This article was produced in association with The Football Business Academy.
The launch of the The Football Business Academy (FBA) has opened an exciting new channel to careers in the world’s biggest sport and promises to raise the bar on professionalism, ethics and best business practice.
Launched by three well-connected former colleagues at Soccerex, the long-established football industry convention, The FBA offers a Professional Masters Degree in Football Business which balances the emphasis between essential academic studies and the hands-on practical experience and network-building which is vital to anybody determined to make an impact in a notoriously competitive sector.
According to co-founder and head of partnerships Kristian Dobrev, there has never been a greater need for a programme designed to equip students for a career in a sport which has experienced a commercial revolution in recent years and has, in some respects at least, struggled to keep up with accepted business standards and practices.
“For too long talented people who are passionate about football and have strong skill-sets have found it difficult to develop a career in football," he explained.
"While football is far from unique in this, it is fair to say that it was an old-school business with jobs going to people because of their connections as much as for the professionalism they brought to a particular role."
“The Football Business Academy has designed a course which will not only equip students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed but help them to gain real experience in the football workplace and start to build that all-important personal network.”
The founders of The FBA have identified significant demand among students which can’t be met by the limited number of places available on established courses and plans to take a new approach where study time is balanced by meaningful internships and projects carried out on in partnership with clubs, leagues and associations.
Dobrev added: “The programme has been designed to equip students to succeed in the real world of professional football.
"We differ from other programmes by combining academic study with opportunities to learn while actually being part of the industry and building relationships as well as knowledge.”
The multi-facetted FBA Masters Programme starts with a five-day introductory session to be held in Manchester, UK, in early September to coincide with the Soccerex Global Convention.
This is followed by two 10-week online modules; the first delivering an overview of football history, politics, global development, ethics and professionalism and the second drilling down into specific commercial subject strands including finance, sponsorship, media and communications and women’s football development.
The third module is a 16-week internship, organised to meet the needs of each student drawing on the founders’ extensive network within the game, while the final module, held in Geneva, includes a programme of on-campus courses and workshops as well as field-trips while students work on business projects organised in conjunction with clubs, leagues and associations.
“The projects, which will be presented and judged at the end of the programme, will be designed to allow students to draw on everything they have learned over the course of the programme and to put that to practical use," ,” Dobrev said.
"These are not theoretical exercises but projects which can make a difference in the real world of football."
The aspirations and promise of The FBA is backed up by the quality of the roster of teachers and guest lecturers that has been assembled.
They range from former senior Real Madrid commercial head Alfonso Roberes on sponsorship and internationalisation, to the renowned academic Prof Simon Chadwick on marketing and the digital era, leading lawyer Alexandre Mestre, Ornella Bellia, head of legal at European Professional Football Leagues and Alex Koch, one of the most experienced media communicators in the sport.
“It is a really strong line-up and all of our teachers have enthusiastically embraced the concept of The Football Business Academy,” said Dobrev.
“The programme is designed to create new opportunities for students to be part of the future of football. The FBA, the teachers and the students are all about building the future of football together.”