A trend is occurring in sport organisations where executives and board members with no experience in sports administration are being appointed CEOs/GMs. On the other side of the coin, sport administrator skills are not being considered complementary for other industries.
It is tough educating recruiters and organisations that sport administrators have skills that are transferable across many industries. Recruiters and company hirers work and think vertically.
Maybe it is because the recruiter and the hiring company aren’t as au fait with the competencies of sport administrators. They are well-skilled in the intricacies of running a cashflow-tight business, managing stakeholders, and understanding team dynamics. They are also no strangers to the arts of conflict resolution, change management, marketing, and entrepreneurship, just to name a few.
Being in sport myself for several years, I’ve experienced this reluctance to “cross the line”—and it does cause some self-doubt and frustrations—but you learn to battle through. Core competencies such as strategic planning, organisational development, communication, and leadership are universal, regardless of industry.
Some (note the word some) board members and corporates consider themselves an easy transfer across to a sport organisation, and yet they don’t understand the intricacies and machinations involved in its operation. Sport organisations do use business principles; however, they are a little different, especially in the stakeholder department—e.g., members, supporters, players, coaches, staff, sponsors, etc.
They can also be unusual in their revenue streams, which are harder to come by consistently, which mean expenses need to be managed well and priorities put in place. Sometimes there is an issue around the lack of governance, which shows up when board members are appointed at executive management levels by their mates, so decision making is compromised.
Finally, there is also a bit of ‘soul’ and ‘heart’ required to run a sport organisation. The same can be said for executives coming from the corporate world!
The best candidate should be employed, which means offering them the role based on their merits. With the right person in that role, the sport organisation will innovate, grow and operate well, becoming a long-term sustainable business. The same goes for the corporate world.