The FIFA Master 16th Edition graduation.

Back to school – my FIFA Master year

In 2015/16, I went back to University to study the FIFA Master – International Master in Management, Law and Humanities of Sport; one of the premier Sports Management postgraduate degrees in the world.  The International Centre for Sport Studies (CIES) in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, runs the program.  It was created to promote management education within the sports world and regularly develops all-round managers who can cope with the increasingly complex world of sport.  The course is run in partnership with three universities in three different countries.

Each year, around 30 students are selected from a wide array of different nationalities (29 different nationalities in my class) and different professional backgrounds.  It is this diversity that makes the program so rich and as it is interdisciplinary, it provides postgraduates with the opportunity to learn a broad range of subjects and develop their analytical skills to better cope with the fast-changing trends in the sport industry.  Through the FIFA Master Alumni network, we have also come out of this with a strong network across the sports industry globally.


Leicester – Humanities of Sport

FIFA Master 16th Edition at King Power Stadium (Leicester City FC)
FIFA Master 16th Edition at King Power Stadium (Leicester City FC)

Our first stop was De Montfort University in Leicester, UK, at its International Centre for Sports History and Culture, for the sports humanities module which included subjects such as the birth of modern sport, professionalisation and internationalisation of sport and sport ethics (and it was an amazing period to be there with Leicester City FC dominating the EPL).

The academic side of the course was very interesting with topics like the GAA in Ireland, the history of the Olympics and the history of football.  Nevertheless, the first module was mostly about getting to know our fellow students and it was amazing to be in a classroom and social environment with 32 people from 29 different countries, many of which I had never met anyone from those countries before.  Each of shared with the class a ‘National Presentation’ about sport in our own country and it was fascinating to learn about the similarities and differences between each of them.

We also had behind the scenes visits to Leicester City FC, Manchester United, Manchester City and the All England Club in Wimbledon amongst others, to learn about the management of these organisations and events.  We also got the opportunity to volunteer on match days at the Leicester Tigers, England’s best supported Rugby club, so that we could experience first hand how a match day is run behind the scenes at club that is regularly at its capacity of 25,000 spectators.  As luck would have it, I had great flatmates in Leicester and these guys from Brazil, Belgium and the UK quickly became my closest friends from the course, not to mention that this is when I met my partner 🙂

Here are some highlights from our time in Leicester:


Milan – Sports Management

FIFA Master 16th Edition at Juventus Stadium
FIFA Master 16th Edition at Juventus Stadium

Our next stop was one of the top management schools in Europe, SDA Bocconi in Milan, Italy for the sport management module, the one most relevant to me, so I was excited.  I also forgot to mention that once upon a time I was an AC Milan fan mostly due to my childhood hero, Zvonimir Boban, but I stopped supporting them and Italian football in general due to the Calciopoli scandal in 2006, much to the dismay of my Canadian/Italian classmate who lives and dies by their performances.

In Milan, aside from regular visits to San Siro, we studied Sports Leadership & Organisation, Sports Finance, Sports Marketing, Sports Strategic Planning, Sports Event Management and International Sports Management.  Here I was really in my element as I was able to put together my practical experience with the specificities of sport.  I definitely found this to be the most useful part of the course for my future career.  Again we had behind the scenes trips to a variety of sporting organisations including Juventus, Vero Volley, Sky Sports and Inter Milan.  Living in Italy was a great experience and our endless feasts at the aperitivo bars on Navigli will be unforgettable, but a highlight was definitely everyone coming together to support our friend’s local team, the Denver Broncos, win Super Bowl 50 at our regular hangout Rookies Sports Bar.

Some highlights from Milan:


Neuchâtel – Sports Law

FIFA Master 16th Edition and Alumni in Neuchâtel
FIFA Master 16th Edition and Alumni in Neuchâtel

Our last stop was the quaint little town of Neuchâtel in Switzerland.  This marked the reunion of the original four flatmates in an amazing lake-house by Lake Neuchâtel equipped with a huge backyard, a canoe and a ping-pong table, unfortunately the weather wasn’t particularly friendly with us, so although we had a few great events there (teaching everyone to play cricket, watching the NBA finals, UEFA Champions League final, UEFA Euro 2016) we still weren’t able to make the most of the outdoor offering.

The Université de Neuchâtel module first gave us a general background in law, especially EU and Swiss law given this is where so many international sports federations are based, and then we focused more specifically on Sports Law, covering topics such as sports governing bodies, athletes, the legal aspects of financing, the North American system, ethics in sport and dispute resolution, particularly the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).  For someone with no legal background, it was enlightening to understand why some elements of sports business are the way they are due to various legal obligations and occasionally legal hurdles.  Discussions relating to the Bosman ruling were particularly interesting for me.


FIFA Master 16th Edition at FIFA Headquarters in Zurich
FIFA Master 16th Edition at FIFA Headquarters in Zurich

The best part of this module though was definitely being able to visit the various sports organisations in the area, particularly the IOC, FIFA, FIBA, UEFA and TEAM Marketing.  Another memorable, but embarrassing, part of this experience was my attempt to run the Madrid Marathon with some classmates only to collapse at the 41km mark, just 1km shy of the finish line.  In the midst of finishing our final projects we also enjoyed UEFA Euro 2016 and went across the border to watch the occasional game.

Finally we came to graduation day.  I was honoured to have graduated with Distinction (Top 3 students) and my final project group shared the ‘Madella Award’ for the best final project presentation that was awarded to us by FIFA Secretary General,  Fatma Samoura.  The graduation ceremony was a bittersweet occasion as we knew that after a year of living and breathing together we would each have to go our separate ways and there is a definite chance that we may never see some of our classmates again.

Highlights of our time in Neuchâtel:


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