The Quarterly Interview #32: James Kitching

The Autralian-Italian James Kitching recently joined FIFA as its new Director of Football Regulatory. He graduated from the FIFA Master in 2012, and one could say that his career in sports career skyrocketed since then.

 He started working in sports at 21, when he was elected to the Executive Board of the amateur football club for which he played. A year later, he was elected Secretary. “In total, I spent 4.5 years working with the Executive Board, managing club affairs (as a volunteer). During this period, our first team played in the first or second amateur division - at the time the fourth or fifth level of the Australian football pyramid. Simultaneously, I was finishing a bachelor of laws, having already completed a bachelor of international relations”, he recalls.

After working for a few years in legal practice in Australia, James began exploring the possibility of moving into sport. “Opportunities in Australia were limited. I was not an ex-professional athlete nor did I live in Melbourne or Sydney, so my network was limited”, he explains. He continues: “I began to explore the other ways to break into sport. I researched several international and national postgraduate degrees, and the FIFA Master was a clear winner”.

Right after graduating from the FIFA Master, James started working at the Asian Football Confederation, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. After five years, he decided to leave the Confederation to go back to his native Australia and start Kitching Sports, a consultancy specialising in international sports regulation and governance. The business ultimately grew to five full-time employees and several contractors, and worked with some of the leading football associations and clubs in the region. “We had made significant achievements in our first two years, and I had no intention of closing the business” he says. “However, when I received the proverbial ‘godfather offer’ from the current Chief Legal Officer of FIFA, Emilio Garcia Silvero, I knew that was an opportunity to make a difference in world football – leading the modernisation of the transfer system and FIFA’s football regulatory framework - that I could not ignore”. Here is more of the interview with James Kitching:

FMA Quarterly: How did you get your first job after the FIFA Master?

James Kitching: My FIFA Master thesis analysed international sports labour disputes, and particularly the dispute resolution mechanisms of FIFA and FIBA. As part of our research, the project team interviewed several individuals in the field. Coincidentally, one day before my graduation ceremony, one of those interviewees called and offered me a one-month consulting contract to assist the Asian Football Confederation with some governance matters. One month turned into just over five years with the AFC in Kuala Lumpur.


FMAQ: What is your job like, as Director of Football Regulatory at FIFA?

JK: Challenging! I have a very broad mandate. The subdivision has 5 departments, approximately 70 staff, and several consultants. No 2 days for me are the same – and this is only after the first 4 months in the job. The subdivision is responsible for, in effect, all aspects of thetransfer system. In short, this means: transfer regulations, the dispute resolution system, sporting nationality, relationships with professional football stakeholders, and compliance with the transfer regulations. We are also responsible for implementing 2 ambitious modernisation projects – the FIFA Clearing House, and the (re)regulation of football agents by FIFA. I am extremely lucky to have inherited 5 department heads who are young, dynamic, and actively engaged in football.


FMAQ: What is the thing that you love about your job?

JK: The thing I love most is the ability to drive real, tangible modernisation in the transfer system and its associated parts. Small changes have already had a significant impact. 


FMAQ: How important was the FIFA Master for your career?

JK: The FIFA Master opened the doors to my first opportunity in the international sports industry, which ultimately ballooned and led me to the position that I am in today.The primary benefit of the FIFA Master was (and still is) access to the amazing network – not just of alumni - but also of professors, academics, and others directly and indirectly associated with the course.



James Kitching, Australian, Italian

Director of Football Regulatory at FIFA

FIFA Master Class: 2012 

Married to: Katherine, and father of Leonardo, 5 years old 

Favourite sport: Football and basketball

Favourite team: Adelaide United FC

Favourite sport’s personality: Joel Embiid

Favourite sport’s moment: Australia defeating Uruguay on penalties on 16 November 2005 to gain entry to the FIFA World Cup 2006 – Australia’s first qualification in 32 years.