SAINTS chief executive Mike Rush was among a host of senior figures from the country's sports industry who graduated with a prestigious directorship qualification.

Rush, 43, joined a line-up of well-known sporting names in passing out from Manchester Metropolitan University’s Masters of Sport Directorship (MSD) on Friday, July 19.

The course is inspiring increasing numbers of professional sportspeople to go back to the classroom in order to qualify for top jobs at clubs and sports organisations.

Rush, who has risen through the ranks at Saints over the past two decades since joining in a youth development role, became the rugby league club's CEO in 2012 at the age of 35.

He has brought stability and vision to a position which had previously changed hands frequently.

The father-of-four, who graduated as a teacher from Edge Hill University in the late 90s, credits the course with giving him the expertise and knowledge to deliver changes at the Super League leaders, particularly over the past three years.

Rush, from Windle, studied alongside the likes of former Newcastle football goalkeeper Steve Harper, ex-Liverpool player Didi Hamman, and former Blackburn and Newcastle winger and now head of player development at Wolves, Scott Sellars.

St Helens Star:

Mike Rush has achieved a Masters of Sport Directorship (MSD) from Manchester Metropolitan University

After initial anxiety over taking on a course that would be so academically rigorous, he finished with a distinction grade, the highest mark achievable.

Rush, who is hoping to see Saints make it to their first Wembley final during his tenure as CEO, said: "It has been phenomenal to work with people such as Steve Harper, Didi Hamman, Jon Daniels (Scarlets Rugby) and Scott Sellars on the course.

"To take different perspectives from other sports – such as football, rugby league and cricket – was really, really good and it is great to go beyond your comfort zone. I have learned a lot and would like to think I have brought that back to the club over the three years that I have been studying.

"The recruitment of Justin Holbrook (as coach) came when I was on that course, for example."

The course features masterclasses from world-renowned speakers and engaging sessions that blend expert insight with practical tools.

Students cover leadership, managing high-performing organisations, creativity and innovation, sporting governance and compliance.

Rush, who has become a trusted lieutenant for Saints' owner Eamonn McManus and helped drive the club's advancement since their move to the Totally Wicked Stadium, added: "Leadership was a big part of the course and that has been great for me developing the environment here and to change some of the things I was doing.

"It's also helped dealing with changes we've been facing in rugby league and Super League.

"It has meant I've been better equipped to deal with that."

Rush joined his fellow graduates, kitted out in full mortarboards and gowns, to receive their masters degrees at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall.

The MSD prepares sports professionals for the role of sporting director and other senior management positions within sports organisations. Alumni from the post-graduate course include England director of cricket Ashley Giles.

Mark Batey, head of the MSD course, said: “It’s awesome to see another group of professional sports people graduate, ready to guide their organisations through times of great opportunity and change.

"They will bring the skills of high-performance leadership, governance and commercial management, along with practical insights for harnessing creativity and innovation that are so essential to successful sports organisations.”