Like many professional football players, James Burgin wanted to gain qualifications to prepare for life post-playing, but couldn’t see how to fit education in alongside football. Currently playing as a left-back for Swedish team Pitea IF, James found the answer to his dilemma in 2016 when he was accepted onto a BA Sport Management degree at University College of Northern Denmark (UCN) in association with FIFPRO, a course specially designed for current players. As James graduated this January, we caught up with him to find out how he balanced boots and books.
Hi James, what made you want to start studying?
When I got to 26 and met my partner, I started to think about the future and what I might do when I wanted to stop playing. I’ve always wanted to stay within sport if possible. However I’ve never wanted to coach, so when I saw something about the FIFPRO sports management course, it looked like a great opportunity to gain knowledge on the business side of football. I’ve always been good with economics and the course covered aspects such as marketing, leadership and the legal side of business management – all the things you might need to run a successful sporting organisation. I got in touch with Shane Birtles at the PFA because I thought this course could help me learn some essential skills.
What did you enjoy most about the course?
Over the three and a half years on the course, I gained a solid understanding of how to run a sporting organisation. Being able to do the course online with other sportspeople who were in the same situation as I was, helped a lot too. There was a real focus on different sports but I liked it best when they looked into the economic structure of football clubs and the marketing side of it. I enjoyed the internship, which was a big part of the course because it made me see it how it all works in practice. The whole structure of the course was fascinating and I looked forward to the lectures, which I didn’t expect. I could study when I wanted to accommodate my playing schedule, so it worked well for me.
How did the PFA Charity support you?
Where do I start?! I had a lot of support from the PFA Charity. Shane was my go-to person as they helped with funding for the course, books and travel. They also helped me during my internship and with information, surveys and research for my exams. The PFA was great with any support I needed in general.
What are your plans now you’ve graduated?
I've looked into doing a master's degree in sports psychology, however, I'm going to take this year off to figure out what I want to do. I live in the north of Sweden, where there are limited footballing prospects, but to me, that just means I'll have to create my own opportunities like setting up a business.
Would you recommend the course to other players?
Yes. If they're prepared to work and stick at it, they will get a lot from it. Not only education-wise but also in the real world when they start doing their internships. I thought it would be easy because I loved sports, but it's not as simple as that, so they need to prepare for a lot of reading. It was a big change for me at first but I when I got my head around not physically going to lectures I became focused and found I could comfortably set aside 4 hours a day to study. The course is designed to fit in around football, so I would definitely recommend it because I think it suited my lifestyle well, and so will probably suit many other players too.
Find out More...
The next FIFPRO Online Academy will commence on 1st September 2020 and the application window closes on the 15th March. There are only a limited number of places available and competition is expected to be fierce, so if any current players are interested in applying you can: