Sporting Directors: The 2019 graduates

Gary Bowyer is graduating with a distinction 

Gary Bowyer is graduating with a distinction 

THIS summer the latest batch of fully-qualified Sporting Directors will graduate from a unique course at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Cohort 3 of the Master of Sport Directorship contains a World Cup finalist, international football manager, one of England’s finest ever female footballers, a Football League manager and managing director.

They all went back to the classroom and, in total, 16 students will graduate as fully-qualified Sporting Directors on July 19th. Two - Bradford manager Gary Bowyer, England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley and Barnsley Head of Academy Coaching Greg Miller - will graduate with distinctions. You can read some of their stories below.

The course, launched in 2014, is a fully-accredited Masters level qualification and many of its alumni are already working in elite sporting clubs and organisations.

In September, the course will welcome its latest cohort. Most of the 28 places have already been taken, with students signing up from Australia, South Africa and America.

Programme manager Donna Ward told TGG: “Our course is the first of its kind and paves the way for future leaders of sport. We are the only course in the world to have graduated fully-qualified Sporting Directors."

A few places are still available on the upcoming cohort and Ward added: "Studying part-time over two years, you’ll develop the expertise to meet the demand of leading sporting organisations.

"You’ll cover topics such as sports leadership and personal development, innovation and change, governance and best practice. A real highlight is the study of neuroscience and how it impacts on leadership and performance.

"We’ll also expose you to a range of sporting environments and you’ll share knowledge with peers from different backgrounds, and apply new knowledge in your own specialism.

“In your second year, you’ll apply your skills to a dissertation. We’ll challenge you to identify, research and strategically analyse a managerial or business issue within your organisation or in an area of your own interest.”

Anyone wishing to register an interest can contact Donna on

The 2019 Master of Sport Directorship graduates will be: Andy Clarke (Managing Director, The Sports Office), Andy Grant (Head of Education, Sunderland Foundation of Light), Ben Stirling (Head of Medical, Dragons), Chris Rawlings (Commercial Director, Scottish FA), Didi Hamann (media/ retired footballer), Gary Bowyer (Manager, Bradford City), Greg Miller (Head of Academy Coaching, Barnsley), Jon Daniels (General Manager, Scarlets), Karen Bardsley (professional football, Man City & England), Kevin Davies (media/ retired footballer), Michael Johnson (Head Coach of Guyana), Mike Rush (CEO, St Helens), Phil Winstanley (Rugby Director, Premiership Rugby), Sarah Collings (Director of Sport, Griffins Schools Trust), Scott Sellars (Head of Academy, Wolves), Steve Harper (goalkeeping coach, Northern Ireland).


Gary Bowyer: I was rubbing shoulders with people from rugby union, rugby league, Karen Bardsley from Man City and CEOs from other sports. The course has allowed me to go to different sporting organisations and businesses and see how they operate, from top to bottom.

It helped me in my role at Blackpool and I have no doubt that it will help me again in the future. The Sporting Director role is here to stay.

READ MORE: Clough, Keane and lessons in leadership

Michael Johnson: The course is a wonderful experience and a real opportunity to gain more knowledge about a role that is starting to explode in English football.

I think the graduates will be at the forefront of that. The network you develop - not only in football but also other sports and wider business - is also really helpful.

READ MORE: Seizing the day with Guyana

Scott Sellars: I met great people from different sports and it’s given me more confidence in myself. We get labelled as 'thick footballers’, but after mixing with chief executives and lecturers for a few years you think, ‘maybe I’m not like that after all.’

I’d been in football for a lot of years and knew the business well, but wanted to improve my leadership. I also felt it would be good for me to get out of my comfort zone.

READ MORE: Instilling 'serious fun' at the Wolves Academy

Steve Harper: The MSD course has been tough and challenging, but I’ve loved every minute. I’ve met some wonderful people - both staff and students - and made lifelong friends.

I enrolled because I don’t think there are enough people in boardrooms with experience of playing the game. In the Sporting Director role it’s important to understand players. You are responsible for recruitment and also need an awareness of departments like sports science and the Academy.

READ MORE: The DNA of a modern keeper

Kevin Davies: The course was quite overwhelming at the start, because of the quality of people in the room. I was just a former player with a BTEC, which was all you had to do as a YTS back in the day.

But gradually my confidence grew and it was fascinating to go into clubs like St Helens and see how they operated. I also learnt a lot from fellow students like Gary Bowyer, who I’ve stayed in touch with since. You learn about yourself, too.

READ MORE: Why Bolton needs to find their soul again

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