A job in sports administration is a great opportunity to combine a passion for sport and fitness with the practical business activities of a range of organisations
As a sports administrator you'll help to ensure the smooth running of a sports organisation, which may range from reception work at a local sports club to marketing or human resources at a major sports club.
There are also opportunities in sports funding bodies and local authority sports development.
Sports administrators have a similar range of responsibilities to administrators in other fields, but usually focus on organising events and running sports facilities. Additional duties are likely to include promotion of the services of their club, responding to users, fundraising, and possibly working with budgets and dealing with supply chain management. You'll often find opportunities to take on higher levels of responsibility fairly quickly.
Sport has gained in political and social significance, with growing public awareness of its contribution to personal health, community development and the national economy. As a result, there is increasing demand for higher quality and more diverse provision, and staff are expected to possess a range of personal skills and attributes.
Your responsibilities will depend on the level of your post and the employing organisation, ranging from routine administration to managing complex projects, budgets and resources. The work frequently addresses regional, national, political and ethical agendas.
Specific responsibilities vary considerably and may contain any of the following:
- carrying out administrative duties, using systems and processes relevant to the organisation
- responding to enquiries and requests for information from other organisations and members of the public
- ensuring administrative systems, processes and databases are efficient and well managed
- administrative support to managerial staff and heads of organisations
- organising meetings, training, coaching, festivals, conferences and other events
- promotion of sport in schools
- working with students or young people
- liaising with local sports councils, regional committees and national governing bodies
- consulting with clients, members, the community and local sporting organisations
- advising sports clubs on areas such as organisation, funding, promotion and regulations
- managing budgets, controlling finance allocated for community activities and sometimes coordinating or raising sponsorship
- undertaking or commissioning research and collating, mapping and monitoring data
- producing promotional literature, reports and event materials and liaising with marketing and media organisations
- making presentations to grant-making bodies and/or relevant authorities
- managing, supervising and training staff, and sometimes running an office
- supporting colleagues to encourage and develop sport in the local, regional, national or international community
- serving on regional and national government think tanks and task groups
- participating in the resolution of political and ethical issues, such as conflicts of interest between partner organisations, use of banned substances and breaches of regulations.
- Typical starting salaries for administration positions in the sports industry can vary, and may range from around £15,000 to £20,000.
- Salaries may increase to £24,000+ with experience and increased responsibility. At director level or as senior manager of a large sports facility, your salary could increase to £45,000+.
Pay largely depends on the sector, the popularity of the sport you work in and its ability to generate money and/or attract government and lottery funding. The five major UK sports (football, rugby, tennis, cricket and athletics) can generate substantial income from sponsorship and televised events. Salary may also be affected by the sport's status in recognised international competitions, e.g. Commonwealth Games, World Cup, or Olympics. Public authority roles are usually paid according to a structured pay scale.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Working hours can be unsocial and may regularly include evening and weekend work, which peaks at the time of tournaments or other major events.
What to expect
- Self-employment and freelance work are not common, although some senior sports administrators may act as consultants to event organisers.
- Some jobs are restricted to specific locations related to the offices of sports' governing bodies, but these increasingly have regional satellite offices.
- Many parts of the sector are highly commercialised, so a level of business awareness and a professional approach are expected when dealing with the public and other contacts.
- Dress code, ranging from sportswear to business dress, depends on the nature of your role and your employer.
- Travel within a working day is frequently required, for example, to visit clubs, sports development officers, accountants, sponsors, educational institutions, event organisers and media organisations. Overnight absence from home may sometimes be necessary.
- Opportunities for international travel vary between roles and employers. Sports administrators working for national or international bodies or clubs are more likely to travel than those based in smaller local organisations.
Although this area is open to graduates from all degrees, HNDs and foundation degrees, the following subjects may increase your chances of finding employment:
- business, management or marketing
- education or physical education
- health management or health promotion
- leisure studies or recreation management
- sports science, sports management or sports development.
Candidates with an HND or foundation degree would need to demonstrate high-level skills and motivation in order to compete with honours degree graduates. Entry without a degree, HND or foundation degree is sometimes possible, dependent on relevant experience and vocational or sports-specific qualifications.
A pre-entry postgraduate qualification is not needed, although students who have not studied business or management modules could increase their chances with a postgraduate or professional qualification in this field.
Competition is very intense, so making contacts and networking from an early stage is essential. Be prepared to gain experience through voluntary work and relevant university activities, and consider writing speculatively to employers.
The skills you'll require depends on the nature of your employer. For example, in a national sports club there will be an emphasis on commercial awareness, marketing and promotion, while in the public sector there will be added responsibilities related to funding and policy.
