AISTS Success Stories: They Make the Ball Roll – AISTS Alumni at EURO 2024

The UEFA EURO 2024 is more than just a tournament; it’s a grand stage where the world’s best football talents converge. Behind the scenes, it’s the meticulous planning and execution by sports managers that truly make the ball roll. As the biggest football event in Europe is currently taking place, we turn the spotlight on the AISTS alumni who contribute to its success. The AISTS explored their journey, experiences, and skills that enabled them to achieve these positions within UEFA EURO 2024 that so many people dream of.

This first episode highlight Elisabeth Smajda, Hospitality Production Specialist, and Denys Kulyk, Media Operations Coordinator at Dortmund’s BVB Stadion

Career Path: The Journey from AISTS to UEFA EURO 2024

Elisabeth Smajda, Hospitality Production Specialist at UEFA

Elisabeth Smajda has built an impressive and diverse career across various roles and companies. After graduating from the AISTS MAS in Sport Management and Technology in 2010, she has held positions in operations, marketing, and event management. Notably, she has served as Events Project Leader at Swatch Ltd., Hospitality Operations Manager for the Rugby World Cup 2019, and Olympic Games Operations Manager at OMEGA SA.

Denys Kulyk, Media Operations Coordinator at UEFA EURO 2024

Denys Kulyk graduated from the AISTS Master of Advanced Studies (MAS) in Sport Management and Technology in 2020. Prior to enrolling in the AISTS MAS, he worked as a Sports Reporter for various Ukrainian broadcasters and EuroNews. After completing the MAS, Denys transitioned into media services, notably working for UEFA Nations League Finals 2021 and UEFA Club Finals 2021. He then spent nearly two years as a Media Account Coordinator at CAA Eleven, managing UEFA Broadcast Partners’ accounts.

Current Roles at UEFA EURO 2024

At UEFA EURO 2024, AISTS alumni Denys Kulyk and Elisabeth Smajda hold crucial roles in ensuring the smooth execution of operations.

Since March 2023, Elisabeth Smajda has been working as Hospitality Production Specialist for UEFA Champions League Finals. This summer, Elisabeth applies her hospitality expertise to EURO 2024, implementing and delivering all operational aspects of the hospitality programmes for guests at each match. Elisabeth states, “I am currently in Munich for UEFA EURO 2024 as Hospitality Production Venue Coordinator. It is a perfect opportunity to get familiar with Munich Stadium which will hold UEFA Champions League Final in 2025.”

AISTS Alumni, Elisabeth Smajda
Elisabeth Smajda in front of the Munich Football Arena
Denys Kulyk at AISTS-EURO2024
Denys Kulyk in the “Yellow Wall” of the BVB Stadion

Denys Kulyk serves as Media Operations Coordinator at Dortmund’s BVB Stadion. He is responsible for managing media logistics for six matches, including a semi-final. Denys explains, “We manage all aspects of media operations, including managing written press, photographers, and non-rights holding TV crews. This involves overseeing media attendance, from their entrance to their positions in the stadium during matches, and providing essential services such as the media hub, press conferences, and the mixed zone. Also, we are the main point of contact for media for any questions related to their work at the UEFA EURO 2024. Additionally, we manage the team of Media Operations (MOPS) dedicated volunteers.”

Career Pinnacles

In reflecting on their careers, both Elisabeth and Denys see their roles at EURO 2024 as significant milestones but with different perspectives on their career trajectories.

For Denys, working at EURO 2024 represents a pinnacle moment in his career. “Being a football passionate, former TV reporter covering football and now working in the Sport industry, UEFA EURO is the biggest football event you can work at apart from the World Cup. It is a unique experience that does not happen often.“ Looking back on his career path, Denys believes that the position he currently holds is not a matter of luck but a reward for his choice of career transition back in 2019: “Attending AISTS MAS opened for me the door to the Sport industry in Switzerland and allowed me to make the transition from journalism to work with such organizations as UEFA and CAA Eleven”.

Elisabeth, with her extensive experience, sees each event she has worked on as a important step rather than a pinnacle. “In my opinion, each small or big event I have worked for has brought me more experience, different perspectives on things, new challenges and inspiring encounters”. Her cumulative experiences starting from small Sports events organizations and moving up to larger structures like EURO, Rugby World Cup and Olympic and Paralympic Games, illustrate a progressive career development. Similarly to Denys, Elisabeth acknowledges the critical role of AISTS in her career development: “AISTS MAS allowed me to better understand how Sport organizations and Sports events are orchestrated, as well as broaden my professional network in the Sport Industry.”

Denys Kulyk in EURO2024 - Aists
Denys Kulyk during the UEFA EURO 2024 match between Albania and Italy

Essential Skills to Succeed in the Sport Industry

AT UEFA EURO 2024, achieving success in their respective roles requires a unique combination of skills that integrate technical expertise with strong interpersonal abilities.

Denys highlights the importance of integrating both hard and soft skills. He notes that hard skills are essential for understanding media operations and the logistics of football event delivery. However, he emphasizes the equally crucial role of soft skills: “In this role, we work with and provide services to people, colleagues, and media from different cultures, with various professional backgrounds, and under different levels of stress during such big events.” This underscores the significance of communication and interpersonal skills in his daily work.

Elisabeth also points out the need for a combination of skills, specifically highlighting “anticipation, communication, prioritization, and a zest of audacity”. These attributes she explains, are vital for navigating the complexities of hospitality production and deliver exceptional guest experiences.

Elisabeth Smajda with the Hospitality Team at UEFA EURO 2024
Elisabeth Smajda with the Hospitality Team at UEFA EURO 2024

Advice for Aspiring Sport Industry Professionals

For those eager to accelerate their career in Sport Management, the AISTS has published an article providing advice on How to Work in the Sport Industry. Elisabeth and Denys offer valuable advice, that align with some of the article’s points while also sharing additional insights based on their experiences.

Elisabeth considers goal-setting and building a strong action plan as key element in her career. “My career path was always driven by my passion for Sports. I always set myself realistic goals and then build an action plan to reach them, as well as talk to people who would inspire me,” she shares. This structured approach have guided Elisabeth from her early days in small Sports event organizations to her current role at EURO 2024.

Denys highlights the importance of hands-on experience to immerse oneself in the field. “Apply for volunteering roles at such events. You will gain not only invaluable experience of seeing the delivery of UEFA EURO from the front row, but also will meet and work with people who in the future could be in front of you during your job interview,” he suggests, emphasizig the dual benefits of gaining practical insights and expanding one’s professional network.

AISTS Alumni Impact on the Sport Industry

The combined experiences and insights of Elisabeth and Denys at EURO 2024 exemplify the diverse roles and challenges that AISTS alumni undertake at major sporting events. Their contributions not only highlight their individual achievements but also reflect the broader impact of the AISTS community in the Sport industry.

The AISTS extend its sincere gratitude to Elisabeth Smajda and Denys Kulyk for generously sharing their time and insights to contribute to this article.

Denys Kulyk with colleagues in UEFA EURO 2024 mascot
Denys Kulyk with colleagues and Albärt, the UEFA EURO 2024 mascot

Experience the world of sport in the Olympic Capital

Participants attend several full-day workshops throughout the programme to experience sport. These sessions are delivered by the sport organisations and federations themselves and provide a unique hands-on experience and well as an ideal opportunity to connect to our alumni and experts working in the industry.