Sports stars limber up for business roles after graduating

From left: Mike Rush, Ben Stirling, Andy Grant, Steve Harper, Scott Sellars, Jon Daniels, Greg Miller, Karen Bardsley, Chris Rawlings

Manchester Metropolitan University has enabled a host of former sports professionals, and sports industry figures, achieve the credentials to support them in new or existing careers.

Sixteen participants on its Masters of Sport Directorship (MSD) scheme have graduated.

They include former Blackburn and Newcastle footballer Scott Sellars, who is now head of player development at Wolverhampton Wanderers, former Liverpool, Manchester City, Newcastle and German international Didi Hamann, ex-Bolton Wanderers forward and Southport manager Kevin Davies, Gary Bowyer, current manager at Bradford City and formerly Blackpool and Blackburn, ex-Newcastle goalkeeper Steve Harper, Manchester City and England women’s goalkeeper Karen Bardsley, and St Helens Rrugby League chief executive, Mike Rush.

The current cohort includes Sam Erith, head of sport science at Manchester City, and BBC Match of the Day presenter, Mark Chapman.

The university said its course is inspiring increasing numbers of professional sportspeople to go back to the classroom in order to qualify for top jobs at clubs and sports organisations.

Scott Sellars said: “I’ve met great people from different sports on the course and it’s given me more confidence in myself.

“We get labelled as ‘thick footballers’, but after mixing with chief executives and lecturers for a few years you think ‘maybe I’m not like that after all.’

“I’d been in football for a lot of years and knew the business well, but wanted to improve my leadership. I also felt it would be good for me in terms of getting out of my comfort zone and putting me in a difficult environment.

“At the start I found it really difficult, but it’s been an enriching experience and I’ve learnt a lot.”

Steve Harper said the course had been tough and challenging but enjoyable: “I enrolled because I don’t think there are enough people in boardrooms with experience of playing the game,” he said.

“In the sporting director role it’s important to understand players. You are responsible for recruitment and also need an awareness of departments like sports science and the academy.”

Manchester Metropolitan University’s highly acclaimed MSD prepares sports professionals for the role of sporting director and other senior management positions within sports organisations.

Alumni from the post-graduate course include England director of cricket Ashley Giles, former Aston Villa director of football Steve Round, and Hull City’s head of recruitment Lee Darnbroug.

Mark Batey, head of the MSD course, said: “The sporting director role has become integral to the success of football clubs, as well as for a huge range of other sports organisations. Manchester Met’s unique MSD is the go-to qualification in the field and has transformed many of our students’ careers.”

He added: “It’s awesome to see another group of professional sports people graduate, ready to guide their organisations through times of great opportunity and change.

“They will bring the skills of high-performance leadership, governance and commercial management, along with practical insights for harnessing creativity and innovation that are so essential to successful sports organisations.”

The academically rigorous two-year, part-time masters course is designed to develop the commercial skill sets and personal attributes that are required to succeed as a top flight sporting director.

The course features masterclasses from world-renowned speakers and engaging sessions that blend expert insight with practical tools.

Working alongside fellow sporting directors, students cover leadership, managing high-performing organisations, creativity and innovation, sporting governance and compliance, and finish with a dissertation.