LaLiga’s practical education for sport’s future decision-makers

LaLiga Business School is branching out its offering as the groundbreaking educational department seeks to attract and develop new talents who can spearhead future growth in Spanish football and beyond.

For aspirational students of the global sports industry, there could be few better teachers than those who have supercharged LaLiga’s growth over recent years.

However, that is exactly what is on offer at LaLiga Business School, the Spanish football league’s groundbreaking and increasingly influential educational department.

Unlike other postgraduate degrees in this space, none of the tutors or lecturers across the department’s range of Master courses are academics. Instead, they work on a daily basis within the sports ecosystem, with many operating at the cutting edge of one of the sector’s runaway success stories of the past decade.

“We have always wanted to do things differently, and LaLiga is the first sports institution to have developed its own educational department,” LaLiga Business School director José Moya tells SportBusiness.

“Everything is led by our in-house experts, from the design of the Masters to the delivery of the programmes. This is not like other academic institutions – and our students recognise that and are looking for a practical learning experience that will open doors in the future. All our teachers are sports industry professionals and therefore they can transfer knowledge and real-life expertise.”

Internal expertise

The educational department has harvested top talents from within LaLiga’s corporate infrastructure to aid with the delivery of the postgraduate programmes.

The MBA’s co-directors are LaLiga executive director Óscar Mayo and Edouard Legendre, an external consultant to the league in brand management and marketing.

Module directors include LaLiga’s commercial and marketing director Jorge de la Vega, the league’s head of digital content Jaume Pons, as well as experts with a variety of backgrounds in the industry at enterprises such as sports, media and technology investment platform Aser Ventures and advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather.

Among the academic staff are LaLiga executives who work in branding, international development, TV production and financial control, with the courses designed to tap into experts who have helped to drive the league’s global growth.

However, leveraging internal expertise does not mean the department is inward-looking.

The academic staff roster features a number of executives who work for the likes of Ferrari, Dorna, FC Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Puma and Octagon.

Furthermore, fruitful partnerships having been forged across the industry with companies and organisations such as media company Movistar, computing provider Amazon Web Services, basketball’s NBA, video game producer Electronic Arts, football’s global governing body FIFA, the Liga de Videojuegos Profesional esports competition, design and engineering firm IDOM, English football’s Premier League, and more.

Technology firm Globant is supporting this year’s launch of a Master in Innovation and Digital Transformation, which will include international trips to Los Angeles and Tel Aviv, while there will be two other new Master courses focusing on digitisation and strength conditioning in sport.

Global experience

Indeed, travelling to experience best-practice sports enterprises on a first-hand basis is an appealing feature of the educational offering.

LaLiga Business School’s flagship MBA in Sports and Entertainment Management, which is taught in English (and Spanish), features visits to the UK and USA (New York and Miami), as well as other parts of Spain to discover unique and insightful business development case studies. The MBA’s fees, including the cost of such trips, are €30,500 per year, with the course stretching over nine months, while Masters in Global Sports Marketing; Football Management, Methodology and Analysis; and Sports Law Applied to Professional Football start at €15,000.

“Our students work on real-life case studies with different clubs and sporting institutions, and we collaborate with many organising committees and national leagues, as well as national and international federations,” Moya says. “With one case study with the Volvo Ocean Race – about how to drive interest in a particular location – the race organisers ended up using one of the ideas and hiring one of our students.”

Aside from the travel, the courses are based on site at LaLiga’s headquarters in Madrid and include a six-month internship. “We always look for the best possible internships for our students,” Moya says. “We can’t ever guarantee a job, but we can guarantee a fulfilling internship through our network of partners.”

About a third of existing course content changes year-on-year to ensure the very latest trends are being captured. The MBA in Sports and Entertainment Management’s seven modules span topics such as management, marketing, digital and technological disruption, media and entertainment, innovation and major events.

Furthermore, the evolution of the portfolio of courses – evidenced by the new programmes launching this year – reflects an increasing appetite for professionalism within the industry, Moya says.

“When I was doing my own MBA in Sports Management, there were just a handful of these courses around the world. There are many more now, and I think it’s a good thing as it is a measurement of the temperature of an industry that is becoming more professional. We are attracting and retaining more talent than ever before as a sector.”

Career path

Moya’s own career path has included executive positions in football, tennis and involved in many different sport events organisation. He started his current role in October 2017, with the first intake of students at LaLiga Business School arriving the following year.

One of the key reasons for the launch of the educational department was the desire to incubate talent that would ultimately benefit LaLiga – and its clubs – in the years to come.

Moya highlights the fact that when discussions were first initiated over the possible launch of the department nearly a decade ago following the election of Javier Tebas as LaLiga president, the financial situations of numerous clubs across LaLiga’s two divisions were precarious.

“The situation has started to recover thanks to having talent in club management, as well as on the grass,” Moya says. “LaLiga is a good example of the growth of the professionalism in the industry. A decade ago, when Javier Tebas became president, LaLiga had maybe 35 to 40 employees. Now it has nearly 800, including 200 abroad, in a variety of positions.”

