Born as an initiative by the Outdoor Sports Valley (OSV), an interesting new Master of Science course in sports and outdoor industry management, or SOIM for short, began a few days ago at the School of Management of Lyon (EMLyon). Described as the first such master's degree program specializing in our sector, it started with a group of 13 selected students from six countries who have already graduated in business administration. They come from France, Brazil, China, India, Lebanon and the U.S., and several of them are involved in outdoor activities.

They will first study until the end of December at the institute in Lyon, which was recently rated by the Financial Times as the ninth best business school in Europe. They will then move to another French city, Annecy, to focus more specifically on sales, marketing and retailing. Between April and July, they will study at EMLyon's campus in Shanghai, working with Chinese students.

The students will subsequently prepare their master's dissertation and go into an internship of between four and nine months with a company in the sector. Adidas, Amer Sports, Lafuma, Patagonia, Petzl, Tecnica, The North Face and Volcom are among the companies that have already pledged their support to the SOIM students by declaring their willingness to hire them at the end of the curriculum.

A large team of lecturers will spend a total of 540 hours with the students during the three stages of the academic program. The courses are being held in English. Many of the lecturers are industry consultants, but the top managers of some important sporting goods companies have also agreed to talk to the students and to answer their questions for about one hour.

Eugenio Di Maria, publisher of SGI Europe and The Compass, is one of the lecturers along with two members of his editorial team.

It has taken two and a half years to put together this useful new program, which is intended to raise the professional level of the future managers in our sector. It is the creature of Pascal Aymar, a former manager of Salomon, Scott, Reebok and Coalision, and the OSV, a 3-year-old industry association based in Annecy that already counts almost 150 members. EMLyon has already received international accreditation for the SIOM course.