Networking with football professionals, learning first-hand from them about their real experiences, being up to date with what happens in the offices and living 10 months immersed in a 100% football environment are some of the unique experiences that Johan Cruyff Institute offers in its Master in Football Business in partnership with FC Barcelona – Barça Innovation Hub, which opens the doors to the industry for you
For an institution that is 100% focused on sport, it seems obvious to have the collaboration of those who manage it. Putting together a master’s program based on their agendas and having them in class to dissect the different areas of management based on their own experiences is going a step further. Johan Cruyff Institute’s Master in Football Business in partnership with FC Barcelona, through its knowledge platform Barça Innovation Hub, is designed and planned to transfer up-to-date knowledge, innovative practices and real experiences to those who want to develop their professional career in this sector. Also, for those who need to keep up with the latest trends and excel in their work.
Students who have done the master’s degree are clear about the reasons why it opens the doors to the industry and agree that networking is the main access route. “I had previous studies in sport management and work experience in different sports, but I wanted to work in the football industry and I couldn’t find anything without being in the sector,” says Ireneo Snel.
A Dutch national, Ireneo has been living in Barcelona for four years. He was working at a tennis academy when he decided to take the definitive step that would lead him to enter the world of football. “Whenever I was looking for a job in football, I kept coming up against the same thing: a master’s degree. During the pandemic I decided to get in touch with Johan Cruyff Institute because having a network of contacts is super important and this was something that the master’s degree offered.”
Ireneo graduated in 2021 and is currently working in athlete representation, both at Wonderland Sports, founded by a classmate, and at his own company that he recently created. “I am working with my partner Antii Roiha, who founded the football and athlete representation agency where I am mainly in charge of player recruitment. And on the other hand, I have recently set up my own business in women’s football to help players build, grow and enhance their own brand. I still see a lot of potential in both jobs, and in the coming years I will focus on developing both projects.”
“The master’s degree is based on the experience of professionals currently working in the football industry. We work with case studies to give students the tools they need to offer new solutions to the sector. We have students of different nationalities, with different profiles, backgrounds, careers. And, undoubtedly, that also enriches the program,” says Ignacio Mas-Bagà, the academic director of the Master in Football Business in partnership with FC Barcelona.
“The international part of the master’s degree was super important to me, because the football business is totally international. That’s something that the degree offered and that I also appreciated a lot” – Ireneo Snel
The program’s internationality was another aspect that also caught Ireneo’s attention. “The international part of the master’s degree was super important to me, because the football business is totally international. You can’t work only in one country, at least in my opinion. That’s something that the degree offered and that I also appreciated a lot.”
Immersion in European football
The classes of the Master in Football Business in partnership with FC Barcelona – Barça Innovation Hub are taught at the Camp Nou, which Mas-Bagà says “is an experience in itself”. The program includes a module devoted entirely to FC Barcelona’s management model “with lectures given by professionals from the club itself, another key asset of the program”. But there are also lots of interactions with professionals from other European clubs. “It’s an opportunity to experience football from the inside, visiting clubs from different leagues: LaLiga, the Premier League, the Bundesliga, the Eredivisie…. Throughout the master’s degree, in class, on visits and on study trips, you come into contact with the people who are managing these clubs from different departments: communication, finance, sponsorship, marketing, innovation. They are the ones who explain how they work on a day-to-day basis,” explains the academic director.
“It’s an opportunity to experience football from the inside, visiting clubs from different leagues: LaLiga, the Premier League, the Bundesliga, the Eridivisie…. and come into contact with the people who are managing these clubs from different departments” – Ignacio Mas-Bagà
The scope of football, a multi-billion euro industry, and the numerous employment opportunities it offers is an aspect that the program also emphasizes. “The football environment is very broad. There is not just one circle around it, but another, and another. It’s not just what you can see on TV, you can also work for companies that sponsor football clubs, for example, and that’s something I also considered during the master’s program. Football is perhaps different from other industries because the circle is much bigger, its influence is international,” Ireneo explains.
