The University is proud of this exclusive partnership. Football makes a huge contribution to global society.
By Samantha Allan
In March 2018, the University of Edinburgh signed an agreement to work more closely with one of the world’s leading sports clubs, FC Barcelona. It is a mutually prestigious partnership for both partners, both of whom have a similar financial turnover and significant global reach.
Professor James Smith – Vice Principle - International
"This is a hugely exciting partnership for us. FC Barcelona is a global entity but the partnership also allows us to open access to education locally and internationally. The partnership facilitates us to extend global discussions about the power of sport to cause positive change and to engage with local communities within the city of Edinburgh. This is crucial to as a global university very much rooted in Edinburgh and its hinterland."
FC Barcelona has agreements with other top 20 universities, but this is the only agreement with a UK University. Both Edinburgh and FC Barcelona recognised that they have knowledge that could be shared to help improve not just sport but broader changes through sport. The University of Edinburgh is also home to the third largest cohort of Spanish students in the UK.
Professor Grant Jarvie – Director Academy of Sport
"If we are to stay relevant, we need to participate, prepare for and facilitate change as global and local challenges continue to unfold – sport currently has a world mandate to deliver social, economic and environmental outcomes. This partnership with FC Barcelona, a highly visible prestigious community owned sports club, helps our mutual interest in being a go to place for knowledge exchange but it has also opened up doors for our students."
The partnership aims to facilitate knowledge exchange, advance professionalism and enable access to education. Both partners recognise that through collaboration they can further their knowledge exchange. A few areas discussed include the use FC Barcelona’s on and off-pitch data, as well as sports management, sports technology, sports diplomacy, sports innovation, and sports equity.
Through FC Barcelona’s Barça Innovation Hub Universitas, the University is able to access a range of online courses. The courses create professional development opportunities and give global access to industry expert led programmes.
The University of Edinburgh is a world leader in online distance learning courses with over 2.5 million students engaging with the digital courses on offer.
The courses offered by BIHUB – Universitas are part of FC Barcelona’s larger goal, to become the world’s number one sports industry centre for knowledge exchange and innovation – a goal which is shared by the Academy of Sport.
Edinburgh PhD student, Mason Robbins, is working with FC Barcelona while investigating the significance of ranking systems, such as the Deloitte Money Football League, and the impact of money rankings on the top football clubs in the world.
FC Barcelona were attracted to working with the Academy of Sport after the success of Football: More than a Game, the world’s first massive online only course focused on football, launched by the Academy in 2014.
Football: More than a Game continues to grow and is also available as a credit bearing course, carrying five credits at level seven, which is delivered by the Academy in Scottish football stadiums. The course helps to add to the University’s core commitments of widening access to education, delivering data, health and financial literacy in areas of multiple deprivation.
Hibernian Football Club, one of several clubs who help to deliver the credit bearing course, hosted representatives from FC Barcelona in December 2018. The Edinburgh club spoke about its role in the community and the valuable role of the University in delivering education and health outcomes in local community football stadiums such as Easter Road.
The Academy – a world leading think tank
Edinburgh’s Academy of Sport is one of the few think tanks in the world dedicated to sport and, in particular, the role that sport can play in addressing global challenges and partnering to open up local opportunities.
The Academy brings together innovative research as it strives to use sport to tackle some of the most pressing global and local challenges, offer support and develop opportunities for students and other parts of the university such as professional development.
The Academy has created a space for dialogue about how sport can help to contribute to urgent questions faced by people and communities. It is currently leading the Commonwealth Secretariat’s work on sport and the sustainable development goals.
Students from Edinburgh recently visited Camp Nou, the home of FC Barcelona, when the club helped to host a leadership programme funded through Santander Universities. The programme was attended by UK universities women’s football captains.
The Academy uses data in several ways. For instance, it is used to challenge myths and stereotypes that contribute to the global equity challenges both in and beyond football. It continues to highlight inequalities that are seen between the men and women’s games in football.
Recent fact files have included the record-breaking crowd of 60,739 that attended the FC Barcelona v Atletico Madrid’s women’s match, helping to destroy the myth that women’s football is not commercially viable.
The 2019 World Cup is the first where clubs will be compensated for releasing their women players – another gap closed in principle. The total FIFA input of £39 million is more than three times the amount made available for the previous 2015 World Cup held in Canada. The total prize fund at the 2018 World Cup in Russia was more than £300 million. Lessons need to be learned in relation to how the Women’s World Cup rights are commercialised.
The Barça Innovation Hub
With the motto of the club being “Més que un club”, translating from Catalan to mean “More than a club” it’s easy to see how FC Barcelona is going above and beyond what is done by other teams to help to improve sport and society.
In 2017 FC Barcelona launched the Barça Innovation Hub, a strategic project by the club to support future changes within football with a focus on three main areas, development and knowledge sharing, using innovation to create new products and services and promoting a collaborative culture between different players in the sports industry.
The hub’s vision is to create ways to help improve the sport overall, by promoting professionalisation in the sports industry through a transformative learning experience.
Looking to the future
In June 2019, the Academy of Sport was visited by Ebru Koksal, one of only two women to have been CEO of a Champions League football club. During her visit she shared with students’ lessons from the beautiful game and told them to “be bold for change.”
It is hoped that a joint symposium around women’s football with an input from FC Barcelona can be held in the 2019/2020 academic session. The partnership also hopes to contribute to the World Congress for Sports Tourism held in Barcelona in 2020. Both of these build upon the invitation from FC Barcelona to Edinburgh to attend the club’s Sports Technology Congress being held later this year.