Sport Business | Apr 19, 2018 | 3 min read

Learning Leadership

Lessons from leaders across the global sports industry.
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For three years, together with Aspire Academy, the Leaders Under 40 Awards have identified and recognised outstanding individuals who have, in their own fields, moved the global sports industry forward; individuals who have the potential to set the agenda for the business of sport well into the future.

As the Leaders Under 40 Awards return for a fourth year in 2018, this time as part of the Leaders Sports Awards, we check in with alumni from across the years for a career and leadership development update.

In the first installment of the series, we’ll hear from:

  • Scott Bowers

Recognised in the Class of 2016 as Group Director of Communications at The Jockey Club, Briton Bowers has expanded his purview at the largest commercial operator in British horseracing and is now Group Director of Communications and Corporate Affairs.

  • Danny Townsend

Another member of the Class of 2016, Townsend became a Leader Under 40 as the Chief Revenue Officer of Nielsen Sport. The Australian spent a further year as Global Managing Director of Nielsen Sport before returning home to become Chief Executive Officer at the A-League’s Sydney FC in October 2017.

  • Paul Goodmaker

A member of the inaugural Leaders Under 40 Class of 2015, Goodmaker was recognised for his contribution to the industry as Global Sponsorship and Communications Manager at Castrol. He is now Global Head of Sponsorship, Events, PR and Thought Leadership at BP Castrol.

  • Benoit Pasquier

A Leaders Under 40 nominee in 2017, Pasquier remains General Counsel and Director of Legal Affairs at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

  • Jake Reid

Another member of the Class of 2017, Reid recently added the responsibilities of CEO to his role as President at MLS franchise Sporting Kansas City.

  • What have you learned about leadership in the last 12 months?

Bowers: You can’t rest on any past successes. Being at the top of your game as a leader and an organisation is a constant process.

Townsend: Leadership exists in all facets of running a football club – from the administrative side to the on-field performance leading a group of people toward a common goal is critical to success.

Goodmaker: Clear and frequent communication is vital.

Pasquier: Never give up and perseverance.

Reid: Push your people out front, that’s why you hired them!


  • Looking around the global sports industry, what do you see as the model senior leadership team?

Bowers: A team that embraces diversity, is full of fresh thinking, is well tapped into the view of fans, respects the heritage of what makes their sport or organisation great so doesn’t change things for the sake of it, and fully respects the role each plays so they truly come together to drive forwards.

Townsend: Team is the key word – leadership is not the sole responsibility of a CEO or Head Coach/Manager. You need to hire leaders at all levels of the club – people with the right mentality to make a difference and inspire colleagues to perform at the highest level.

Goodmaker: Tricky question as it’s often easier to spot the weaker examples! I would go for Liberty who purchased Formula One last year. The leadership team have a very visible presence, good communication with fans, a clear vision for what they want to achieve and are already making positive progress.

Pasquier: A mix of experienced leaders with a proven record of success and young motivated innovators. This can be seen in the digital industry (Facebook, Amazon, etc.).

Reid: Not sure there is ‘best model’, but I do think the best leadership teams are the ones that are empowered and work together as a unit. Not about any one individual, but about achieving the goal(s) together.


  • As you see it, what is the single most challenging issue facing sports industry leaders in 2018?

Bowers: Relevance. It’s a busy world, there’s a lot of choice and consumption behaviours are changing all the time.

Townsend: The continued fragility of the media landscape will test the existing financial models of professional sports. Whilst also an opportunity, this fragmentation and emerging reliance on the digital and social channels to engage sports fans will need careful navigation.

Goodmaker: The key one for me that hasn’t really changed a great deal in recent years is the challenge posed by the convergence of media platforms for rights holders and how fans can watch sport.

Pasquier: How to optimize the exposure of your sport via digital.

Reid: Staying on the edge of a rapidly changing landscape. Whether it’s ticketing, media and content, or fan experience, the way we all do business is evolving quickly.


  • What’s keeping you up at night?

Bowers: If you work in sport and can’t sleep at night you should probably be doing something else! That said we all face all sorts of challenges, and you’re probably getting only a few hours of sleep from hard work!

Townsend: Aside from the kids… in my role it’s how we take advantage of the advantages we have over other codes in Australia from a participation perspective and having them connect with the professional game.

Goodmaker: How to keep innovating in our sponsorship activation and differentiate from other sponsors.
Pasquier: Sport (watching and playing).

Reid: Finding ways to increase fan engagement and keep the in-stadium experience fresh.


Think you’ve got what it takes to be part of this year’s Class of 2018?

Nominate today.

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