The Israeli daily newspaper Maariv interviewed Niv Nachlieli, the head of the Sports specialization in the Master’s degree in business Administration at Ono Academic College.  Nachlieli stated that the program serves as a springboard to senior management positions in the field.

The interviewer, Nir Kipnis, noted the growing importance of sports in Israel’s economy.  Ono’s program aims to convert Israel’s start-up power into a sporting power, in a country with more Nobel laureates than Olympic champions. How is this done?

Nachlieli explained that, “We have developed an MBA program in business administration that gives its graduates all the tools to succeed in sports management, and it is also suitable for those who do not necessarily end up working in sports management, but will benefit from a prestigious master’s degree in business administration.”

Nachlieli comes to the position with a rich resume including working with senior executives in leading business organizations, organizational consulting on the Olympic Committee and many sports associations, and academic research in the field of sports leadership. He said, “Our degree combines classic areas of management studies, such as finance and marketing, along with specialization in sports management”

Who are the program’s students?  Nachlieli answered that, “The audience is diverse. There are those who join out of a desire for a master’s degree in business administration that will be combined with something they love, both as fans and as amateur athletes. There are those who come with command or managerial experience, out of a desire to be hired for senior management positions or become entrepreneurs in the field. Other students include the premier athletes themselves or sports managers, who want to improve and continue to lead in the sports bodies from which they came.” 

Graduates can look to find senior positions in Israeli sports—in clubs, associations, and public institutions that are responsible for sports in Israel—and  improve management. In fact, many of the programs graduates succeed in their goal of combining the romance of sport with practical employment in the field of their dreams. Nachlieli addressed the job placement issue saying, “It depends. There are those who already work or want to get into formal roles of managing a club, association or industry for example, who are getting to know financial or marketing aspects of the field and enriching their management capabilities. There is also great value in networking with leading people from sports and other industries.”

Nachlieli divides the program’s curriculum into two parts. The first part relates to the core of business studies. This includes courses in strategic and financial management, organizational behavior and all the other materials that make up an MBA in business.

The second part is the specialization in sports management, which can be divided into three areas. The first area is marketing and business management in sports, an area in which Israel is currently weak. Nachlieli provides the example of a school for developing future football players run by a leading club in the Premier League. There are thousands of children who can register for the skills development school, although only a few of them will continue to play football as adults. Today no one keeps in touch with them, certainly not when they grow up, start families and look for work in a field in which they have both experience and affinity.  This is an example where data-driven research can really help, but no one manages it professionally and with a marketing perspective, says Nachlieli. Therefore, managers with specialization in branding and marketing in the field of sports in the various sports organizations are needed.

The second area of the sports specialization is entrepreneurship in the field. Nachlieli says,
“This can be entrepreneurship in the analytical field that connects a smart idea on the part of the entrepreneur, capital on the part of the investor and technology, with the help of which innovations are developed in the field. And it can also be entrepreneurship that is not in the technological field but in the community-educational field. There are already examples of ventures that were born during the students’ studies and students have taken them in an applied direction. The Corona epidemic has stopped things a bit but there are some students whose entrepreneurship is leading them to a career change already during their studies.”

The third area is management and leadership, for example how a managerial infrastructure in a sports organization produces learning processes. Ono’s program was built on the methodologies of leading clubs in the world and even from the working methods of leading business organizations, adapted to sports. Nachlieli provides the example of “Managing in the emotional environment of sports clubs. After all, every businessman who enters sports is exposed to emotions he experienced nowhere else. You are in front of employees, some of whom have talents with ego, sensitivities and more. With the fans, there are tremendous emotions. The crowd cheers and cheers, but sometimes they are also angry and shouting. This is definitely a different managerial environment than in any other field and you should know it if you want to specialize and succeed in it.”

Nachlieli sees sports management as a growth industry. First of all, at present, many managers in the field of sports are not equipped with high level organization and administration backgrounds. Very little data-driven research on sports management is being conducted. The knowledge and approach that has made Israel’s high-tech industry so successful has not yet been fully integrated into the sports field. Compared to other countries there is a much greater gap between the number of Israelis who support, love and play sports, and those who work in the field professionally. For these reasons, Nachlieli says, “I see a great opportunity here: there are unborn roles, there is a fascinating field of entrepreneurship in sports.”

Sports are also a fantastic tool for social integration, says Nachlieli.  Sports are a way of life, a social framework for youth and for youth movements. He imagines bringing sports to a disadvantaged populations noting that currently there is a huge gap in Israel.  He envisions sports as a tool to help parents detach their children from their screens and thereby impart tools of self-discipline and the ability to deal with challenges.

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