Gianni Infantino: ‘Sports Needs Knowledge and Professionals in Order to Move ahead’
What is required of modern sports managers and how do digital technologies influence its development? These issues were discussed by participants at the international conference ‘Sport and the Future’ organized by HSE, International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES), FIFA Master Alumni Association (FMA), and the Football Union of Russia (FUR).
The International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES), FIFA and FUR have been HSE’s partners for several years now. HSE is the only higher educational institution in a former Soviet Union country to be part of the FIFA / CIES global university network and offers a professional retraining programme in sports management. Graduates of this programme work in the sports business and for government bodies responsible for the development of sport in Russia. A number of programme alumni, as well as their colleagues from other network partner universities, attended the conference.
The main events of the conference were scheduled to take place on a World Cup ‘day off’, thus enabling Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA, to take part. About twenty years ago, he was also Secretary General of CIES.
‘FIFA strives to embrace the digital world and the digital transformation connecting the billions of people around the world who are our fans and who are passionate about football,’ said Gianni Infantino. ‘But most importantly, we need to protect the values of our sport, its integrity and transparency. These should not be empty words, rather, we need to live them every day in all our decisions.’ In order to achieve this, according to Gianni Infantino, it is necessary prioritize education, the reproduction of knowledge and the training of specialists to help move the sport forward.
He referred to football as ‘the number one sport’, which should ‘look to the future’. The conference, in his opinion, gives us the opportunity to consider the main challenges that football will have to deal with in the coming years. CIES President, Pierre Cornu, talked about similar issues. He noted that the plenary sessions at the conference, dedicated to digital technologies in sports, e-sports and new quality of management, reflect the main trends in the development of modern sports.
'Innovation or death' is the ultimatum that the sports industry is facing
Deputy Director General of FUR, Alexander Zorkov, believes that the joint programme at the Higher School of Economics and FIFA / CIES trains professionals who will then go on to fill important positions in sports management. He added that the conference is an opportunity to exchange best practices in the administration of sports and related fields.
HSE Rector, Yaroslav Kuzminov, noted that many sports have much to learn from football. Sport has become an independent and significant industry. There are also such areas as fitness, sport tourism, and e-sports. All of them are competing for consumers, both with each other and with other entertainment industries. However, many traditional sports are unable to adapt to this new reality. As a result, their audience and popularity stagnates, if not falls, and the audience only remembers them during the Olympics, when the medals each country has won are counted. These kinds of sports and federations urgently need modern managers, PR specialists, even political scientists, who could identify potential growth points and markets and, in cooperation with local authorities, organize sports events. According to Yaroslav Kuzminov, sport management requires an interdisciplinary and intercultural approach.
Sports needs to learn not just to survive, but to be competitive in the digital age, according to Google VP, Fabio Coelho. Expenditure on online advertising has already exceeded expenditure on television advertising. Sports fans have ceased to be a passive audience. They have turned to interactive formats. It's not enough to simply broadcast a match. Sports consumers are expecting a show, both before it starts, and after it’s over. They are interested in clips, selfies, and social networking. Sports celebrities are getting closer and the public wants to know as much about them as possible and to follow them daily. Many sports clubs invest in the development of digital fan databases because there are thousands more fans that can be reached online than can fit in a stadium.
Fans with their social media accounts have become the main producers of sports-related content, according to Luis Vicente, the head of Digital Transformation & Innovation Project at FIFA. Sports organizations need to learn to work with this creative audience, otherwise they will lose it to other entertainment industries. This threat is quite real. ‘Innovation or death is the ultimatum that the sports industry is facing,’ according to Luis Vicente. What will happen next depends on a new generation of sports managers.
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