| Oct 18, 2016


Now it’s over, here’s what’s worth knowing:

Its been just over a week since the Leaders team wearily walked into the local pub in Wimbledon on Friday night with blisters, bunions and bruises all over our feet. Six hours later the team wearily walked out. But that had nothing to do with sore feet.

Although it was a whirlwind of a ‘Leaders Week’, I made a few mental notes from conversations, incidents and observations which I thought might be worth knowing.

The Stats

Four days. Four longer nights. Over 100 speakers. 2,000 through the gates of Stamford Bridge, one giant diplodocus alongside 35 who made the Leaders Under 40 Class of 2016, 60 countries (I really need to practise my ‘hello’ in a few different languages), 50+1 different sports (the extra one for eSports which went mainstream this year), two hydration stations inside, many more outside, a pedometer reading that’s off the charts, and one deep sigh of relief.

Biggest lesson

Never say, “I’ll see you at Leaders.” I never do. It’s just too busy and even if our paths do cross, there’s just enough time to say, “see you after Leaders for a proper catch up”. But, of course, it rarely happens. I need to arrange a Leaders day for the people I never see. But, to be honest, that could be hundreds and I’d be organising a mini Leaders. But, to be honest, that could be hundreds and I’d be organising another Leaders. Hang on, we have one of those coming up, in one of the most vibrant sports cities in world, New York, over 21 and 22 March 2017. Its the only international Summit in the US and I’d love to see you there. Click here for more information.

Best ice breaker

Pam El’s selfie to kick start her packed session. I followed her to Beijing and saw her still taking selfies as the Rockets beat the Pelicans in front of another sell-out crowd. Talking ice breakers, Peter Moore’s favourite hotel is Liverpool’s Titanic. Like the Titanic, his speech was immense but, unlike the Titanic, it went down in a good way with his passengers. He told me he bought a plaque for his dad inside the new main stand at Anfield. This was confirmed by Billy Hogan, also pounding the corridors, who up-sold him two boardroom tickets. That’s like selling ice to the eskimos because Peter lives in LA.

Best speaker. Ever.

Game Changers. 7 Oct 2016. Lisa Borders, WNBA. Inspirational. Presidential. And, in her own words, she’s a ‘bad girl’.

Best story teller. Ever

Leaders Sport Business Summit. 5 Oct 2016. Rory Sutherland. Fascinating. Hilarious. Wise.

Best for entertainment. Maybe not ever.

Leaders Sport Business Summit. 5 October 2016. Napoli Chairman Aurelio De Laurentiis. He got a round of applause after his first answer.

Best for honesty

The new President of CONCACAF, Victor Montagliani, admitting past CONCACAF presidents couldn’t even read a balance sheet whilst they were on the take. There’s corrupt and there’s incompetent. And then there’s incompetent at being corrupt.

Best story. This year.

Leaders Fan Marketing Summit. 4 October 2016. Peter Sorckoff’s tale of redemption for the Atlanta Hawks.

Best job to go back to.

Maverick Carter, LeBron James’s business partner, manager, and friend.

Best ad lib

Uefa’s Guy-Laurent Epstein. I didn’t know he knew his music. Nor did he until he was on a fascinating panel with Universal Music and Shazam. By the way, Guy Lo, if two London teams get to the 2017 Champions League Final in Cardiff, the M4 motorway from London could end up breaking the Guinness Book of Records for the biggest tailgate party ever. But that won’t happen, obviously.

Best dressed

Claude Ruibal. Can even look cool at a conference. Immaculate, I have to say. Coolest delegate? Well, back to Maverick Carter. So cool he can wear a scarf hanging from his back pocket (don’t get any ideas, Claude!). Too cool for the speaker dinner- that was a long call you had to take, Maverick, but you are forgiven.

Best networking

Some people are very good. Even when they are at the top of their game. Back to Maverick once again and super agent Pere Guardiola who made sure they met. Would have loved to have been a fly on the wall for that one. Best spot? Just outside the lifts on the third floor. Yes, it got really crowded at times as people jostled for a seat in the main room and I’m sorry for that. But I guess every cloud has a silver lining. In the meantime I’ll tell Abramo to get on with the redevelopment at Chelsea.


