The Growth (and challenge) of the Australian Sports Market

Posted by in Australia and New Zealand, Jonathan Harris

Since launching in Australia in 2010 we have often been asked on numerous occasions how can any sports organisation claim to specialise in sport without a presence in Melbourne? Our business has grown consistently since establishing our Sydney hub office and whilst we can demonstrate the success of our Singapore office working across Asia, we have always been conscious of the need to expand our footprint into Melbourne.

As with so many critical questions the answer to this one was right under our noses. Josie Lahey, one of our leading Partners with five years’ experience in our London office, just happens to be born bred and educated in Adelaide and Melbourne; decided it was time to return to her roots.

With that all important ingredient of timing and good fortune Josie returned to her Melbourne home in May of this year and is already having a positive impact on our pan Australian business.

Over the last four years we have seen sport in Australia grow from strength to strength and it is becoming ever more commercial and more global in outlook. Across all major sports we have seen continued investment and growth with massive new media rights deals for the two major codes in addition to new governance structures for clubs, teams and federations.

The major sporting codes continue to compete hard for audiences and in doing so, are working hard to attract the best talent in the market place. Whilst clearly the driving force of commercial revenues into sport is of paramount importance, in the last two years we have also seen increasing demand for high calibre management talent in the areas of corporate governance, grass roots participation and elite performance management.

SRi’s Australian operation has traditionally focused on C -level roles across marketing and commercial functions. It is now imperative that we are able to educate and advise Boards and CEOs on how to develop their management team to include these areas of grass roots participation and elite performance.

These are becoming burgeoning sectors in our global business and we have some fantastic insights and case studies that we can take to the Australian market in:
Grass roots participation – with the Rugby Football Union and Badminton England.
Elite performance – with the Hong Kong Football Association, Football Association of Singapore, Rugby Football League, West Indies Cricket, British Basketball and Gymnastics Australia.

The recent ASADA investigation will only increase focus on corporate governance in the areas of medical and elite performance which will therefore increase the need for due process around search and selection, to ensure a suitable management structure is in place.

We are able to bring global best practice which not only encompasses the identification and attraction of high calibre candidates, but also in the broader advisory role of assisting organisations to draw up their specific plans and objectives in these vitally important areas. Our Partner Alistair Milner, in our London office, who has a background working with both Sport Scotland and Sport England, is already bringing key insight to this area outlining the challenges in recruiting in a high-performance environment.

It is these services that have been utilised in our recent assignments to find the Head Coaches for Hong Kong Football Association, Football Association of Singapore, as well as two English Championship football clubs. In these cases our primary role was not talent identification but actually establishing rigour to the selection process.

So while recruitment still is very much at the core of what we do, our industry is also evolving. As well as the more traditional services such as candidate referencing, targeted approaches, interview structure advice, offer management and on-boarding, we now also find ourselves consulting on succession planning and advising on how to implement an organisational structure suitable to meet the needs of our clients growth plans.

About the Author: Jonathan Harris – Managing Partner, Australia

Managing teams in Sydney and Melbourne, Jonathan’s role is to drive performance and growth in the Australasian business through partnering with clients to deliver executive search assignments, as well as advising on executive board structures to best lead overall business strategy. The Australasian team has built a world-class practice working with the right holders, clubs & teams, agencies, national governing bodies and sporting goods brands focusing on the increasingly important areas of commercialisation in sport and elite performance and participation.