The recent Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four not only turned Belgrade into the epicenter of world basketball for a weekend of elite competition and passionate crowds, but the city also became a place of higher learning from May 17 to 20. The Serbian capital in general and Stark Arena, in particular, served as classrooms for the students of the Sports Business MBA by the Euroleague Basketball Institute, who came to Belgrade for their third of four in-person learning sessions in the program. The students had an opportunity to listen to a variety of lectures from 11 high-profile industry leaders from the world of sports business while getting a behind-the-scenes look at the organization of an event on the great scale of the Final Four.
Euroleague Basketball and Vytautas Magnus University combined their resources to bring an A-list of speakers to Belgrade for lectures to the MBA students. The lecturers included industry leaders Tadd Reilly, Vice President, Fruit of the Loom/Spalding International; Dawn Smyth, Director, Domestic Development, Canada Basketball; Markus Fest, Director Special & Corporate Events, AEG Europe; Miroslaw Krogulec, Director, Organisational Development Sport, Special Olympics; Davor Ristovic, General Manager, Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade; Xavier Bidault, Commercial Director, Basketball, IMG Media; Ibrahim Erkan, Director of Operations, Turkish Basketball Federation; Daniel Geey, Partner, Sheridans; Mustafa Erogut, Executive Director, Istanbul Basaksehir FC; Cem Karamuersel, Accounting Director EMEA, Nike; and Jordi Balsells, Vice President, Desigual.
In addition to privileged access to sports industry executives, the students got a first-hand look at many Final Four ancillary events, such as the Opening Press Conference at Kalemegdan Fortress, which was also the scene of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague FanZone, for which they were given a guided tour to understand the synergy between Euroleague Basketball, sponsors and fans. In order to prepare for their Master theses, the students also had a full day of "battle sessions" with their module leaders from the Vytautas Magnus University. Finally, they were able to attend an alumni dinner to meet previous graduates from EB Institute masters.
"I had the privilege to officiate at the Madrid Final Four in 2008 and have been present as a spectator at many others Final Fours, but after my experience of 19 years in the EuroLeague as a referee, to be in the Belgrade as a student of the Sports Business MBA was very special, without any question," student Spiros Gkontas said. "I had the chance to see all the details of the preparation and the execution of such a unique event and the hard work from hundreds of people for the success of it. As a student of the Sports Business MBA, I discovered another world behind the scenes that is also interesting and impressive. We met sports professionals from different sectors who shared with us their unique experiences. Belgrade is a fantastic basketball city; the hospitality was excellent; and I feel blessed I had the chance to live it. This is the real basketball."
The Sports Business MBA sessions held over four days in Belgrade made up the third of four on-site phases in the 13-month course, which is coordinated by Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas. The students had previously met in Barcelona in October 2017 at Euroleague Basketball headquarters for five days of focus on a transfer of knowledge from Euroleague Basketball senior management. The students also met in January in Kaunas for a prolonged academic session. After their experience at the Final Four in Belgrade, the students will return to Kaunas in November for their fourth and final on-site session to present the Sports Business MBA students final projects.
"The Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four in Belgrade was all about business insights and felt more like the beginning of a finish line for us," student Juste Ivaskeviciute said. "Market leaders gave us a very wide perspective on the business area, from the value perception of raising young players to sports events management and motivational speeches. Meeting alumni of the program was more like a family meeting in which sharing experiences and expectations was a priceless exchange of information. The dedicated professors made the first steps toward the MBA thesis topic so easy and inspiring that now there are even more options to choose from than before the session!"