Dr Mike Rayner, Associate Head - School of Sport, Health and Exercise Science, University of Portsmouth, UK

Dr Mike Rayner is a Fellow of The Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM), Fellow of the Chartered Institute for Sports Management and Physical Activity (CIMSPA), a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a registered practitioner with the Chartered Management Institute (CIM) and the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM). He has published widely in the area of Sport Management, with projects relating to four complementary areas: employee performance and well-being, organisational behaviour, human resource development and employment relationships within professional sport environments. A sports management practitioner, Dr Rayner’s consultancy work spans a diverse range of clients including elite athletes, coaches and support staff, business executives, National Governing Bodies, Professional Sports Clubs and Government Agencies. In an email interaction with Higher Education Digest, Dr Rayner talks about the growing popularity of sports management as a career choice, how UoP is uniquely positioned to offer Indian students a comprehensive program in sports management, and many more.

Tell us about the growing popularity of sports management as a career choice.

Sport is no longer considered a sideshow of global business activity and is now an independent global industry in its own right. Consequently, this industry needs to be guided by experts with a wide range of managerial skills in subjects such as finance, law, analytics, human resources and many other traditional business competencies but with a specific focus on the diverse dynamics of the sports industry. Gone are the days of reliance on mainstream business professionals, and now there is a requirement for industry specialists to fundamentally understand and develop the ever-expanding sports industry. Subsequently, Sports Management professionals have skill sets that enable them to manage athletes, create wealth through marketing and sales strategies, and manage staff for national sport organisations and global companies associated with the sport. It is these varied career opportunities that demand specific industry experts and illustrates the value of this expertise in maintaining and enhancing the ever-increasing value of global sport.

COVID-19 has changed the way the world has been conducting sport activates. Do you think 2020 is the best time to study sports management? If so, why?

Covid-19 has caused numerous sporting events around the world to be postponed or cancelled in a bid to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The removal of matchday revenues (such as ticketing, food and beverage, car parking and VIP/corporate hospitality revenues) and broadcasting revenues will have a profound impact on the global sports industry. COVID-19 has already seen many international sports organisations make redundancies and reduce the volume of available entry-level jobs with the global economy not predicted to recover until 2023 – the year in which students who start their degree level studies in 2020 could graduate. Despite the current situation, undertaking a sports management degree can be seen as a good investment by developing new skills and competencies in the time when the global economy to recovers from the consequences of COVID-19. In the post-COVID-19 era, sports management professionals will fast become the most sort after commodity in the ever-expanding global sports industry. These professionals will be at the forefront of an unprecedented industry growth that is predicted to see a 6% increase in global value to almost £530 billion by the year 2022 and beyond.

Why do Indian students need to consider sports management as a career seriously?

India has a long and significant history in terms of its contribution to the global landscape of the sport. However, despite this history and the recent government initiatives within India, such as the Indian Premier League (cricket), Hockey India League, India Badminton League, Pro Kabaddi League, and the Indian Super League (football), there is still a significant shortage of suitably qualified sports management professionals within the country.  While Sports Management education around the globe has expanded to reflect the consistent growth within the sports industry, these education platforms are not wholly available around India. This ultimately creates an opportunity for students, who are or are due to become suitably qualified sports management specialists, to realise career aspirations within the sports industry.

How UoP is uniquely positioned to offer Indian students a comprehensive program in sports management?

The School of Sport, Health and Exercise Science is a vibrant interdisciplinary School within the Faculty of Science and Health at the University of Portsmouth. The school offers undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD programmes in Sports Management providing an educational platform that bridges the gap between science and application, creating a diverse and comprehensive educational experience for our students.

We examine the role of physical activity in health and disease, strategies for increasing participation in sport and physical activity, and approaches to optimising human performance. Our discipline covers the entire lifespan, from childhood to master athletes and we study individuals across the performance spectrum, from Olympic athletes to those undertaking physically demanding occupations, or individuals with chronic diseases where exercise is medicine.

Our outstanding educational, research and innovation activities are supported by our laboratories – such as the Extreme Environments Laboratory – and our unique testing facilities including the sports and human performance testing unit and sports bra testing unit. The school has received funding for its excellent research from many notable organisations, including charities, governing bodies, health groups, industry, defence and research funding bodies.

