Alumni Interview, UMass | Dominic Macklin, football operations manager, City Football Group

Having grown up and studied in the UK through undergraduate level, Dominic Macklin was part of UMass’ MBA/MS Sport Management graduating class of 2015. He then returned to UK and joined City Football Group, where he has worked in a number of roles and currently holds the position of Football Operations Manager.

Why did you choose to take the path of a postgraduate degree in sports management?

I had completed my undergraduate degree in the UK at Cambridge and when I graduated, I wasn’t really sure exactly what I wanted to do. None of the main career paths my friends were following particularly appealed to me at the time, so I took some time out whilst I decided what to do before ultimately realising it was a career in sports which I was passionate about.

I’d always been keen on doing something in sport and was interested beyond the typical fandom that my friends had. I had spent a lot of time in the States growing up and was fascinated by the US sports culture and the size of the economy around it, so it felt like a logical move to try to begin my career over there. Going via the academic route, getting a postgraduate degree felt like the best step to gain an understanding of the industry, build a network and start to develop a plan for my career.

In terms of picking which institution to go with what was decisive about selecting UMass?

I was aware from my research of just how competitive the world of sports was in terms of securing a job. That’s why I wanted to begin my path on the academic side, to earn a qualification as a means to help differentiate and establish myself in a crowded market, but also a way to make connections in the industry. When I was researching programme, the UMass name came up time and time again as being the best, pretty much wherever you look. The more I read, the clearer it became just how strong the programme’s alumni network was and how focused it was on helping students secure a great job in the world of sports. The UMass programme was not only well respected academically, but it had a huge focus on the career side of things, so it just immediately became clear to me that it was the best option.

How did the course set up your career path and open doors for you within the industry?

It was brilliant in this sense. The network is just so vast and so strong that there were a lot of doors that they could open. Regardless of what field you’re looking to go into, there were people that they could connect you with. I was able to connect directly with senior figures from the worlds of college athletics, corporate partnerships, consulting, and a whole range of areas of the sports industry through the programme’s alumni network and the mentorship programme.

As I mentioned, I think the programme prioritises the alumni network and therefore provides the opportunity to build strong relationships with them. As a result, the alumni are then very helpful, and they reach back out. Even now, I’m not that long out the programme – I graduated seven years ago – and I’ve had numerous calls and conversations with current and past students of the programme who have wanted to pick my brain and connect to understand my career path and how I might be able to advise or help them. As it’s something I benefited from so greatly, I’m more than happy to pay it back and I know this is the case with UMass alums all over the world. Even outside of the direct alumni network, the respect that the programme has in the industry means that a lot of people in the world of sports tend to be happy to speak to you because the programme is so well regarded. The UMass name tends to help open some doors.

Are there any experiences from your time on the course which stand out as being either memorable or influential that you carry with you today?

We visited New York City to meet with a range of different companies in the sports Industry as part of the career development programme. Those introductions, those meetings and networking sessions, were all set up through the programme’s network. We went to visit the New York Mets, Madison Square Garden, a couple of consultancy agencies, the NHL. As students at the time, it was great to see in real life that these weren’t just names on a piece of paper. These were real people working in the real NHL office in Manhattan or the real New York Mets office. It brought to life how strong the network was in getting the chance to meet people at these great institutions in the world of sport.

As part of the programme, I spent the summer between my 2 years of study interning at USA Rugby in Colorado. I was a full-time employee of the organisation for three or four months which was an incredible experience and gave me the chance to see and be involved first hand with a lot of the ideas we’d talked about back in the classroom in Amherst. I was lucky enough in that I was asked to carry on working for USA Rugby until Christmas, whilst back in Amherst. UMass supported me and allowed me to keep doing this whilst studying, including this experience as part of my course credit. The programme was so geared towards career development and helping you find a job that they realised something like that was extremely beneficial and so they were incredibly supportive in it.

What would you say to someone in a scenario today considering following a similar move from abroad to study in the US to help build their career in the sports industry?

From my own personal experience, I couldn’t recommend it highly enough as a way to learn the industry and to take the first steps in your own path in sports. When I was considering the move, part of what helped me make the decision was the knowledge that on the academic side, sports management as a discipline was far more established and well regarded than in most countries.

In addition, the US sport industry was more diverse, larger and also probably a bit better established than over here; when you consider all of the professional sports in the U.S., collegiate athletics, the wider sports marketing industry over there – it just felt like there was more opportunity. All of this added together just made it seem a great place for me to start. Hopefully myself and a lot of others who’ve done the same are proof that you can bring that knowledge and the skills from the U.S. to help build a good career for yourself in the UK. or elsewhere.

Following on that point, do you think that the Masters at UMass is a differential for you in the UK sports market?

I’ve been working in the UK for six and a half years, and even being based here I’ve come across multiple people in my day-to-day work who are either fellow alumni, know or work with alumni or who just know of the reputation the programme has, which is fantastic. There’s a huge amount of respect that people across the industry have for the programme, even here in the U.K., which of course is only a positive for your career, particularly in the early stages. With the programme offering a dual degree of both an MBA and M.S., a lot of the business management concepts I learned have proved increasingly helpful as my career has progressed. Very few sports management programmes include an MBA, which has certainly been a differentiator and will hopefully help me have a successful career in sports for a few more years to come!

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