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Alumni Interview, FIFA Master | Rhali Amrani, strategy and analysis director, Qatar 2022

Rhali Amrani completed the FIFA Master in 2012 and took up a role as part of the organising committee behind the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar in the first half of the following year. His current position within the tournament’s organisational structure is strategy and analysis director, reporting directly to the CEO. 

Why did you choose to take up a postgraduate degree in sports management?  

Back in 2010 when I decided to take up the course, I was a corporate banker in Montreal. My life and career in Montreal was good but I really wanted to get into sport. I’ve always been a football fan, living and breathing football and I wanted to see how I could live my passion. My brother (also an Alumnus of the FIFA Master since 2004) was a senior administrator of the Confederation of African Football at the time, and I went with him to the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa and was privileged to attend a few matches and meet lots of people, so that experience was incredible and influenced my thinking at the time. I was also very lucky to have full support from my father and oldest brother, which was also a decisive factor. 

What was decisive in selecting the FIFA Master programme as your chosen course?  

When I took the decision to take the course it was 2010 and you didn’t have many courses offering sports management as a Master’s or even MBAs specialised in sport. It was always about getting into football rather than wider sport and the idea of the network the FIFA Master could provide influenced my choice. At any football association in the world there’d be someone you could be connected with and that network has helped me significantly within my career. It was also about giving myself credibility and differentiation within the industry and the FIFA Master was really the quality stamp I needed. 

It’s been one of the best professional decisions I have ever made. The year you do the Master is incredible. The course was so diverse in terms of nationalities, it broadened my horizons from a cultural perspective and was an incredible experience. The international angle was always very attractive to me, it was valuable to interact with such a highly diverse class in terms of both culture and mindset.  

How has your time on the course set up and influenced your career path? 

The course was one of the main factors that allowed me to be where I am today because it provided me with the tools to hit the ground running in an environment driven by passion rather than profit. The humanities-focused element of the course allowed me to track back to the origin of sports and understand the humanity angle to it. The management module was an easier transition as I had the banking experience, but the financial metrics don’t take into account passion which plays such a huge role in sport. The law element really provided me and helped me build a systematic approach. 

After the course, I worked on various small events then I had the opportunity to join the World Cup in early 2013. The reason I waited for months after finishing the course was that I wanted to take time for the right opportunity to be presented to me after such a drastic change in career. When I got the offer from Qatar, I also had a few offers from marketing agencies and other organisations but the Qatar 2022 opportunity stood out for various reasons. I did not know much of Qatar growing up, but their innovative bid prompted a lot of comments about the country and their ability to deliver the tournament. This increased even more my curiosity and attractiveness about the event, apart from the obvious fact that the tournament will be hosted in an Arab country for the first time. I had already the chance to attend the 2010 FIFA World Cup in Africa, I am convinced this tournament will also leave a long-lasting legacy. The opportunity to contribute to this historic event made it something more attractive to me. I also wanted to form my own opinion of Qatar and ten years later, I feel we’re about to deliver the greatest ever FIFA World Cup. 

Are there any experiences from your time on the course that stand out as being particularly memorable/influential?  

There were many but what really blew my mind was to be able to wake up every morning and meet football club representatives to talk about their experience and collect their advice. For instance, we went to Bolton Wanderers’ stadium and visited the hotel connected to their stadium and the next day we spoke to both Man United and Man City. From a marketing standpoint, both teams were unbelievably strong and amongst the best teams in the world at the time. Another memorable moment was going to Italy and seeing the passion of people with low financial means going to the stadium to support their team every single week no matter the result on the pitch. For instance, I saw a game between AC Milan and Napoli in –2 degrees at the San Siro and everyone was chanting to the last minute despite a quite boring goalless draw. 

Once more, what really stuck with me was that passion. I was making a very good living in banking but there was something missing. The FIFA Master and those experiences helped me see that it was that passion factor which was the missing ingredient, with football being so much more than just kicking a ball aroundit involves teamwork, discipline and respect. All those things stuck out for me, especially coming from the corporate financial world. I saw the power of sport in practice here in Qatar sport is really used as a vehicle to improve and develop society.  

Can you describe how what you learned on the course has been applied to your current role working as part of the organising team for Qatar 2022? 

I attended the Monaco GP and Champions League final in 2012. This really stuck in my head because they were two massive events, with such large amounts of people attending, but there were so many opportunities to improve the fan experience and make the events more enjoyable as a whole. I have taken this with me into the current role because this is something we are really focusing on. We want every fan who comes to the 2022 World Cup to have a positive experience and I was mindful of that time at the Grand Prix and Champions League final when approaching the fan experience challenge. 

What would be your advice to new students starting at on the same course on the FIFA Master this year? 

Enjoy every single second because you are about to have the best year of your life in terms of learning, experience, interacting with new cultures and new people and joining the FIFA Master family, which professionally is one of the best things that has happened to me. It taught me many things, including to treat everyone with respect and to not focus on outperforming others because there’s enough space for everyone to succeed. Always have an open mind, taking into account differing opinions. Ultimately, when I think back about the Master I always have a smile on my face. 

This article is part of the 2022 SportBusiness Postgraduate Rankings. To browse the entire report and view the overall tables, click here.

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