What are the plans of UoP to forge partnerships with Indian universities?

The School of Sport, Health and Exercise Science has already formed a number of key partnerships with Indian universities. A collaboration with the Manipal Academy of Higher Education investigates sport industry trends and career pathways across the sports sector. Alongside this research agenda, the partnership also focuses on student exchange, dual awards and further research areas such as occupational and organisational performance. Furthermore, the School of Sport, Health and Exercise Science has a partnership with Amity University whereby there is a focus on dual awards, research and student exchange agreements.

During this pandemic, how is UoP supporting its students in the areas of academic, budget, career guidance, employability and so on?

As the university heads into the 2020/21 academic year, all the necessary safety measures have been put in place to open our campus, including our teaching spaces, communal spaces, toilets, cafes and the library. Below is a summary of the key developments in light of COVID-19;

  • All teaching to large groups will be delivered online using enhanced technology
  • COVID-19 testing adjacent to the campus with same-day and walk-in appointments available for students and staff who are feeling unwell
  • Touchpoints such as doors, handles and stair rails will be cleaned regularly
  • Communal areas, including teaching areas, toilets and hallways will be cleaned daily
  • Protective screens where there are lots of face-to-face interactions, such as in the library and reception areas, are being installed
  • The number of people using lifts will be restricted, so everyone has more space
  • One-way systems will be in place in buildings
  • Hand sanitising stations will be available around campus
  • Temperature scanning will be in place at strategic places around the campus
  • Signs and floor markings will be in place to help with social distancing and encourage good hygiene

Life as a university student at the University of Portsmouth in 2020/21 will be a little different. Still, one thing hasn’t changed – we’re as excited as ever to make sure that students have an amazing experience. Students will receive a blended and connected learning experience which provides the same amount of time with lecturers but through a blend of face-to-face and online delivery. Students will still undertake practical learning such as labs and workshops on campus but in smaller groups and with the relevant safety measures in place.

Even though campus will look slightly different in the 2020/21 academic year, the support services on offer will not. Students will still be able to access our Health and Wellbeing support, Learning and Academic support, Finance and Money support and the Careers and Employability services. Each area of support offers online and campus-based one-to-one support sessions as well as numerous small group and workshop support sessions to ensure that students have access to our support services in a manner that suits their needs.

What is your advice to the students who want to pursue a career in the field of sports management?

The very nature of the global sports industry suggests that segmentation between participatory sports and the spectator sports market provides a plethora of career opportunities for aspiring individuals. The sports industry, unlike many others, evokes passion and emotion and requires sports management professionals to have a range of managerial skills in subjects such as finance, law, analytics, human resources and many other traditional business competencies but with a specific focus on the diverse dynamics of the sports industry. Nonetheless, in India, while the dynamic culture of sport embedded within the country is globally renowned, a lack of public resources, sports management education platforms and ultimately sports management specialists is impeding the country’s growth in the global sports industry.

The lack of investment in sports management education is not a new phenomenon as there are still very few programmes that provide opportunities to undertake either undergraduate and/or postgraduate courses in Sports Management within India. While the International Institute of Sports Management and the National Academy of Sports Management (both based in Mumbai) have made great strides to produce sports management programmes, the industry is reliant on the bulk of specialists obtaining their qualifications overseas. Nonetheless, the real challenge to recruiting students to careers within sports management (both nationally and internationally) lies within challenging the mind-set of Indian parents where qualifications in maths, science and engineering still remain a preference. While the career opportunities exist and the expectation of the global industry value to almost £530 billion by the year 2022 is real, the government and wider society need to recognise and understand the importance of having sports management professionals to ensure that India is not left behind during this global boom of the sports industry.

To all those aspiring students who have a passion for a career in sport, now is the time to actively seek out undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in Sports Management. Careers in Sports Management provide real opportunities for individuals to make an impact within a community, work with high profile clients and parlay a passion into a career; something very few global industry sectors can offer its workforce.

To all those parents that doubt a career within the sports industry, one thing that I can promise you amidst global financial crises, global pandemics and cultural disputes; sport will always be a constant and participation and consumer markets are here stay, and education in this sector will always provide a significant return on investment.

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