Moya draws a parallel with the success of Google’s educational programmes, which are designed and delivered in-house without input from external universities, and have led to the internet giant strengthening its talent base.

“Our clubs need navy seals – people with passion, determination and knowledge,” Moya adds. “That is why we have a serious application process.”

With numbers capped at 25 or 30 for each course, LaLiga Business School is oversubscribed, with around 50 to 60 applications landing for each course. Applicants for the department’s flagship MBA typically need to have more than five years of experience in a ‘position of command’, meaning they tend to be aged between 28 and 31 years old. Successful applicants must also go through two interviews – with the admissions department and one of the course directors – and have a CV that stands out in a competitive process. Overall, the split of students between Spanish and international is about 60:40.

With the other courses, students tend to be in their early to mid-20s as there is no such requirement for extensive in-work experience.


More than 50 graduates – around one in five who have studied at the school – currently work within the league’s sprawling administrative, commercial and business development operations.

Several operate within the groundbreaking LaLiga Global Network, which was launched in 2017 to forge connections, build contacts, establish links and drive commercial revenues in specific markets worldwide.

In addition, according to the department, 38% of ex-students work for LaLiga clubs, and 95% of the Business School’s graduates are working in the sports industry.

There are also significant networking opportunities. For those looking to climb the career ladder, the simple fact that students can reach out to the industry through their own LaLiga email addresses is hugely beneficial.

“Our students feel part of LaLiga and the industry from the moment they arrive,” Moya says.

“If a student gets in touch with someone in the industry with a LaLiga email address, the chances are they will get a response.

“Once they become a student, they are a part of our network forever. It doesn’t matter if they finished their studies with us three years ago – we will keep in touch with them and let them know about job opportunities – and the networking opportunities through LaLiga Business School are really important.”

Alumni network

The LaLiga Business School alumni network is growing through further partnerships.

Last year, LaLiga launched an MBA in Doha for the development of the sports and entertainment industry in Qatar and the Middle East through a collaboration with Aspire Zone Foundation. The inaugural course took place in the months leading up to the start of the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar.

The launch came after LaLiga Business School had previously signed memorandums of understanding with organisations like the Brazilian Football Confederation’s CBF Academy and the Malaysian Football League, as well as with educational institutions such as the University of Canberra in Australia, Egypt’s ESLSCA University and Columbia University in the United States.

The department has also established a Talent Office course, exclusively for employees of LaLiga clubs, to support them in the implementation of projects under the LaLiga Impulso umbrella. LaLiga Impulso is the strategic agreement between the league and investment fund CVC to boost the development of LaLiga clubs.

Additionally, LaLiga Business School has developed programmes designed for sports properties such as the Liga MX football league in Mexico and the Colombian Olympic Committee as part of an increasingly diverse offering.

Professional development

Educational programmes are also being delivered for professional sports stars, thanks to projects such as the Global Players Program and the ATP Business Program. These offer exclusive courses for LaLiga GA players and tennis players, respectively.

The Global Players Program is for active players in the top two divisions and includes online masterclasses between February and May – to fit in with the footballers’ schedules – before they meet on campus over three days in Madrid every June. The first edition of the course, which offers a condensed version of the established MBA in Sports and Entertainment Management for 30 successful applicants, took place two years ago.

“We are the only national league to offer this kind of exclusive and specific course for our players, and it has been very popular across both leagues,” Moya says.

The department also has a partnership in place with AFE, the Spanish Football Players’ Association, to launch a course for ex-players. Whilst plans are still being finalised, the course will be longer than that on offer for current players and the content will be adapted for the specific intake.

Meanwhile in May, LaLiga and the ATP – the top men’s tennis tour – launched the ATP Business Education Programme.

The programme comprises 30 tuition hours, delivered online and in person over four months, with more than 20 players enrolling in the inaugural edition, culminating in a two-day session in New York during the 2023 US Open. Top-10 ace Stefanos Tsitsipas from Greece is one of the students.

“The ATP approached us and asked if we could support the development of a course for their players, as they were impressed with what we had done for our footballers,” Moya explains. “We had 50 applicants for the places this year, and we are expecting even more in the future.”

When the course was launched, the opportunity for professionals to use the LALIGA Business School to unlock long-term career prospects as they prepare for life beyond competitive sport was highlighted as a key priority by both ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi and LaLiga president Tebas.

Given the importance of LaLiga Business School in providing a pathway for talented individuals who will underpin the future growth of LaLiga and its clubs, it is no surprise to see the league’s top executives, including Tebas, listed among the department’s staff as having a hands-on role. As the first professional league to develop an educational department such as this entirely in-house, and also the first to offer such a comprehensive learning course for active players, results matter.

“LaLiga is putting its reputation and prestige on the line by operating an educational department such as this,” Moya says. “Elsewhere, it is possible to hide behind a separate university, but in our case, we want to take direct responsibility.”