Hello one and all, and welcome to another edition of the Leaders Digest, a fortnightly sports business email that treads the line between superb and unreadable. Sign up, if you haven’t already, and see what you think. And do get in touch; as sad as it sounds, I genuinely love hearing from you, even if it’s to deal with complaints.
5 Questions, Answered
1.) Just what does Apple think it’s up to?
Well, if this recent job posting – for a Sports Business Manager, Operations & Strategy, Video Services – is anything to go by, then I’d say it’s building out a sports broadcast offering. (I guess that shouldn’t come as a surprise given the hire of Jim DeLorenzo this time last year, but still, it registers as exciting).
2.) Why is the IOC’s new hospitality contract with On Location Experiences such a big deal?
First off, it’s worth at least $1.3 billion across three Games from Paris 2024. My colleague Ben Fischer has more on that. Secondly, while Olympic hospitality is never less than fun, it’s a hodgepodge affair with multiple independent contractors and no guarantee of premium tickets. The blazers have been chuntering for a little while now. This ‘full inventory’ deal should enable On Location Experiences to Super Bowl-ize the Olympics – from the way it looks to the way it feels to the way it’s sold. It’s big for Endeavor, and it’s big for the IOC. (As ever on this topic, I humbly submit a proposal to you, the sports industry, to sacrifice my time to sample your hospitality experience in the name of creating a fully independent sports hospitality league table. It’s an idea, isn’t it).
3.) Is that a bucket of ice cold water I see about to be poured down the trousers of the NFT brigade? I’m afraid it might be. In any case, thank you to Rohn Malhotra for responding to my desperate plea for an NFT tracker in the last digest. His Nifty Sports NFT newsletter provides a focused and comprehensive overview of this area.
4.) Have you ever sat next to a man in floods of tears on a plane?
It’s a disquieting experience. Scott O’Neil was once that man. Fortunately for the guy sitting next to him at his lowest ebb – a bankrupt business and limited prospects behind him on the ground – Scott was about to embark on a transformative reading experience. The Philadelphia 76ers CEO tells us about the life-changing lessons he learned from that book on that fateful day in the first edition of Leaders Book Club. He also details how he manifests insights from what he’s read into his day-to-day, and how he sets an organsational culture through the pages of a book. He also talks us through the leadership principles he’s just got down into his own book: Be Where Your Feet Are. The book is available wherever you buy the best books. The session is available – along with everything else from Leaders Week Direct, until 25th June – where you watch the best sessions.
5.) Can you give me 5 good reasons to read the latest Broadcast Disruptors Bulletin?
A window into the working worlds of people from across the sports industry now that nothing is as it was.
Holly Murdoch is General Manager of St George’s Park, the FA’s National Football Centre. She lives in Sutton Coldfield with her husband and two young children.
How are you feeling now on a scale of 1-10?
Today, I feel really good. A nine.
My team and I have spent the last two years planning for the Euros and delivering the England Team’s basecamp for the tournament and the players started arriving this morning. We also welcome a large selection of media on site today who will be housed in our custom-built Media Centre. The sun is shining in Burton, which doesn’t happen that often! And there’s a really nice buzz around the place, particularly after the last 18 months of lockdowns and being generally pretty quiet on site. It’s a really exciting time for St. George’s Park over the coming weeks.
Who was the last person you spoke to before me?
Our Comms Director, Louisa Fyans, at the Media Centre. We were just running through everything ahead of the player press conference this afternoon. It looks absolutely fantastic. Following what the team did to engage with media in Russia at the 2018 World Cup, there’ll be lots of exciting stuff for the players and the media to get involved in during the tournament.
Are you working from home or the office?
Over the last 12 months, both home and office. I think I’ve been really privileged in having the best of both worlds. Running a venue means we were never going to be a fully remote working team. My team has been split, with there always being an on-site presence. There’s 15 grounds staff at St. George’s Park, who’ve had to come in every single day, even during the national lockdowns, plus facilities management teams. Then we also have sales and marketing, finance, HR and other departments that were able to work effectively from home.
