBA in Sport Management at the Real Madrid Gradaute University in Spain, in 10th place, and the Master of Advanced Studies in Sport Administration and Technology at Switzerland-based AISTS, which finished in ninth. Moving up nine and 14 places respectively, their performances mean there are now three Europe-based schools in the top ten.

Perhaps the biggest story of the rankings this year is the performance of European programmes in general, which make up 16 out of the top 40, the highest ever proportion of courses from the continent. The University of Liverpool Management School was the only institute with two courses in the top 40; its highly specialised Football Industries and Thoroughbred Horseracing Industries MBAs both performing strongly. Australia’s Deakin remains the only representative from outside North America and Europe.


For 2020, we have made some significant alterations to our methodology to ensure the rankings keep up to date with the latest developments in sport business education and remain the most in-depth and detailed in the industry.

One of the biggest was a change to how we measure employability. Previously, up to 25 points were awarded based on graduates’ employment status six months after finishing a course. After consultations with our advisory panel, we decided that this was too limiting. For 2020, a maximum of 12 points are awarded based on this measure, with the remaining 13 available based on graduates’current employment status, three years after completing the course (the student surveys always go to alumni who finished their studies three years ago, with this year’s being completed by the graduating classes of 2017). We believe this gives a much more rounded representation of the employability of alumni, as well as of the opportunities afforded to them.

We now award up to three points based on current salary, one more than in previous years, and have introduced a purchasing power parity to distinguish between salaries in different countries, rather than using a direct exchange rate, which occasionally led to unfair comparisons.

Two entirely new categories have been introduced to the student satisfaction scores, with up to seven points now awarded for ability to network with industry executives while studying, and the same number available based on a value-for-money judgement.

We removed the points allocated to schools based on ethnic diversity – a reflection of the difficulty in securing accurate data on this measure, due to the different ways in which it is recorded across different countries and institutions, rather than of decreased importance. Up to three points are still awarded based the ratio of international students on a course, as well as the ratio of female students. We have also begun awarding a single point for schools which have a strong ratio of international and female faculty members.

How the PGR score is calculated

(number of points is the maximum possible score)

 Student measures

  •          Quality of teaching: 10 points
  •          Support in finding a job in the industry: 7 points
  •          Quality of extra-curricular support: 5 points
  •          Opportunities to connect with the alumni network: 7 points
  •          Ability to network with industry executives: 7 points
  •          Value for money provided by the masters program: 7 points
  •          Value of the degree in furthering career: 5 points
  •          Usefulness of the skills and knowledge provided by the programme in current position: 5 points


  •          Employment status at six months: 12 points
  •          Current employment status: 13 points


  •          Course Leader choice: 10 points
  •          Percentage of female students: 3 points
  •          Percentage of female teaching staff: 1 point
  •          Percentage of international students: 3 points
  •          Percentage of international teaching staff: 1 point
  •          Current salary: 3 points
  •          Work placement: 1 point

Advisory panel

For the 2020 edition, we engaged the biggest advisory panel in the history of the rankings, taking guidance from course leaders at some of the highest-profile programmes across Europe and the US. Our sincerest thanks go to the following, whose help and input has been more vital than ever in shaping the SportBusiness Postgraduate Rankings.

  • Vassil Girginov PhD, Reader in sport management/development at Brunel University London and president of the European Association for Sport Management
  • Claude Stricker, executive director of the International Academy of Sport Science and Technology (AISTS)
  • Dr Kevin Tallec Marston, research fellow and academic project manager at the International Centre for Sport Studies
  • Steve McKelvey, department chair and graduate program director at the Mark H. McCormack Department of Sport Management, UMass
  • Jim Kahler, director of sports gambling education at Ohio University
  • Scott Rosner, academic director, Sport Management Program at Columbia University
  • Scott Nestler, academic director, MS in Business Analytics at University of Notre Dame

Most recent

With the National Basketball Association, National Hockey League, and Major League Baseball all approaching their offseasons at the same time due to Covid-19, US regional sports networks are facing an extended programming drought of live pro team sports during the fourth quarter of 2020.

Dutch clubs like SC Heerenveen have sold large numbers of season tickets prior to the 2020-21 Eredivisie season, despite there being no guarantees spectators will be allowed to attend matches. Callum McCarthy reports.

Basketball Champions League CEO Patrick Comninos describes how the fledgling basketball competition has tried to maintain momentum during a troubled year and its plans to resume this year's season with a Final-Eight competition in Athens. Kevin Roberts reports.

Miami is focusing on sporting events that will generate a positive economic impact and reflect the city’s diverse heritage as it bids to recover from the devastating impact of Covid-19. Bradley Rial reports.