Sports scandals have cost a lot. Currently, 75% of host city government leaders and 40% of corporate sponsors no longer want to support international sports events. High profile scandals in sports like soccer, athletics and tennis have taken a toll on the entire sports industry. On April 20, WPP Chiarman Sir Martin Sorrell coached sports industry leaders about pragmatic solutions when he opened the Digital Summit of the 2016 Sport Accord Convention, the leading international meeting of sports business managers. Describing the damaged image of international sports as “rather unpleasant events” Sorrell portrayed the current crisis as a breakdown in confidence in sports leadership. This weakness could also be a call to action for major improvements. The careful attention of hundreds of listeners in the audience showed that Sorrell`s message is resounding.
WPP is currently managing $ 73 billion in media and sponsorship spending for its clientele. Its team of experts includes TSE Consulting, which specializes in the sports industry. The consultancy has found few sponsors seeking to take the place of top brands like Nestle and Sony that are scaling back support for sports.
The current challenges to the sports industry are serious but not yet catastrophic, according to Sorrell. Significant, meaningful strategies that go beyond cosmetic touch ups can leverage the passion for sports shared by hundreds of millions of fans. Sorrrell specifically recommends that sports organizations make firm decisions about their purpose, governance, and core values to achieve their goals. He made the case that there are no quick solutions, but that ignoring the damage done by sports scandals is not an option.
The WPP Group CEO recommends that sports leaders take action that goes beyond cosmetic changes. Key elements are:
- Independent and impartial review
- Stakeholder involvement
- Telling the positive story of sports in encouraging fitness and countering the global obesity epidemic
The image problems caused by governance weaknesses at a few large sports federations are also increasing interest in relevant executive education programs to give sports organization leaders more options for rigorous governance of staff, volunteers and athletes. Alumni of the Executive Masters in European Sport Governance program have been networking at SportAccord this week to promote the benefits of their ten module executive education program. The program selects a cohort of two dozen sports executives to study best practices in governance, ethics, legal compliance and sophisticated sports organization management. The application deadline is soon on April 30 so sports executives who want to take their governance skills to the next level need to act quickly. Following the expert advice Sir Martin Sorrell shared with SportAccord attendees, moving quickly to address sports industry challeneges will be well worthwhile.