Chris Antonetti was about to graduate from Georgetown University with a degree in business administration. While serving as a manager for the men’s basketball team, he had enjoyed not only being involved in college athletics but also learning about the business of college basketball. The more he thought about his career path, the more he came to the conclusion that he wanted to work in the sport industry.
Antonetti decided that the key to acquiring a job would be further study at the master’s degree level in sport management. He researched sport management programs around the country and decided to enroll at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. As part of his degree requirements, he interned with Major League Baseball’s Montreal Expos in the club’s player development department in Florida. He was then hired full-time as assistant director of player development. A year later, he was hired by the Cleveland Indians as general manager Mark Shapiro’s top assistant and got involved in player acquisitions, the farm system, contract negotiations, scouting, and statistical analysis. When Shapiro moved into upper management as the club’s president, the selection of Chris Antonetti as general manager came as no surprise.
Antonetti’s story is, of course, just one of many in the business of sport, which is a global phenomenon. Indeed, sport wields considerable economic influence around the world. It contributes $425 billion annually to the U.S. economy alone (Plunkett, 2011). Sport is big business, and the sport industry consistently ranks as one of the top sectors of the United States’ economy. Yet it is difficult to examine sport as a singular entity; in fact, the multifaceted sport industry includes such diverse segments as sport-related media; legal and financial services; sponsorships, advertising, and endorsements; ticketing, events, and facility operations; wholesale and retail sporting goods; education, nonprofit work, and community development; and entertainment, gaming, recreation, and sport tourism (golf resorts and ski resorts hire many managers, and sport tourists travel to participate in events and visit nostalgic sites).
This variety reflects the interests of myriad stakeholders and yields equally diverse opportunities for employment. For example, sport participants, spectators, and business managers each hold unique interests in the sport industry. Stakeholders also include educators, tourists, gamblers, and gamers. Educators, for instance, are involved in the delivery of sport through collegiate and scholastic settings. Sport participants are provided with a means to pursue self-fulfillment, recreation, or competition. Gamers find a setting in which to experience entertainment, and gamblers approach sport as the backdrop for a potentially lucrative trade. In addition, hundreds of millions of fans and spectators follow sporting events that are provided through various media outlets on a daily basis. Overall, the sport industry serves as the setting for millions of employees across its many segments.
This rich interest in sport provides many distinctive sport-related employment opportunities throughout the world. In fact, in many developed nations, a significant portion of the workforce is employed in sport. In the United States, direct participants include nearly 14,000 professional athletes, more than 175,000 coaches and scouts, and almost 13,000 officials earning their livelihood in sports. Beyond that, nearly a million Americans work in fitness centers, snow skiing facilities, bowling centers, country clubs, and golf courses. Approximately 1.5 million Americans work directly in the amusement, sport gambling, and recreation sectors, and another 250,000 are employed in wholesale and retail sporting goods (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011).
Even beyond its direct economic importance, sport functions as a powerful component of many societies. One way of thinking about this power has been provided by Wolf (1990), who delineated four modes of power: (1) Power can be viewed as a personal attribute similar to individual capability. (2) As a transactional or transformational agent, power can be influential in framing interpersonal interactions. (3) Tactical power can be employed at the organizational level to establish control of the environment. (4) Structural power can shape the settings of power on a large scale. Sport is associated with each of these modes of power.
The power of sport can be used to address myriad social objectives. As a powerful and emotive socioeconomic institution, sport offers a way for individuals, groups, and cultures to build relationships and engage with one another. On a local level, sport provides an arena for individual engagement and exchange; at the same time, its structural power and function as a social institution mean that it can also be used to influence societies on a large scale (Coakley, 2009). Because sport is enormously popular and, indeed, pervades the social fabric of many countries, “its ability to reach across social, political, and economic divides . . . makes sport one of the few institutions that can serve as a catalyst for change” (Pederson, 2011, p. 385). The power of the social institution of sport generates huge economic investment, which creates opportunity for extensive social impact. Whether or not that opportunity is realized depends on the conduct of sport, and that conduct is ultimately determined by current practitioners and by aspiring sport managers embarking on careers in the industry.