Pierre-Antoine shares with us his passion for sports business which has led him today to work as Head of Business Development & Communication, in Guinea for the “Stade Général Lansana Conté”. This interview is about Pierre-Antoine’s insights regarding the importance of building a sports industry network, how his journey started, his experience of the African sports industry alongside his personal and “must-be-adopted” advice to our future AMOS professionals, the next generation of industry leaders.
It is a pleasure to connect with you again, Pierre-Antoine. You have a very interesting story which tells us about your moving from Maghreb to France, then your experience in the United States, England, and Spain as well as how you decided to continue your studies in sports management. To know you better, can you tell our audience a little about your academic background and especially what motivated you to travel to all these different countries during your studies?
After completing my A-levels (“French Baccalauréat”) in Morocco, I decided to go back to France to start my higher education. I did not really know what I wanted to do at the time, but I wanted to do something I was passionate about. Therefore, I joined AMOS Sport Business School in Paris (at the time Paris and Lille were the only campuses) where I did my bachelor’s degree. After 3 years in France, I realised that I did not see myself staying, and I wanted to travel and work abroad. At the time, my English was relatively poor, and I knew that I could not reach my goal without having a professional English level. I decided to go to the USA to improve it, and after 6 months of pure English classes I joined UCLA (University of California Los Angeles), where I did a certificate in Marketing. After almost a year and a half in California, it was time to go back to Europe to do a master’s degree. AMOS had just opened a campus in London, so it was the perfect match to keep improving my English and finish my studies.
As a sports student from AMOS Sport Business School, what were your key learning points?
The real advantage of a campus in London is the fact that not only all the classes are in English, and delivered by professionals of the sports industry, it also is the capital of sports in Europe. It also gives us the possibility to network, to understand better the professional world and to discover the different career possibilities in the industry. Learning about different aspects of the business (marketing, events, digital, sponsorship…) is also something that opened several possibilities for my future and has given me the possibility to specialise in a chosen “field” that fits my profile.
After starting your career in London, you have, once again, embarked on the expatriation adventure. Can you tell us about the thinking process behind and how you prepared your departure for Guinea?
After almost 3 years working for AMOS London, I decided to take a break to travel around the world. Unfortunately, I left my job at an unfortunate time and my plans got cancelled due to the pandemic. Almost at the same time, I got a call from one of my personal contacts who had been working in Guinea for the last 2 years. He told me that he was the new Director of the General Lansana Conte Stadium and that he was building his team. He offered me to join him there to help him on the development of the stadium. I accepted the proposition as I did not have any plans anymore and because the challenge seemed really exciting.
Did you encounter any problems when arriving in Africa? Tell us how you adapted and how did your integration go?
It was complicated to get my visa due to the COVID restrictions, and it took me almost 3 months to sort it out and to arrive in Guinea. After that it was easy since it was not my first time in Guinea as my parents are already based there.
How is the professional and the daily life in Guinea, and how is it different from Europe?
Both are completely different to Europe. Professionally, most of the people do not have the chance to study in higher education, as the education system is weak, hence, the skills are very different to those you acquire in Europe. People in Africa often live on a day-to-day routine, and they do not investigate long-term projects. However, Guineans are young, and this generation is trying to move things forward, technology and internet being a huge help in the development of the country. Regarding social life, Guinea is one of the poorest countries in the world, so the activities are limited and completely different from activities in Europe. For example, when you are in your twenties, and you have always been used and able to travel and to move around easily, it is a bit complicated to leave the city because of the lack of infrastructure, and not having many social activities. On the other end, sitting at the pool and going to an island on weekends is not something that I could have done in London or in Paris.
In terms of Sport Business, where is Africa today compared to Europe?
Currently, West Africa is still investing and developing, and it continues to work towards improving its infrastructures. There has been some clear progress, and more and more companies are investing into sponsorship, NGOs are funding sports programmes, academies are being created, and facilities are being built. Football is the main sport, and it is played everywhere in the streets due to the lack of pitches in Guinea, other sports, such as basketball and tennis are more and more popular, and this is also the case in other West-African countries. The Basketball Africa League launched by the NBA has its offices in Dakar, Abidjan also hosts an ITF tournament, and the CAF is establishing offices in the area, and we can also see that new stadiums are being built in the sub-region. Sport is continuously growing.
Can you tell us about the “Général Lansana Conté Stadium” and your role there?
The stadium was built between 2007 and 2011 by the Chinese through the Chinese-Guinean cooperation. In 2017, a 30-year Public-Private Partnership was established with a local company. It is the biggest stadium in Guinea with 50 000 seats. Unfortunately to date, we have not been able to host more than 5 000 people due to the pandemic. My 2 principal missions in the stadium are: to help in the homologation procedure, which means, being able to host official international FIFA and CAF games; and to launch the stadium operations. I oversee the development and the communications. In short, my missions are mainly to prepare and sell the commercial offerings, help in the organisation of the games and events, and manage the communications.
What is the difference in the environment at Stade Général Lansana Conté like on match-days compared to non-match days?
3 days before a game it is usually intense, we must ensure everything is ready to host the game, the teams, the CAF officers, etc. We are most of the time in an operational role, managing every single aspect of the event to make it perfect: from the changing rooms to the VIP lounge or inside the Media area, we are everywhere. The stadium is where everything happens, thus the image of the stadium, which represents Guinea, is what matters: every detail counts. On non-match days, since we are just starting to operate the stadium, it is generally quieter, but we always have guests coming in, we are also planning our next events, selling our offers, maintaining the stadium, as well as working on every aspect of the stadium’s development.
What ambitions do you see for the African sports industry and what has been your biggest learning experience for the industry in Africa?
Africa has a lot to offer when speaking about sport. This is only the beginning for the continent. Having lived on the African continent for many years, it is a pleasure for me to be able to work in my industry here and to help develop the business of sport. The best part is, even with my small experience, I can share my knowledge in regard to what is done in Europe or in the USA with locals. I can say that my biggest take away from this experience in Guinea is that with nothing or nearly nothing, you can still do great things. I have also been able to meet amazing people from the industry who have taught me and given me different perspectives and points of view of the industry.
What is your “game”-plan for the future? Are you planning to stay in Africa or are you thinking of going back to Europe … or elsewhere?
I will soon leave Guinea to go back to Europe where I am currently looking for my future challenge. However, I would still love to work within the sport industry in Africa, and why not go back to live on the continent in a few years’ time?
Pierre-Antoine, reflecting on this discussion and your sports career, what is your advice for our AMOS students, the aspiring sports business professionals, looking to break into the industry?
I have 2 pieces of advice for them. The first one is: hard work. It is important to understand that the sport industry is like being on the pitch, it is a competition, and to win, you must work smarter than others, you must not be afraid to give your time. The second piece of advice is: to network. Until today I have never really applied for a job. I have had opportunities thanks to the network I have built over the past years. It is also important, if not essential, to network.
Thank you, Pierre-Antoine, for taking the time to discuss with us today. Do you have a last word to share and to conclude this interview?
I wish good luck to all the future AMOS students during their studies and all the best for their career. And who knows, my path may cross yours one day!
Written by Victoria Chacon, Communication and Events Officer AMOS London.