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LeBow Joins International Research Effort to Study Sustainability in the Sport Industry


October 24, 2022

Beyond training athletes and building up fanbases, what are sports teams, leagues, and other stakeholder organizations doing to ensure the future — for both their sport, and for the planet at large? Furthermore, are sport management programs training students to tackle significant global issues such as climate change once they graduate? As part of a global team of researchers and sport industry officials and fueled by a major grant, LeBow’s Department of Sport Business will be digging into these critical questions in the coming years.

Through a grant from Erasmus+, a European Commission program supporting education, training, youth, and sport, LeBow faculty and colleagues from around the world will undertake a cross-cultural study of Sustainable Sport Management (SSM) in sport management curricula in the U.S. and Europe and the implementation of sustainability strategies by sporting organizations. The grant is 400,000 euros in total (about $390,000), with Drexel’s portion being 88,000 euros (about $86,000).

This grant-funded project marks the third major collaboration between the Department of Sport Business and the European Association for Sport Management (EASM) since Drexel became the first entity outside of Europe to partner with EASM in 2021; an undergraduate Global Classroom held in spring 2021 and a global symposium hosted by LeBow in fall 2021 were the previous ones. The SSM study also aligns with the College’s diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts and its status as a signatory to the UN Global Compact’s Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME), based on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

As Drexel leads for the project, Joel Maxcy, PhD, professor and department head of sport business, and Jeffrey Levine, JD, PhD, assistant clinical professor of sport business, are part of an organizing committee that will meet in Belgium in Jan. 2023 and will contribute research expertise to the project through the end of the grant period in Dec. 2024.

“This will really build on our current relationship with EASM, and it’s going to bring some good attention to LeBow not just locally but internationally for our work fostering DEI and dedicating resources to that area,” Maxcy says.

The project begins with surveying where sustainability is addressed and taught in sport management programs in North America and throughout Europe, as these regions are two of principal producers of sport management professionals, and examine how those approaches line up with practices in industry.

Other aspects will address preparing the next generation of managers who will be responsible for implementing new sustainable policies and strategies and will tie together various topics — climate change, educating the future workforce, working with young people to scale up their capacity, increasing digital abilities and access — into a forward-looking framework.

“It really broadens the capabilities of what we’ve been doing from both a theoretical research perspective and a practical perspective,” Levine said.

In addition to EASM, the project brings together a diverse group of experts from universities in Belgium, Sweden, Finland, France, as well as the U.S. and the United Kingdom; the European Non-governmental Sport Organisation; World Athletics, the governing body for track and field, cross country, road running and other related sports; and the International Federation of Match Poker. Together, these individuals and entities will develop concepts for implementing sustainable strategies by international and national sport organizations.

Maxcy, as a sports economist, will focus his attention on conducting a cost-benefit analysis of these sustainability efforts, while Levine will evaluate the legal impediments to sustainability plans currently being developed. Both will contribute to a final research product examining the process of implementing these strategies.

Another goal of the project — an interactive digital infrastructure to connect universities, governing organizations and stakeholders — will be designed by Michael Wagner, PhD, professor and department head of digital media at Drexel’s Westphal College of Media Arts & Design.

Elements of this project will also be reflected in the Department of Sport Business’ development of a new undergraduate course on corporate social responsibility in sport, to be taught by Associate Clinical Professor Larry Cohen in the 2023-24 academic year.

“Drexel’s role on this project will help to address pressing societal issues and find innovative solutions to them,” Levine said. “Our department is really aligned with LeBow’s work on DEI, sustainability and curriculum innovation, and this project connects our teaching, research and service.”

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Headshot of Joel Maxcy

Department Head, Sport Business and General Business, Professor, Sport Business

Headshot of Jeffrey Levine

Assistant Clinical Professor, Sport Business