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DCE Magazine

Leveling the Field in the Business of Sports

Fall 2019

Instructor Robbie Matz believes that institutional change is needed to achieve equality for female athletes.

The burgeoning business of sports is rapidly transforming, with soaring contracts, multibillion-dollar TV deals and viewing options available on multiple media platforms. It's certainly not your father's wide world of sports anymore. Heck, it's not even the one we remember from 10 years ago.

But one aspect remains stubbornly persistent: Women are playing on a field that's far from level with men. Decades after Title IX sought to equalize opportunity among student athletes, a myriad of institutional barriers still exist for girls and women, said Robbie Matz, instructor for DCE's new Sport Management program.

“Here's one example,” he said. “Women receive far less coverage than men do, and when they are portrayed by the media it is often in contexts that relate more to their nurturing qualities rather than their athletic abilities. Men are celebrated for their strength and speed, whereas women might be praised for being able to balance being an athlete and a mother.”

Coverage of women in sport is one of the biggest overarching issues in both game coverage and media portrayal, Matz added. “Women are also less likely to be featured playing their given sport and more likely to have the media focused on their physical appearance.”

The subtle discrimination goes deep. One example is the lack of equal facilities at most golf clubs and discriminatory stereotypes of women playing slow and being less engaged than men. These barriers to equality tend to discourage women and make them feel powerless.

Robbie MatzMatz, who has a PhD in Sport Management & Policy, has done extensive research, including his doctoral dissertation on ways to elevate opportunities for female golfers of all levels, an area of special interest to Matz.

For all the progress made over the past five decades or so, there's so much yet to be done. And Matz has been a champion for addressing barriers with an organizational theory called institutional entrepreneurship, a proactive endeavor that mandates bold but progressively incremental change from within.

“My research has found that layering in positive institutional change within the established system, rather than radical transformation all at once, is more likely to lead to lasting and positive structural advances.”

“[S]tudents will be well prepared to enter the sport industry and have knowledge of the different facets related to the business of sport.” Robbie Matz
Instructor

Change from within

At the professional level, athletes have gained a platform to address issues that plague sports and society writ large, Matz said. One example is how the U.S. Women's National Team has sued and campaigned for equal pay with the men's national soccer team, despite having far more success on the field and higher TV ratings.

“What I have personally seen at all levels in sport is that nothing is given to girls and women, they have to fight for it,” Matz said. “It's an unfortunate reality, but I think we are seeing how powerful women are advocating for their place in both sports and society.”

Old prejudices die hard, especially in a field that's dominated by men. But Matz believes that a new generation of leadership can help balance the scales of power to give women equal weight.

“From an organizational theory standpoint, one of the ways to shift the existing conditions is for the dominant actors in the field to advocate for change. Resources such as money and social status are often key factors in the change process, and these resources are typically held by men. My research looks at how these well-established practices can be changed, specifically through institutional entrepreneurship.”

Getting into the game

Matz's Sport Management Essentials course addresses these issues as part of a wide-ranging curriculum — a reflection of the growing footprint of the sports business. It's intended to give students an in-depth look at the different careers they can pursue within the industry.

“While this six-week course isn't intended to turn a novice into an expert, students will be well prepared to enter the sport industry and have knowledge of the different facets related to the business of sport,” Matz said. “The other courses are more in-depth than a lot of the content I cover.”

The program can be especially beneficial to career-changers who want to apply their current skill set to a job in the sports industry, he added. “Let's say you're an accountant or work in marketing. The program can provide a solid background that can lead to a vertical or lateral jump into the sports world.”

Opportunities abound in several areas of the industry. Consider that North American sports generated a total of $71 billion in 2018. Nearly 450,000 are already employed in the U.S., with 9.5% growth projected through 2027 and median annual salary ranging upward of $140,000.

From mid-career professionals to first timers, the courses can be a perfect entry point for anyone dreaming of a career in sports, just like Matz once did.

While finishing his undergrad degree in communications, Matz was unsure about which career to pursue. But he eventually decided to pursue his passion for sports, so he enrolled in Long Beach State's Sport Management master's program. Then an internship with the Southern California Golf Association turned into a full-time job.

“I think my journey started like a lot of other people,” Matz said. “Some people go into a career in sports knowing exactly what they want to do, and others just want to work in sports. Hopefully this course, and the certificate, provides students some options to pursue.”

But while it's essential to learn how the sports industry is trending toward big data and high-tech solutions, sport is still played by people and consumed by people, so it's important to remember ethics are vital at every level, he added.

“One aspect my course focuses on is making sure we address the human and sociological side of sports by looking at gender inequality, corporate social responsibility and other issues. At the end of the day, sport is an industry driven by profits, but each decision has a sociological effect as well.”

Learn more at ce.uci.edu/sportmanagement