What Australia’s ‘Green and Gold’ decade means for sports leadership

18 Apr 2023

What Australia’s ‘Green and Gold’ decade means for sports leadership

Ten years of upcoming international sports events offers key global opportunities for the Australian Sports sector.

The global sporting eye will be focused on Australia as it embarks on what is now known as the ‘Green and Gold’ decade of sport. Beginning with this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, it will see the country play host to an array of major sporting events. Among many others, they include the Netball World Cup in 2027, the men’s 2027 and women’s 2029 Rugby World Cups, and the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Brisbane in 2032.

Sports businesses in the country are looking at a 10-year runway of greater funding access, heightened tourism and massive audience growth.

Finding the right leaders to capitalise on this opportunity however, is a critical challenge. Skills deficits, a shallow talent pool and the complexity of finding leaders right for the future, means there’s exceptional demand in a scarce leadership market.

As the executive search partner to these major sporting events, we explain what kinds of leaders Australian sports organisations are looking for and what this means for global leadership talent.

Sports organisations want ‘outside of the box’ thinking

Everyone is looking for ‘innovative’ leaders but this is particularly true of Australian sport. The 10-year runway means businesses are recruiting leaders now to deliver sports events taking place in five, seven and 10 years’ time.

Those leaders need to be truly visionary, capable of building a picture of what the sport will look like in the future, anticipating its future needs and transformations.

Future leaders will need to embed technology that may not exist yet and engage with fans across future technology platforms.

An example of this is the proposal to introduce self-driving aerial taxis to the 2032 Brisbane Olympics to fly passengers between ‘vertiports’. Other technologies being prepared for the event include robots for cleaning and construction, satmaps, swipe cards and QR codes.

Fan engagement is a top priority

The ‘Green and Gold’ decade is rapidly transforming fan engagement. In addition to the existing ‘die hard’ fans, a new casual audience is growing as a major market. These fans may have little knowledge of the sport but want to engage in the ‘hype’ surrounding events and the community aspect of the matches.

The popularity of recent collaborations such as the Netflix Formula One venture 'Drive to Survive' and Amazon's 'All or Nothing' series, show a new type of audience engagement. This growing fan base is more likely to engage with the personalities of individual players, their personal lives and endorsements, than buy a traditional season ticket and attend every game.

Traditional fan engagement at matches is also changing. A rapidly increasing cohort of fans don’t just want tickets for the game but for hospitality as well. This includes things like VIP seating and match-side passes. Gran Prix VIP tickets, for example, now sell out within minutes of going live. 

Tapping into this new fan base is a top priority for sports organisations in Australia. They want leaders who can ‘speak to’ this new audience, develop engaging new content packages and monetise the relationship while maintaining loyalty.

An opportunity for non-sporting leaders

The scale of these events, their complexity, and the extended timeline over which they operate means sports organisations are more strategic about their appointments. In particular, they want leaders capable of more than simply bringing previous sports events experience to a role and applying past learnings; they want more than just an events operator.

More important is their approach to fan engagement; how they can appeal to different audiences and their ability to plan for the future.

Partnerships and stakeholder engagement is also core to these roles – sponsors want to know how leaders intend to commercialise events and generate revenue, while state governments want to know how events will drive long-term tourism in specific regions.

Sports organisations also recognise the role and the person in it can change in the lead up to an event, and so are highly flexible around who that person or people are. As a result, experience in sport is not a prerequisite and sector diversity is favourably looked upon.

For leaders without a sporting background this presents an abundance of opportunity. If you have the necessary skills, your values align with the sport and you demonstrate a commitment to driving tourism and recognition for Australia, then the ‘Green and Gold’ decade could provide your next leadership role.  

To find out more about the green and gold decade and how it may affect your organisation, please contact our Global Sports, Gaming and Media Practice directly or get in touch with us here. You can also find your local Odgers Berndtson contact here.

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