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Shaping Sports Management Leaders at Jio Institute

Dr William Sutton and Dr Andy Gillentine
Dr William Sutton and Dr Andy Gillentine

The sports industry in India is growing by leaps and bounds. Media reports have been extremely buoyant about the sector and have predicted for it to grow by five times to reach a value of $100 billion by 2027, according to a Mint report. Out of the many job opportunities that have emerged with this growth, sports management has been hailed as one of the most lucrative. And it is to create homegrown world leaders in this field that Jio Institute, based in Navi Mumbai, has come up with a one year, postgraduate degree in sports management. The idea is to equip students with both soft and hard skills, allowing them to function in various capacities—as marketeers, finance professionals, legal experts, event managers, consumer relations experts, and more—related to sports.

While there are many sports management courses in the market, one wonders what makes the programme offered by the Jio Institute so distinctive? Dr William Sutton, programme mentor, Jio Institute, and professor & Director Emeritus, Sport and Entertainment Management Program, University of South Florida, USA, has the answer. ‘The association and connection with the industry is what makes this course different,’ says the former vice president, team marketing and business operations, the National Basketball Association. 

Sutton has worked closely with the team at Jio Institute to design the sports management course, and continues to interact closely with students on a regular basis. ‘The fact that the Reliance Group, which spearheads Jio Institute, is associated with RISE Worldwide, and Mumbai Indians and Mumbai City FC works well for the students. Those connections will be used in class projects, internships and even job placements. No other course can replicate that,’ he adds. Associations of the Reliance ecosystem, such as Network 18, Sports 18, and others, are an added advantage.

The curriculum has been designed as dynamic—one that can adapt and change as the industry evolves. Flexibility has been built into its very fabric. Experts and leaders from the field are invited for lectures depending on the theme, topic in focus and latest developments at any given point of time. 

The team at Jio Institute believes that it has never been a more exciting time for its students to be part of the industry. Dr Andy Gillentine, professor of Sport and Entertainment Management, University of South Carolina, USA—and also a mentor for the sports management programme at the institute—feels that students are ready to take on challenges in any part of the world. ‘It is an exploding industry. Also, the learnings from the covid-19 pandemic have made it possible for someone to be based out of India and work for a team in New Zealand,’ he elaborates. It would work well for the students to not limit themselves by location or job profile. ‘I always tell them, don’t create a little circle that this is the only job I want or this is the only place I will work out of,’ he adds. 

The curriculum aids this expansion of the minds and horizons for its students. It helps create a well-rounded personality, which can then fit into any aspect of sports management. ‘In 1993, when I wrote the first book on sports marketing, there was no Internet. In 2000, when I revised the book, there was no social media. But look at all the jobs just related to those developments that came about in seven years,’ explains Sutton. ‘God knows what will come up in the next seven years. So, you need to develop soft and hard skills, and be able to transfer those to whatever opportunity emerges.’ 

The programme also prepares aspiring sports managers to develop the right temperament for the job. It helps you acquire the right people skills and acclimatise to the rigour that the job requires. ‘Eventually sports managers need to love the game and the ecosystem around it. Ideally, an aspiring professional in the field needs to be easy-going and a “people’s person”, so that the sports team enjoys being around them and vice versa. This kind of conditioning takes place in the programme,’ says Gillentine.