Looking Outside the Circle

The English FA Chief Executive Alex Home is departing his job after five years in the chair in January. He is believed to have done a reasonable job, in a role that is seen somewhat as a poisoned chalice; ask his predecessors, Ian Watmore, Brian Barwick, Mark Palios and Adam Crozier their views on holding the top job.

Two things that come from the FA’s search for a replacement that are extremely interesting. Firstly the salary on offer. Home was earning UKL580,000 per year (AUD$1,056,000). When we look at how many of Australia’s sporting Chief Executive’s are earning around the same figure or more, yet are managing a sport that is not even close to being on a par with the numbers and exposure football has in England, maybe we are overpaying our top men? There have been many who have said that such a role should be far more dependent on results with bonuses built in rather than a set salary; bonuses based on participation numbers, sponsorship, qualification for international competitions, etcetera.

The other interesting thing to come out of Mr Home’s departure is that the English are in fact now looking overseas for a replacement due to what has been described as a “paucity of top class administrators in the game in this country,” by one of the head hunting companies tasked with finding the ideal candidate.

The reason for this is clear the world over. Sports administration has now become a career. Twenty years ago the top administrators were people who had proved themselves in the business or outside world and brought that practical business know-how to sport. Today’s sports administrators are career administrators, some fortunate to have a passion for the sport that they administer, others biding time in one sport until an opportunity comes up in the sport they love.

Interestingly one of the key British candidates is former British Olympic Chief Simon Clegg who is now based in Azerbaijan where he is organising next year’s inaugural European Games in the capital Baku. Clegg is not a career administrator, and at 54 is one of the last of the ‘old school’ candidates who gained his skills in the British army where he was a major. He learned his administrative and diplomatic skills in this environment, and while on secondment from the Army he managed the British Biathlon Team in 1984/85. He was then nominated by the British Ski Federation to be the British Olympic Association’s Team Quartermaster for the 1988 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary and was asked to carry out a similar role at the Seoul Summer olympics.

In 1989 Clegg left the army and joined the British Olympic Association as Assistant General Secretary becoming Deputy General Secretary two years later and eventually became the organisation’s first Chief Executive.

It was not all wine and roses for Clegg as he was part of Manchester’s failed bids for the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games, but he did drive the move for London to bid for the 2012 Games. He then left The British Olympic Association to become Chief Executive of Ipswich Town, where he is best remembered for sacking Roy Keane.

Clegg is a prime example of someone who has learned his skills in other areas and transferred those skills to a sporting environment. It is that grounding that makes him stand out as an administrator. The problem with career sports administrators is often they lack the knowledge as to how things work in the industries they have to deal with; such as how media outlets operate, corporate sponsorships operate. All they have to go is what they learned at university, rather than learning in the workplace.

As sport became an industry in Australia in the late 1980’s, sports administration became a course that appealed to many who wanted to ride the gravy train. If we look around sports in Australia now, and Not The Footy Show has dealt with over 50 sports in the nine years we have been on air, Australia has some outstanding administrators, but they also have some dreadful ones with no flair or adaptability skills necessary in such a role. As the search for a CEO at the English FA has shown we are not alone. Finding good people is not easy and hence the reason many CEO’s are recycled at various levels of sport.

Many an organisation may be better served looking outside for their ideal man or woman, rather than a career sports administrator. These candidates have the ability to bring a fresh approach and an adaptability that will only benefit the various sports in the long term.

Looking Outside the Circle

One thought on “Looking Outside the Circle

  • October 29, 2014 at 11:18 am

    WA Sport is renowned for making bad appointments, Peter O’Meara at the Western Force, Gary Chandler and Peter Hugg at Football West, Michelle Phillips Football West and Perth Glory. Hockey WA have also not made good appointments as the game has failed to get the coverage it warrants, and this is the state with the best players in the country playing!

    Perth Glory actually destroy your argument with the appointment of Paul Kelly not from a sports administration back ground, but almost ran the club into the ground. Saying that Jason Brewer looks to be from outside and is righting the ship, as long as Sage lets him.

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