Interview with Pietro Barbera, Adjunct Professor of Sports Management and CEO of Sportmaster Consulting

As the world awaits the 2024 Summer Olympics, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore has launched a new Specialising Master in Sports Management. Where is the demand for such a programme more pressing – among prospective students or in the sports industry?

2024 is an important year for sport: Euro 2024 in Germany, the Summer Olympics in France and many other important events for an industry that is growing and that is looking for any chance to improve thanks also to the management of clubs, companies and every stakeholder involved.

What are the traditional and new career paths with a Specialising Master in Sports Management?

A Specialising Master in Sports Management now allows students to have various opportunities in their professional career. In particular, our programme aims to give our class a 360° vision of the industry, touching different topics: from managing a sport company to HR management, from finance and accounting to the strong link of sport in the territory. The final aim is to educate the future managers of the industry we all love, preparing them to take important decisions and leave their footprint.

How can students exploit the strong industry connections provided by the programme?

One of the strongest points of our programme is the creation of an important national and international network. Since the structure provides half of the classes with contributions from high-level professionals within the industry, our students can create a direct link and relationship with important players. Among our partners and professionals coming to give their contribution we can count many important companies and federations, such as AC Milan, EY, Puma, Al Nassr, Piatti Tennis Center and many others.

How does this Master help build a strong social impact through sports?

The Master in Sports Management is actually founded on this belief: nowadays sport is still one of the most important ways to positively impact society. It is addressed to everyone, from amateurs to professionals, and it is based on the passion and love of the people and among people. Just think of the huge impact a football team, tennis club or any other organisation has on the community. Sport is for everyone and it is crucial to use sport to improve the world.

What innovations does the new programme bring into the field and the industry?

The programme aims to educate the future managers of the sport industry. We currently have a class with different interests, from finance to sustainability, and we want to form them in order to be ready to face the new challenges of this world. Besides the traditional topics, the programme covers also the innovation in media and digital technologies. There is even a module in business innovation during which the students can learn from the professionals on how they overcame obstacles posed by the changing industry.

Why are Italy, and Milan in particular, great study destinations to specialise in Sports Management?

Italy is living a golden age in sport: Jannik Sinner is ranked as number 1 by the ATP, there has been a record number of medals awarded in the European Championship of Track and Field, many successes in football and in motorsports as well as many more key moments showing the development of the industry. Milan, in particular, thrives on sport: the city hosts two of the most important and historic teams in football, and it offers great and modern spaces for doing sports. Milan is also a European city, renowned for its position and its business importance. Moreover, Milan is a young city, perfect for students and perfect to approach the industry and kickstart a professional career.

How can Università Cattolica’s students gain international exposure, and immerse themselves in real business while studying?

Our students can gain international exposure thanks to the interaction with the guests and lecturers coming to share their knowledge. During the current edition of the Master they had the opportunity to talk with the Chief Revenue Officer of Al Nassr and the Chief Strategy Officer of Starzplay to discover the new reality of Saudi Arabia. They also met the Chief Marketing Officer of Atletico Madrid to understand how a big team in Spain operates and with the Marketing Vice President of an NBA team to analyse the American reality. Moreover, we organise many corporate visits so that our students can get a real feel for how a big event such as the Bonfiglio tennis tournament works, or how a MotoGp Team is organised by visiting Gresini Racing headquarters.

Does it make a difference when a programme is taught at a multidisciplinary university compared to a specialised school?

The difference between teaching a programme like ours in a multidisciplinary university compared to in a specialised school is the complete analysis you can obtain into the sports industry thanks to the contribution of the academic professors of Università Cattolica. Being able to cover all the topics with competent and qualified staff is a unique opportunity offered by our university.

What is the mix of learning options (teaching methods) in the programme?

The teaching method we structured for the programme is based on both academic classes and contribution from professionals, mixing theory and practical cases to give the students the chance to learn and apply their knowledge during the Master. So, we provide academic classes, practical cases and corporate visits. We think this is the best training for a future winning manager.

Who can benefit most from the Master in Sports Management? What kind of students are you looking for?

Our programme supports the best young students who would like to transform their passion into a profession: people with a Bachelor’s degree with or without a first working experience. We can always say that our Master makes you an interesting profile for sports players: not only teams but also a wider range of companies that work in the sports market and also federations, the public sector, and professional services.