This panoramic vision that the master’s degree offers, step by step, to go deeper into specific aspects of football management, was precisely what Guillermo Pérez, co-founder and CEO of 4 Nations Football Consulting, was looking for to put aside an eight-year career as a consultant and civil engineer, and begin to lay the foundations for a new professional stage in the world of football. “In my search for a master’s degree, I thought it was important for it to give an overview of the football business, which would offer me the chance to learn about the needs and challenges of the people working in the different departments. And in this case, doing it with FC Barcelona executives was really attractive for me,” says Guillermo.
Innovation and creativity
Unlike Ireneo, Guillermo came from the industrial sector, a world that had nothing to do with sport, but in which he had acquired skills that served as a basis for certain modules of the program. “Considering my technical background, the modules referring to the operational, commercial and financial side of the football business were far from new to me, but I think the main skills the master’s degree offered me had to do with creativity. The marketing and innovation modules were really great. I’m an engineer and I come from a different background, so letting your imagination run wild, being able to define new strategies and being creative was quite important for me. It’s something that the master’s degree has given me and I really appreciate it,” says Guillermo.
“I’m an engineer and I come from a different background, so letting your imagination run wild, being able to define new strategies and being creative was quite important for me. It’s something that the master’s degree has given me and I really appreciate it” – Guillermo Pérez
With no industry contacts or field experience, Guillermo absorbed new concepts like a sponge. “The professors were incredible. All the speakers who came brought a lot of examples, best practices, but also things that worked or didn’t work in football clubs. I think it is very important to understand what is happening in the sector, it can be useful for all the cases you will face in the future. And, at the same time, the possibility of networking at all the seminars, conferences, congresses, even with people from your class—some of them are now my partners—is really important.”
Short- and long-term strategy
“We want to train new generations to lead the football industry. We have created this master’s degree to prepare students to understand this industry in its different realities and from all perspectives, but with a very practical approach. The football industry changes very quickly, so we help them to make decisions that have a short-term impact but are consistent over time,” says Ignacio Mas-Bagà.
For the past two years, Guillermo Pérez has been managing the consulting firm 4 Nations Football Consulting, which he co-founded with three other students from the master’s program, aimed at providing services to clubs and federations seeking advice in planning and executing innovative processes that will allow them to stay one step ahead. They are currently operating in Spain, Denmark, the United Kingdom, India, South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Egypt, Iraq, Australia and Argentina. “Not only is the football industry different from other sports, but also from other types of business, because all the decisions that are made in any department, especially in clubs, depend on the results on the pitch. So, it is important to have a clear idea of how you can improve the operations, the financial results of the clubs at the end of the year, remaining unaffected by what is happening in the competition. You have to be able to really understand the characteristics of the football business, the fact that at some point your team can be relegated and you have to anticipate that fact.”
“Having that background can help those who are going to assess your skills, understand that you have those specific studies that make you understand very well how the football industry works” – Guillermo Pérez
Guillermo does not dare to say that, without specialized professional training, it is impossible to work in the football industry, but he has no doubt that it is a differentiating aspect with respect to your competition. “On the one hand, because of the networking you do and the possibility of meeting people who at some point may hire your services. But at the same time, having that background can help those who are going to interview you, those who are going to assess your skills, understand that you have those specific studies that make you understand very well how the football industry works.”
A plus on your CV
Ignacio Mas-Bagà, as CEO of Girona FC, knows very well what Guillermo is talking about. “In my case, when I have the need to hire people, I analyze different profiles. When you see that one of them already has a degree in football business, when you see that this person has dedicated time and effort to developing their knowledge in that specialization, that makes a difference, for sure.”
“The master’s degree offered me many things: The academic part, the networking and the name of the institution. If you say you studied the master’s degree at Johan Cruyff Institute and you also mention the partnership with FC Barcelona, it basically opens almost every door in the industry” – Ireneo Snel
With the benefit of hindsight and after almost a year working at the representation agency, Ireneo Snel is clear that without that extra specialized training he would not be where he is now. “The master’s degree offered me many things. Firstly, the academic part. I had certain skills in the sports world, but I improved them and acquired new ones specifically for this business. It was an eye-opening experience. Secondly, the network, and in that I include my classmates, who helped me to focus on the direction I am now in. And thirdly, the name of the institution. If you say you studied the master’s degree at Johan Cruyff Institute and you also mention the partnership with FC Barcelona, it basically opens almost every door in the industry,” says Ireneo.