Now is the time to look after each other

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We work in a tough industry; the very nature of our product being to compete and to provide competition. I am the first to passionately want to ‘win’ whether playing football, golf, cricket or throwing a ball around in the back garden with my kids!

In 2020 the world of sport and entertainment, which is so fuelled with passion, competition and human interaction, has been shaken to its core. As we head towards the holidays, and even the slightest glimmer of a return to normal has again be held back by recent outbreaks, I’ve been compelled to write this in the wake of multiple high-profile CEO departures across the Sport industry over the past few months.

Self-isolation, months of home-schooling, a decimated sports market and the challenge of cancellations, rearrangements, revised budget and cash-flow in our hugely impacted industry, is undoubtedly continuing to keep many across our industry awake at night…The pressure on Sports Administrators has been even greater. In the height of COVID-19 (April-July) our role as confidantes to leaders became less about finding great talent, and more about being a support or ‘shoulder to cry on’, while CEOs were coming under ever increasing pressure from their boards, government, the public and the press. They were standing-down staff, or having to identify cuts or redundancies, navigating complex scientific data while facing the same family or home-life pressures.

The challenge now for every organisation is to do more with less; restart competitions and lead their organisations but often now with less staff, working through their weekends, with no break, no holiday and for many in the professional sports world, operating inside a COVID-19 bubble away from their usual support mechanisms; away from family in a hotel or in far tighter COVID-19 controlled measures than for the general public. These CEOs often making very public facing, public-impacting decisions that are then attacked by members, stakeholders, supporters and fans. Every decision and activity is without precedent, for which there is no training or guidebook, forcing policy to be made – and as witnessed in the past few weeks having to adapt and change as policy changes to further outbreaks.

The pressure and strain on Boards and on CEOs is like nothing SRI have witnessed in 20 years in the industry…It is therefore no surprise that after 2020, the very definition of an annus horribilis, we are seeing a spate of CEO resignations and departures, many of whom are citing exhaustion or a need for a break.

I truly believe that beneath the usually stoic exteriors of those at the top of sport, there is frustration, exhaustion and well-being issues we must address. Many Australian sports organisations, who were already facing challenging economics pre-Covid, have become dangerously close to insolvency and survival has become the key focus. How could this not have had a serious impact on those charged with steering these organisations? And with all the responsibilities for colleagues’ employment, fans and other stakeholders that comes with these jobs, it is not surprising that we are seeing that this is beginning to take a toll.

The pressure is immense and I want to make an appeal for our industry to look out for one another. Before attacking or criticising, consider the environment that people are operating in. Right now as an industry it’s time to group together, support and look out for each other, pick up the phone, do that zoom, listen, support and be there for our friends right across the industry.

The Sport and Entertainment marketplace has been hit hard by this COVID-19 crisis, but I am certain it will play a lead role in our economic recovery, and be key to the regeneration and re-creation of our communities. To do this we need our best leaders in our industry…so let’s look after them.

About the Author

Jonathan Harris
Managing Partner, Australia & New Zealand
m: +61 (0) 413 939 993