VSI Executive Education: Setting Your Sporting Direction

Today’s sporting organisations need leaders that can think smart to solve challenges and grow in this fast-changing world. Tony Faulkner, co-founder of VSI Executive Education, explains how their courses prepare students for the real-world challenges of a sporting organisation.


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With the role of the Sporting Director growing ever more important, how does the MSc Sports Directorship course prepare students?

The course has been designed with industry knowledge through research over the past 11 years. Delegates on the course are, in the main, operating in roles within the football and sport industry.


The MSc Sports Directorship course was designed by VSI to develop not only the knowledge, but critically the skill set, to function at an executive level as a strategic leader. The combination of learning about the Sporting Director role through an internationally recognised Masters degree whilst applying their skills in their current position creates a prime environment to prepare delegates to add value to sporting organisations.


How important is it to have a theoretical grounding in a leadership role such as the Sporting Director?

The Sporting Director role has evolved over the years from being focused mainly on player recruitment to leading the entire football/sporting department. This can be akin to running a small business, leading multiple functions like sports science, recruitment, coaching, academy, medical, analysis etc., as well as collaborating with other business functions within the club.


Operating at this level within the ever-evolving ecosystem of sport globally requires a level of self-awareness about where personal strengths can impact the performance of set objectives and where support maybe required. Candidates need to lead but they also need to recognise when they need to manage and what the difference is between the two.


The role of the Sporting Director is multifaceted and requires them to adapt a mindset that allows them to continuously develop professionally.


Great leadership in decision-making thrives on disagreement. As leaders, they should be the ones who lean into disagreements and who unconventionally seek out opportunities to be challenged.


How do you balance the requirements of the course to fit around the often-busy work/life balance of students?

Time isn’t the issue; your priorities are the issue. The MSc Sports Directorship is a part-time course delivered over two years.


There are two modes of study: Face to face part-time in Manchester or virtually, this provides individuals with the most appropriate platform for study based on their needs and requirements.


As one of our graduates who is the current CEO of a football club often says: “Great things never come from comfort zones”.


Have you had alumni going on to be successful in role?

The first VSI MSc Sports Directorship course was delivered in 2014. VSI has an alumni of over 300 graduates around the world with many operating in Sporting Director roles and similar in the UK, Europe, USA and the UAE.


This is what we are most proud of, those who join our courses are following in the footsteps of the pioneers of the programmes who have now left a footprint within the industry.


VSI also deliver a course for CEO’s in sport. Tell me a about this.

In 2017 VSI designed the world’s first MBA CEO of a Sports Organisation programme. This came about from discussions with the owners and CEO’s of sporting organisations. They explained what was missing in their C-suite and asked if we could create an alumni through a CEO course.


Since 2017 we have refined the course to make this more applicable to the role within sport. We are delighted that CEO’s, COO’s and other individuals in C-suite roles from across sport join this course. The course is high in demand with clubs and NGB’s placing delegates on the programme as part of their succession plans.


You can learn more about the MSc Sports Directorship programme and the CEO of a Sports Organisation, here:





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