In general, however, you'll need to demonstrate the following:
- a strong interest in sport and an awareness of the issues affecting the sports sector
- good IT and administrative skills and a high level of attention to detail
- commercial awareness and a professional approach
- a high degree of self-motivation and a drive for change and improvement
- an enthusiastic personality and resilience to deal with uncertainty
- the ability to build and maintain effective relationships and to communicate well with a variety of people
- good planning, organising and time management skills
- the ability to work well in a team, in a dynamic and customer-focused environment
- the ability to project a positive image of sport to people at all levels.
Knowledge of the locality where the job is based can also be useful.
Pre-entry administrative experience is essential and may compensate for lack of formal qualifications. Sporting ability is not a pre-requisite, but evidence of an interest in sport, such as a sports leader award or coaching badges, may be advantageous. Specific areas of expertise such as media, events organisation, IT, marketing or human resources, can significantly improve chances of career progression and a higher salary.
Sport is a growth sector - lottery funding and government initiatives for the development of sport in the UK have led to an increase in employment opportunities in many sports associations and governing bodies at local, regional and national levels.
Sports administration roles are often based in professional or amateur sports clubs, which vary hugely in size. They're also found in bodies responsible for the governing of a particular sport, such as the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) or the Football Association (FA), or local leisure clubs, health spas or school and university sports facilities.
Sport is increasingly a government policy priority for reducing obesity and promoting healthy lifestyles and you'll find opportunities in central government and local authorities. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is the government department responsible for encouraging wider participation in sport, and there are many other bodies, such as the Big Lottery Fund, that support much of the sporting activity in the UK today. There are five government-funded sports councils:
These sports councils distribute lottery funding and employ sports administrators and researchers.
Active Partnerships delivers coach, club and volunteer development opportunities and facilities, works with children and young people, shapes local policy and liaises with governing bodies. It may be possible to find work with a county sports partnership.
Sport is becoming increasingly used as a means of community development and social inclusion, and there may be opportunities to move into a career in the charitable or community sector. In this case, experience such as working with minority ethnic communities, people with disabilities or young people will be valuable. There may also be opportunities in international development organisations or non-governmental organisations providing voluntary projects overseas, such as sports coaching.
International opportunities exist for representing sports clients, and in branding, sponsorship, sales or consumer products licensing.
Look for job vacancies at:
- Careers in Sport
- Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (CIMSPA)
- English Institute of Sport
- Scottish Sports Association - for jobs in Scotland
- Sports Management
- Sports Recruitment International
- UK Sport
- World Leisure Jobs
- Youth Sport Trust
You could also try websites of sports governing and organising bodies, local and regional newspapers for lower-level positions, national newspapers and industry magazines for management and specialist positions as well as the local authorities.
A highly skilled, well-qualified and innovative workforce is essential to ensure the UK's sport and recreation sector remains successful at home and abroad. In light of this, some of the larger organisations have developed graduate training schemes to nurture the most motivated applicants.
Much of the training tends to be on the job and varies according to the role. Some sports administrators attend IT training and workshops on relevant legislation, or courses to develop professional skills and organisational abilities such as chairing meetings, influencing and negotiating, events management and time management.
CIMSPA has details of seminars, courses and conferences. A variety of courses exist to cover specific areas of sports administration. For those involved in club management, the Club Managers Association of Europe (CMAE) offers online courses and a management development programme.
Courses to enhance effectiveness and aid future career development include part-time options, which can be carried out while working, such as National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) or programmes in finance or marketing. Postgraduate or professional courses in management or business administration are another option.
Mentoring is evolving in some governing bodies and can be an excellent tool for personal and career development.
Visits to relevant organisations and attendance at conferences are also excellent ways of developing knowledge and useful contacts.
Opportunities for promotion depend on the size and nature of your employing organisation. If you start at a support or secretarial level, there may be opportunities to progress to a higher-level sports administrator role, then potentially to a managerial position. This route is more likely in a smaller organisation. You could become a manager of a team, a development officer or manager, or even managing director.
To achieve promotion at a higher level, such as to the role of chief executive, it may be necessary to move to another organisation.
Staff with experience and a specialist background may find it easier to get recruited and to advance more quickly.
You may find career development opportunities through voluntary work or your own leisure time activities, where you can develop additional relevant skills and gain necessary practical experience.
Working as a sports administrator enables you to gain good all-round knowledge about the sector and related fields and to build solid contacts. Some people use their experience as an entry point for future careers in other aspects of sport or related areas, such as corporate sponsorship, media planning or health promotion.
Employees seeking higher salaries may move out of sports administration into other professions.