Shaping the Future of Sport

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Shaping the Future of Sport

A report on the evolution and future of the sport industry by SRI’s Chairman Mike Squires


The world of sport is evolving beyond recognition.

We have prepared this paper to summarise the changes and challenges facing the sport sector and to share examples of how organisations are responding. This is based on SRI’s 18 years of experience advising leading global sports organisations.

As with most service industries, SRI’s development has been a direct consequence of the environments in which our clients operate, which in turn dictates the structure and composition required of their senior leadership teams. There is no doubt that changes and challenges within sport in recent years have been considerable and any success SRI has enjoyed is directly linked to our partnership with clients in navigating these challenges.

We feel privileged to be one of the leading executive search advisors across sport, media and entertainment. This is balanced with a deep sense of responsibility to our clients, candidates and to the industry as a whole.

The difficulties in making high profile senior appointments, in some sports organisations, has been the subject of considerable recent press scrutiny. Why have some of these highly remunerated positions been so hard to fill? The answer, inevitably, far from simple but influencing factors include:

  • Pressure on falling value of sports media rights; is the whole commercial viability of sport in question amid cord-cutting?
  • Archaic governance structures limiting executive decision-making powers; a former CEO, on his resignation claimed that he was neither a Chief nor an Executive
  • Changing consumption patterns amongst a new generation of sports fans; the growth of watching highlights and YouTube clips as opposed to the whole game
  • Ever-widening choices for fans; the growth of esports is just one example
  • Disillusionment with sports star behaviour fuelled by the tabloid press’s unquenchable thirst for salacious stories and proliferation of social media
  • Increased pressure on return on investment amongst corporate sponsors leading to greater scrutiny of contracts
  • Sports integrity under the spotlight from drug misuse through to corrupt betting and coaching malpractice
  • Increased awareness of racist and homophobic abuse and lack of effective measures to eradicate these behaviours
  • Negative publicity and effective player safeguards in wake of highly publicised athlete abuse by coaches

If this list wasn’t daunting enough, there is the additional pressure of disproportionate media scrutiny. In spite of all of the above, sport still has a magical appeal. There is no shortage of interest from a wide and deep pool of high-calibre talent.

In this paper we set out some of the critical challenges faced across sport, gleaned from the board and CEO assignments we have worked on through 2018 and 2019.

About the Author

Mike Squires became an executive search consultant in 1982, leading his first CEO assignment in 1985 to appoint the first external CEO of the then Football League, some years before the breakaway of the Premier League. Following his appointments as CEO of major search firms and working in Zurich and New York, he returned to London, and has been Chairman of SRI for the last 12 years. During this time, SRI has grown in size and reputation to become the recognised leader across the converging global sports, media and entertainment sectors.