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  • Writer's pictureNigel Rushman

Business And Sport … or Sport Is Business

or is it?

The parallels are striking and there are a multitude of books, blogs, articles, speeches and whatever drawing on the similarities.

Or is it just that sport is a business in a heightened media glare?


If you doubt that sport gets more focus by the media than business, just pick up any daily newspaper (or flip through on your iPad more likely if you are reading this) and find any subject that has more pages devoted to it than Sport. Business won’t come close in anything but a Financial focussed paper such as the Financial Times.

Lets not go over the tired old ground of why — its obvious.

What I am interested in is the rather simplistic parallels that are drawn.

Sure Sport needs Leadership, Management, Motivation, Persistence and all the human qualities and mindsets that we hear about and yes there are probably some lessons that can be applied from Sport to Business. There is a thriving speaker circuit that says so, I personally suspect however, that is more about people wanting to worship at the altar of the sporting heroes rather than applying the lessons to their day to day business.

But what about the other way around?

What does Sport learn from Business?

Now this may not be a room full of Athletes listening to a Financial Director banging on about balance sheets but what could the administrators, Marketers, Salesmen and Event Management people learn from Business? The Governing Bodies of Sport and Event Owners, Rights owners — all so engrossed in their world of Sport.

Have they taken the time to look at best developed business practices outside of the business of sport?

Mostly not in my experience — they are locked in the past, not even knowing they need to catch up and with a few exceptions (Sports Broadcast, Digital and Social Media people are often at the front edge of developments in that sphere), running considerably behind the pack.

It is a great shame as sport and especially sports events are a perfect microcosm of big business and because of their nature they offer opportunities to break the mould and to develop and improve faster than most businesses.

They have the opportunity to recreate and improve their operations and delivery regularly — annually, quadrennially or whatever. They can easily measure changes and tweaks and have, or should have dynamic teams that are constantly changing and looking for improvements.

This all takes place in full view of the media who are increasingly writing about the business side of sport.

The new world and 21st Century thinking is out there — Structured Visual Thinking, Collaboration Tools, and a myriad of other developments await.

But why is change so slow when the world and the audiences around them is changing so fast?

I just don’t get it. The guys at the top are often bright and motivated but resistant to change and extremely insular. If you visit any of their trade events, SportAccord, SporTel, etc you find them busy speaking to each other and maybe the odd digital innovation. What you do not find, is them listening to inspirational leaders from Business speaking about Leadership and new methods, structures and routes to success.

Why don’t the leaders in sport listen to the top performers in business? Why doesn’t Sport adopt the Winning Strategies and Methodologies of 21st century business?

Arrogance or Ignorance? Sport is a Business after all . . . .

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