Kiwi lawyer Anya Alderslade is well on her way to achieving the enviable task of being able to combine her profession with her lifelong passion.
The young solicitor was recently accepted into the FIFA Master programme, an international master in management, law and humanities of sport, and is one of only 32 selected from around the world this year.
And perhaps in a a nod to our sporting prowess, two others on the course – fellow lawyer Rebecca Hooper who previously worked at Russell McVeagh and Maria Clarke Lawyers, and Emma Twigg, the current single sculls Rowing World Champion - are also New Zealanders.
The ten-month programme, Endorsed by FIFA and organised by the International Centre for Sport Studies (CIES), takes its graduates on a journey through three different European countries to study sport.
Distinguished universities in England, Italy and Switzerland, which are among Europe’s most sports-oriented countries, provide the courses, which combine top-class academic teaching and practical case studies supplemented by guest speakers and field visits.
Currently, Alderslade is in London, having started the masters on September 15.
The days are packed, she says, and highlights so far have been visiting Wimbledon and listening to guest speakers including Neil Snowball who is currently working on the Rugby World Cup 2015 and was the operations director at the London 2012 Olympics; and London Marathon CEO Nick Bitel, who is also a solicitor and consultant at Kerman & Co specialising in sports law.
The course gives Alderslade a unique opportunity to combine her two loves, sports and law.
Back in New Zealand, and she got her first job out of university at Buddle Findlay in the firm’s graduate program, where she rotated through the employment and corporate teams, before settling in the banking and finance team for two years.
And at the same time, Alderslade was keeping up her other love, one she’d had since she was a little girl – equestrian.
“Buddle Findlay and my team were very supportive and understanding of my sporting passion when I would run out of the office some nights a week to get out to the farm and ride before it was dark,” she tells NZ Lawyer
Maybe it’s in her genes: Her mother is from an equestrian background, and her father (as well as being a partner at Chapman Tripp) has a strong interest in thoroughbred racing and has played sports his whole life, namely football.
And it’s not just horses that get the young Alderslade enthusiastic: Other sports she’s been involved with competitively include netball, tennis, basketball, touch rugby and athletic. In 2004, she won the ASB Young Sports Person of the Year.
But the lawyer admits she’s still got a lot to learn.
“Despite what you may think in applying for a FIFA Sports Masters, I really don’t know much at all about football, much to the disbelief of my football mad classmates…I am learning this new football language though, and the focus of the course is on all sports not just football.”
The lawyer initially heard about the international master programme through friend Charlotte Kight, a previous employee at Russell McVeagh, who completed the course in 2013/2014 and is now working at FIFA in Zurich.
The opportunity to combine her work with her passion for sports sounded too good to be true for Alderslade, and so she embarked on the complex application process.
Of the 1,000 applications created worldwide, she was one of just 32 students from varying backgrounds and experiences selected to partake in the programme, which was recently named the Best Sports Management Masters Course in the world by 2014 SportBusiness International masters ranking.
“The course challenges me daily,” says Alderslade. “I think that the skills I have and will obtain from [it] will be invaluable in whatever path I follow. Being of a highly interactive nature, we are challenged to work in groups with different class members on regular occasions, testing both our team work, listening, interpretation, understanding and negotiation skills…as well as patience at many times.”
At the conclusion of the course, she will produce a thesis on a topic of interest alongside a group of three fellow students and present it to industry professions. Alderslade’s team is currently looking at working with Manchester City Football Club for this.
Through what she’s learnt so far, the young lawyer has also developed a particular interest in corruption in sports like doping and match fixing and its governance, as well as the growing phenomenon around major sporting events – an area she believes NZ could really capitalise on with the recent successes brought about by the RWC 2011, the FIFA U20 World Cup and next year’s Cricket World Cup.
And looking to the future, Alderslade says she’s keen to get some experience in an international European context and bring this wealth of knowledge back home, but for now she’s just enjoying the ride.
“I know that the pull of my horses, my passion for riding and love for NZ means that I will no doubt be drawn back home before too long…”
Photo: Three Kiwis: L-R - Rebecca Hooper, Anya Alderslade and Emma Twigg