While the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted job prospects in sports, the Fenway Sports Management group is offering college students and graduates an opportunity to learn more about working in professional athletics to prepare them for entering the industry at a later date.
FSM, a global sports marketing firm that represents the Boston Red Sox, Liverpool Football Club, New England Sports Network and Roush Fenway Racing, launched its virtual FSM University program on September 23, with over 2,200 participants registered to take part. The inaugural 14-week seminar features speakers from multiple sectors of the sports industry each week, ranging from consulting to sports journalism to ticket sales, among other topics.
Classes begin at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday nights and will be recorded for participants looking to join in asynchronously. Participants will join each session on Zoom and have an opportunity to submit questions either before or during the panels.
FSM President Mark Lev said in an interview with Cheddar that he and other members of the FSM executive board first came up with the concept of a sports-focused educational seminar in the spring after the coronavirus pandemic forced FSM to suspend its internship program.
“We wanted to still provide many of the young adults that were gonna have internship opportunities with an opportunity to have a learning experience, albeit virtually, so we did something on a small scale, we called it our beta, and that was so successful that we decided to extend that and reintroduce the program this fall.”
FSM wasn’t the only sports group hit hard by COVID-19, with the shutdown of sports venues leading to massive revenue declines for every major sports league in the world. Patrick Rishe, director of the sports business program at Washington University in St. Louis, estimated in May that the U.S. sports industry had already lost around $8.1 billion in ticket revenue, national TV contracts and tourism related to youth sports.
Several professionals working in sports were furloughed or laid off altogether. Rishe estimated that the shutdown erased nearly $371 million in wages, or around 20 million hours of work. Several sports media outlets also laid off employees, including the Athletic, which laid off nearly 8% of its workforce in June, and NBC Sports’ regional networks.
As a result, many students and other individuals looking to enter the sports field have seen the number of available jobs and internships plummet. However, the FSM board has encouraged those interested in sports careers to take advantage of their extra time to build up a resume that will prepare them for their dream jobs once the job market returns to a pre-pandemic state.
FSM University leadership wrote in an introductory email that, “2020 has been a difficult year for so many people around the world. Here at Fenway Sports Management (FSM) we have been asking ourselves, ‘What can we do to help?’ Fenway Sports Management University (FSMU) was developed because we believe our properties and extended network can be used as a tool to make a difference through education. Our goal for anyone taking this course is to walk away with increased knowledge and a sense of direction as to what their next steps may be within the sports and entertainment industry. Whether you are a current student, new to the industry or in the middle of your career, we hope you will be able to learn and make connections from the courses, as well as from [the] incredible network for nearly [2,300] participants that we have built.”
The first week’s speaker panel was headed by the FSM University brain trust and included program director Teddy Mitropoulos, Lev and FSM Executive Vice Presidents John Clark and Kelly Kaufman, who all provided an introduction to FSM’s portfolio of properties and the organization of the program.
While additional speakers have not been announced yet, panels focusing on sales, special events, marketing, public relations, journalism, analytics, community engagement and career development have been scheduled. Mitropoulos and the rest of the FSM leadership team are also looking to arrange speakers working in team operations and athlete representation.
Although COVID-19 certainly introduced unprecedented challenges to the sports world, FSM has still given itself the task of training the next generation of sports professionals. Most FSM University participants may not step foot in a stadium for some time, but they will be more than prepared for their respective roles once they get there.