Business and science

19 October 2005

Fresh start: Prof John Simpson at the launch of the School of Management Studies' new postgraduate diploma in sports management, a programme with high hopes to change the face of SA sport.

There's plenty to whinge about in South African sport - we don't win enough medals or trophies (or just games), our coaches and administrators don't know what they're doing, our athletes are always looking for greener pastures, and we're doomed to be also-rans in the global sporting arena.

But rather than just join the bands of weepers and wailers, some folks at UCT have decided it's time for action. So recently the School of Management Studies launched a new addition to its growing suite of postgraduate programmes, one homing in on sports management.

This new Postgraduate Diploma in Sport Management is, in the words of Professor Doug Pitt, dean of the Faculty of Commerce, "a powerful combination of business and science". That speaks to the varied input to the programme - it is the brainchild of Dr Robin Pelteret, business development manager at the Faculty of Health Sciences, and involves personnel from the School of Management Studies (Professor John Simpson and Alison Meadows) and the Sports Science Institute of South Africa (SSISA), as well as Bruce Beckett of sports consultancy firm HiPerformanceSport.

The one-year, full-time programme kicks off in February 2006. And there's no need for a background in science or sports studies, as it's been designed to fit students from an array of undergraduate backgrounds, be they commerce, humanities and even engineering graduates.

The programme also aims to be thorough. It includes courses on marketing, corporate finance, sports management, the business of sport (touching on issues such as broadcasting, sponsorship and fundraising) and sports management in practice. And just so the science bit isn't overlooked, there's also a course on the principles of sports medicine and exercise physiology.

It's not going to be all bookwork, though. Come September/October each year, students are expected to complete a six-week internship programme at a variety of sports-related organisations.

Everyone has high hopes for the new entry.

Firstly, sponsors or sports marketers have a responsibility to ensure that the management of the various sports codes is professionally handled to ensure sustainability of the sport and in the best interests of the athletes, says Simpson.

"I have a view - based on speaking to people who are involved in sports and sports administration - that, in fact, sport in this country is crying out for good management.

"The reality is that unless we get sports management sorted out, our athletes have little chance of achieving their greatest potential."

No one believes that more than Professor Tim Noakes, Discovery professor of sports medicine and exercise science at UCT and co-founder of the SSISA. He can point out countless examples of poor sports management, like the national rugby squad being played to the point of physical and mental breakdown.

On the other hand, we need look no further, he says, than Australia to see what fruits planned management can bear - medals galore at the Olympics, a world-beating national rugby side that not too long ago was the laughing stock of the rugby world, and sway in cricket, hockey, netball and swimming.

What's needed is greater intellectual capital in sport, Noakes says.

"In my view, what we have to address is that South African sport just doesn't understand intellectual capital. We don't know how to use the intellectual capital that we have."

The new management programme, he says, is a step in the right direction.

"I think that it's the beginning of something that's really, really important."

For more information, contact course convenor Alison Meadows at, or visit

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