I must confess having taken my share of fluff courses at the graduate and undergraduate levels. You've probably come across those: academically lightweight elective subjects typically offered during the summer term when hard work isn't on the top of the agenda for either students or instructors. Aside from the lighter work, they had the added attraction of being offered by lecturers who gave generally higher marks to bolster one's grade point average. From an instrumental sense, I am thus somewhat befuddled by the appearance of what appears to be a bevy of fluff degrees. Whereas taking a few lightweight courses doesn't really hurt one's employment prospects provided that you obtain a real degree, how about one whose entire legitimacy is in question?
I recently got wind of a fairly obscure university here in England linking up with an equally minor football club to offer--get this--concentrations in BA (Hons) Football Business and Finance, Marketing or Media. Hence, the new University & College of Football Business at Buckinghamshire New University. For readers outside the UK, Bucks News University (for short) is one of the so-called new universities that were formerly polytechnics, or what would have been the equivalent of community colleges in the US. To counter the relative obscurity of the parent academic institution, you would hope for it to partner up with a football club that's relatively well known, right? Well actually, they've linked up with Burnley FC, another not-so-recognizable name. There is a good reason why it's not well known since it plays in the second division (Championship) after being relegated at the end of the 2009-2010 season to little notice.
Here's the press blurb from Burnley. One of its supposed selling points is support from the British football leagues:
The University & College of Football Business (UCFB) is the first ever institute of higher education dedicated to the delivery of undergraduate degree courses in the operational and business facets of football and its surrounding industries. The campus, located at Turf Moor, occupies the Jimmy McIlroy stand, which has undergone a comprehensive redevelopment and now boasts state-of-the-art facilities, lecture theatres and technologies. UCFB will accept its first intake in September 2011 and has capacity for 150 undergraduate students.I am not sure if the novelty factor of the degree makes up for its next to no-name parent institutions, unless you count Blair's spin doctor Alistair Campbell (diehard Burnley fan) trumpeting its virtues. Moreover, I don't see the point in gaining degrees in finance, marketing or media specifically tailored to football when regular ones will allow graduates to work in so many other industries where these skills are required. Ah well, but that's just me.
Courses have been created for aspiring professionals who wish to work within the football business and its surrounding industries, gaining skills transferable into other business sectors The Professional Footballers' Association (PFA), Premier League, Football League and Scottish Premier League are among the football industry's active supporters of the new institute, whose ambassadors include Alastair Campbell, Brian Barwick and Gordon Taylor OBE.
Degree courses, short courses, an executive speaker series, workshops and executive education will all be on offer. In partnership with key stakeholders in the football industry, UCFB's three-year degree courses will focus on traditional academic subjects within the context of the football business.
At any rate, let me be perfectly honest here: the idea of training students in football management seems a daft idea that's every bit as daft as the characters that populate the sport, from spendthrift owners, vainglorious managers to unfocused players. Having these selfsame characters who've not managed to keep top-performing clubs more or less financially viable teach about football is certainly a dubious proposition. That said, in the spirit of a sucker being born every minute, I'd be glad to teach some courses if they're up to it since I do know a little something about finance, marketing and media. Given my fondness for electives, I have some possible offerings especially designed for the modern sport...
Wayward Player Public Relations Management (1 unit) This course uses a case study method to investigate how press handlers should manage players' recurring errant behaviour. These include
Star player shoots club staff with a BB gun;
Star player cannot get his fill of rent-a-birds;
Star player tries to outdo Tiger Woods in having extramarital affairs
Balancing the Books Without Getting Relegated From Top Division (1 unit) This course instils common sense singularly lacking from many football participants
Don't spend £50M in transfer fees on off-form players;
Don't waste over a billion dollars fruitlessly pursuing elusive Champions League victory;
Prattle about competitors wishing to dupe fair competition authorities
International Football and Corporate Social Responsibility (1 unit) This course navigates the minefield of a colourful cast of characters worldwide in an increasingly globalized era
How not to sell English teams to Chinese owners who may soon be in jail;
How to remove Yankee stinkers like AIG as your title sponsor as soon as possible;
How to market Middle Eastern owners to Little Englanders
If there are suck--I mean, valued students for these courses, well, I will soon release my D-I-Y volume on football management, All I Really Need to Know About Football I Learned Being Kicked Out of Skool. Or something like that ;-)