I think having the split has really worked; being able to interact with members physically, which so many people have missed, and being able to get out of the house. But also, I’ve seen the benefit of working from home, that extra time you get in your day that you may use travelling and the peace and quiet you can use to really get your head down and get on with things. My working from home days are reducing, particularly given the next few weeks are going to be extremely busy here on site, but I’m looking forward to getting the team back into SGP.
How have things changed since Covid? How has your employer adapted?
We’ve had to flex to follow government guidance. From shutting everything down to reopening in quite short periods of time and just reacting constantly to the guidance we are given. We were lucky enough that our core customers – elite sports teams and players – were able to restart quite swiftly. After the first national lockdown, we started to take elite football teams back at St. George’s Park, so we only had a few months that we were completely lost. And then we’ve had a period of opening and closing different aspects of our business depending on what the guidance was.
So, with regards to what has changed? Our whole business model has had to adapt and flex over the last 12 months, and we’ll continue to adapt because some of our customer groups’ behaviours will amend and change as a consequence of the pandemic.
With regards to The FA, they have been superb throughout. Great at communicating with the workforce, which is not always easy in a big, multifaceted organisation covering the many different roles we play in administering the game. Being able to have a little bit of autonomy on how we did things at St. George’s Park has been fantastic. But we are in constant dialogue with the wider group as to how we are managing the situation. I think The FA have been hugely accommodating to all its employees and put employee welfare and wellbeing at the heart of every decisions.
Who do you share your ‘home office’ with?
I’ve been lucky as my husband’s a teacher. He has been in work, rather than at home for the most part. I think it would have been really challenging to have all been at home at the same time with our two young children. We’ve always kept our work and home lives separate, but that’s almost impossible if you are in the same space at the same time.
Given the age of our children, for the last 12 months, they’ve been back at school and nursery, which they’re genuinely much happier doing, being with their friends. And my husband’s been at work, so I’ve had the privilege of having a very quiet space to myself. I know that it’s not the case for everyone so I’m very fortunate in that regard.
My husband and I try to be really disciplined. We always try to have a small amount of time with the children before they go to bed in the evenings. And we always try and leave our weekends free of work so it’s pure family time. We may not see each other too much in the week, but we try and protect the Saturdays and Sundays for each other and for the children.
What does your daily routine look like? How do you run your job and your life?
On a good day the children would sleep until at least half past five, six o’clock. We’re early risers in our household. I normally do the children’s drop off at school and before arriving into SGP for 8.30am. I always try and make sure that I’m home by 6pm to be able to spend a little bit of time with the children before bed. If I need to work, then it will be after the children have gone to bed, but trying to separate my work and home life is really important, finding a balance that works for us.
If we started these 18 months again, what one thing would you change?
I’ve talked about how I manage my work life balance, but haven’t always been hugely successful at it! Particularly in the first throes of the pandemic, when there was so much unknown. I think I would try and be a little bit more disciplined with that. I suppose another thing that I’d probably look to change, and something I’ve definitely learned over the last 12 months, is the mantra of controlling the controllables.
What one thing will you take with you into the ‘new normal’?
I think one thing to take forward is the flexibility within the team for the way we work and operate. Everyone has put their heart and soul into managing the venue in the last 18 months and it’s been great to see people take personal responsibility and immense pride in what they do. We’ve built a huge amount of trust as a management team and we want to drive that forwards knowing that it doesn’t matter if we’re not all in the office every day, people are moving things forward and taking things on. So I’m definitely continuing a more agile approach, both to mental and physical challenges in the workplace.
This is an edited extract. The full interview with Holly Murdoch is available here.
CVC waves wads at tennis
CVC Capital Partners is looking to put $600 million into a new global tennis series that would merge the ATP and WTA tours. There’s smoke with this one, so perhaps not long before we see the fire.
Spanish football to stick with Saudi
There’s talk of a seven-year extension of the Spanish Football Federation’s deal to play its Supercopa games in Saudi Arabia. If the reports are accurate, the RFEF looks set to receive some €320 million to play games in the kingdom until 2029.
– Why the Tokyo Games will NOT be cancelled: the AP’s Stephen Wade lays it all out.