Lausanne and sports management
From its origins until today
The first applied sports management courses appeared in the United States in 1966 at the University of Ohio.
By Jean-Loup Chappelet
Switzerland’s first university programme of training in sports management started in 1995 at IDHEAP. Between these two dates, nearly thirty years apart, a discipline was born: sports management. This brief article retraces its appearance in the academic domain, its development in Switzerland and a few European perspectives.
It could be said that sports management has always existed. Many good “managers” were no doubt needed to organise the Olympic Games in ancient times or to run jousting tournaments in the Middle Ages. But this is a doubly anachronistic view. In fact, so-called modern sport appeared in England during the 1800s and spread to continental Europe at the end of the 19th century, more or less at the same time as what was then known as the scientific method of management advocated by Frederick W. Taylor (1909). Sport and management as we understand the two words today are thus barely over one hundred years old.
The birth of sports management
Like industrial management, sports management was born across the Atlantic, in American universities to be specific. In 1966, James G. Masson inaugurated a programme at Ohio University (in Athens) for professional league managers. The idea of such a course had been conceived by the president of the Brooklyn Dodgers team ten years earlier. At the same time, Earle F. Zeigler and his students at the universities of Michigan, Illinois and Western Ontario developed classes in the management of amateur athletics programmes.
These institutions were soon followed by other public or private colleges. Little by little, tutors from these universities began to gather together. The NASSM (North American Society for Sport Management) was founded in 1985 and started to publish the Journal of Sport Management. In Europe the equivalent association (EASM European Association for Sport Management) was created in 1993. Its original aim was to gather researchers and practitioners, but today it essentially consists of members from the academic community. It organises a congress every year.
However, the emergence of sports management in Europe largely predates the creation of the EASM. Indeed, its appearance was noted in Great Britain, at the University of Loughborough, from the 1970s and in France during the course of the 1980s. In the latter, it was mainly through the creation of STAPS (science and techniques of sports activities) study programmes, which enjoyed great popularity among students and gradually evolved into faculties of sports science with institutes or sports management centres (in Caen, Lyon, Montpellier, Paris-Orsay, Rouen, Strasbourg, etc.).
The University of Limoges had an equally powerful impact on the birth of the discipline through its Centre for Sports Law and Economics, which has trained many managers of national federations. Today most French universities offer sports management diplomas and some graduate business schools have started to do so (Marseille, Nantes, Paris, etc.). A parallel trend can be seen in Great Britain in the form of leisure studies. As in the United States, the schools of physical education are evolving into faculties of sports science to enhance the career prospects of their students.
In Germany and Italy, on the other hand, university courses in sports management were quite rare until the 1990s. We had to wait until 1994 for the creation of the first chair in management and sports economics at the German Sport University in Cologne (Deutsche Sporthochschule). And, for a long time, the only master’s in sports management in Italian was provided by the University of… Saint-Marin. Nevertheless, the situation has since moved on a long way in both Germany and Italy, where several universities offer master’s degrees in sports management or similar.
Its beginnings in Switzerland
There is no doubt that Switzerland followed the German or Italian models rather than the French or British ones. It was not until 1995 that a first certificate in sport management was launched at IDHEAP, a university institute affiliated to the University of Lausanne and EPFL. Consisting of seven two-day modules, it was an instant success and has been repeated every year since (from October to February). This certificate constitutes the first part of the “sports manager” diploma, launched at the same time by the Swiss Olympic Association (now Swiss Olympic) in partnership with IDHEAP for the French version and VMI (Verbandsmanagement Institut) of Freiburg University for the German version. Since 2003, parts of these courses are available via the internet through the joint SOMIT (Sport Organisation Management Interactive Teaching & Learning) project, implemented on the Swiss Virtual Campus.
Similarly, since 1995 a European network of sport universities and schools has offered the MEMOS (European Master in Sports Organisation Management). IDHEAP represents Switzerland here. This diploma, delivered by the University of Lyon 1, is now reserved for managers from sports organisations who wish to benefit from an executive-type training course concentrated into four residential modules in the space of ten months. It is also open to overseas candidates thanks to the backing of Olympic Solidarity.
Development of training in Switzerland
In the wake of initial courses by IDHEAP and VMI, other training programmes are being developed in German-speaking Switzerland, most notably in specialist colleges in Winterthur and Maggligen. In French-speaking Switzerland, ISSUL (Institute of Sports Science and Physical Education) opened in 2009 a “Sports Management” option into its Master’s in Sports Science degree. Therefore, PhDs are also made in the field of management / sport policy at IDHEAP or ISSUL.
The ASMS (Swiss Association of Sport Managers), created in 1996 by the first Swiss graduates in this subject, organises training programmes. A “Sports Management School” was set up within Glion Hotel College in 2002.
In 2000, to improve the coordination of academic provision and research development, higher education establishments in the Lake Geneva region (UNIL, EPFL, IDHEAP and UNIGE) founded the AISTS (International Academy of Sport Science and Technology). This act was part of the Lausanne Olympic Capital strategy.
However, the idea in fact goes back to Pierre de Coubertin who aimed to affirm the presence of the Olympic Movement on the shores of Lake Geneva once the IOC was established there in 1915. The AISTS organises colloquiums, ongoing training and an MSA (Master of Science in Sport Administration and Technology), the first instalment of which was launched in January 2003. Today this Master of Advanced Studies in English enjoys great popularity with students from every continent.
Since the year 2000, the CIES (International Centre for Sports Studies), set up in 1995 by FIFA (International Football Federation) and the authorities in Neuchâtel, has also offered an MA (Master of Arts) in sports management, law and humanities for full-time students. This master takes place over three sites (De Montfort University in Leicester, Bocconi School of Management in Milan and the University of Neuchâtel). It has since been renamed the FIFA Masters to emphasise its links with the international federation, which provides the essential funding for it.
Foundation of the Swiss Sport Management Center
When the Swiss Sport Management Center (SSMC) was set up in 2007 by four partners, (Swiss Olympic, OFSPO, IDHEAP and VMI), the aim was to establish in our country a complete sport management course available in the form of in-service training and in two national languages (German and French). In 2008, the SSMC launched the final building block of this provision in the form of its Master of Advanced Studies (MAS) in sports management under the aegis of the VMI at the University of Freiburg.
Numerous other university courses in sports management are now being developed on every continent. The variety of sports management training programmes on offer in Switzerland and elsewhere proves – as if it were necessary – the vitality of this young discipline. It also reflects the need of sports organisations, from the smallest to the largest, to take a professional approach without selling their soul, and to be better managed by taking the specifics of sport into account. Universities can certainly help them along this path, which is strewn with all kinds of obstacles. And the higher education establishments of the Lake Geneva region certainly have the skills to apply and, therefore, a special role to play in this domain.