For Mirado Rakotoharimalala (MSc in Sports Management and the Business of Football 2019), football is his passion, and he has worked in the football industry since 2013. Recognising an opportunity to improve the local football provision in his home country Madagascar, he embarked on a Master’s at Birkbeck to prepare him to bring about these changes.
“I told myself that to sharpen my professional skills in the football industry, I had to continue my studies in the United Kingdom, and preferably in London. Football has become a huge business there. The Premier League, home to the best clubs, the best players, the best coaches, and the best fans, is internationally recognised as the best football league in the world.
Birkbeck offered a course that matched my expectations. I was motivated to study in an international environment with classmates and professional lecturers from several countries. The College gave me a huge opportunity to expand my global professional network, which helped me understand and assess the football industry’s situation in Madagascar.”
His dissertation, ‘Analysing the environment of the football industry in Madagascar, and designing a sustainable and competitive Malagasy football league’, provided a blueprint for Mirado to put his ideas into action. At the time, Malagasy football matches were played in a tournament format, with 24 teams competing in smaller knock-out group stages before reaching the final round. “Inspired by the English Premier League, I decided to build up a league with local football clubs – this was the vision,” he says. Effecting change within the industry was not easy, and Mirado faced many challenges. “However, with perseverance, resilience, and outstanding teamwork, Pro League was established in 2019. Now, we are in our second season, and we are working hard every day to improve the competition.”
In the league’s first season, twelve clubs played each of the other teams twice, home and away, over the course of the season. Due to Covid-19 and its impacts on the industry, it was decided for the second season to separate clubs into two conferences and then hold play-offs at the end. The most marked changes, however, have been off the pitch. Pro League has had a significant impact not just within the football community but across Madagascar. “We have created jobs – for players, technical and administrative staff – and opportunities for the clubs to get more revenue through increased ticketing. We have also restructured the media sphere and, hopefully, in a few years, we could get TV rights. This has never happened before in Madagascar football history!” Pro League allows local players to shine and make Malagasy people proud while enhancing the country’s visibility on the world stage.
Despite having already achieved so much, gamechanger Mirado is not taking his eye off the ball. “We believe lawmakers should support the project by implementing suitable laws to improve and strengthen professional sports in Madagascar – this is our next goal.”