I admit it. People were confused. So was I at one point. Who’s allowed in to the Fan Marketing and Future Stadium Summit on Tuesday? Was that day one or was day two really day one? Do you have to be a woman to go to Game Changers on Friday? (Absolutely not by the way.) Where is the CEO Forum? When is the brands breakfast? (there’s a clue in the question). Who won the tech start-up competition? I’m 59 and a dinosaur so can I still come to the Leaders Under 40 Awards at the Natural History Museum? I told you we called it ‘the beast’. Next year it will be ‘simply the beast’.

Biggest queue

It’s a toss up between the Indian food station (Levy’s food excelled again), the line to meet uber-smart Uber exec Marshall Osbourne after his session, the media waiting to interview Carlos Puyol (well, that was more of a scrum), the 15-deep layer of bodies trying to listen to Dugout’s showcase session, or the bar to get served at Frankie’s.

I believe in the power of the spoken word

Obviously. I run a conference and publishing business. But that video montage of the best sporting highlights of the year narrated by George the Poet was spine-tingling. Thanks to the Works for putting it together. And BBC, ITV, BSkyB, BT Sport and C4 for the raw footage. And I mean ‘raw’.

I believe in the power of the written word.

Even if it’s 140 characters. We didn’t even have WiFi at the first Leaders event. I remember we did a session back then on digital media and people couldn’t even tweet about it! Fast forward nine years, a lifetime in the digital space, and everyone is tracking everyone and everything at Leaders via their mobile. 85% downloaded the app. We embedded live video from the stage to everyone’s portable screen with the help of Grabyo, and Tagboard ran social screens around the venue displaying your pictures, thoughts and any blatant self promotion. Samsung’s Ben Blanco made me feel old with this one:
@BenBlanc0: I don’t count years by birthdays anymore but by @LeadersBiz events! Great day catching up & scheming with the great & the good #Leaders16

Check out the #Leaders16 hashtag on Twitter. It’s all there. Or I see Neil Horowitz managed to draw 15 comprehensive insights from the event all from following along on Twitter. Kudos. And for those who want to see themselves in full Technicolor, have a flick through the photos.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast

Scott O’Neil is not just a sales guru (although you have to be good when the team are so bad!). But he’s nailed the culture. We saw some fantastic clips of the team enjoying life at the franchise. Including Tom Glick’s son who works there. Expect a free transfer to City Football soon. By the way, I want to go to the ‘school of confidence’ which all Americans seem to pass through with honours.

Talking of culture there was a nice contrast of cultures when straight talking Burnley CEO, David Baldwin, met suave Coca-Cola man Thierry Borra at the VIP dinner at Marco Pierre White’s Chelsea restaurant. ‘Steak and chips’ meets ‘filet mignon and frites’. They hit it off instantly.

Not everything went to plan

Of course; it never does. We had a handful of speaker drop-outs this year. Jason Levien, the Swansea City and DC United owner, had been due to appear on the panel with Karren Brady and Aurelio de Laurentiis. We knew something was up when he pulled out the Friday before the event and suspected there might be a manager shake-up in the offing. There was. It’s the nature of the game and you have to have a plan B.

I thought we were good at plan Bs until I spoke to TEAM Marketing who are warming up Champions League sponsors now for eight years’ time. By the way, TEAM CEO Jamie Graham needs to trade his surname with Perkins Miller’s first name. Jamie Perkins and Graham Miller sounds much better. Just thought I’d say it.

Life goes on

It was a real whirlwind and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. I genuinely believe this was the biggest and best Leaders event yet. But life goes on doesn’t it? In fact we’ve already had ten Project Meetings for the New York Summit taking place 21 – 22 March 2017. And if China is your big focus, as I know it is for many in sport, I’d love to see you at our inaugural Beijing Summit in June 2017. 

For those who attended, thanks again for supporting what we do. It means a lot and I hope next year we take Leaders to the next level again. And for those who were not able to make it this time, we hope to welcome you in London, New York, or Beijing next year.

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