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A President, a CEO and a journalist were in a room together…

On the last Wednesday in August, Slade Group hosted its annual Footy Lunch. As usual there were meaty titbits from Caroline Wilson and plenty of differences of opinions about teams most likely, players least likely and coaches unlikely.

As MC, Laurie Serafini fuelled some good natured debate, but when it came to matters of football governance, the guest speakers were in heated agreement. This year’s panel comprised Caroline Wilson, Chief Football writer for The Age, radio and TV commentator, and Walkley Award winning journalist; Peggy O’Neal, Richmond Club President; and David Stevenson, the Western Bulldogs’ newly appointed CEO.

It didn’t take long for the audience of senior business leaders to join the dots: the best performing football clubs are no different from the best performing organisations.

Just like non-sporting organisations, AFL clubs are taking a good hard look at themselves.

  • The panel sent packing the idea that old football stars make the best coaches. Plenty of us in business have found that star performers in the field or on the floor don’t necessarily make the best leaders and managers.
  • The panel laid down the fact that gender diversity leads to better performance – in clubs and non-sporting organisations alike. Taking the lead from David Stevenson, ex Senior Nike Executive now boss of the Bulldogs, there were some sighs from both men and women in the audience when David said he couldn’t believe, on returning to Australia, that gender inequity is still so evident Down Under.
  • And whilst there aren’t any teams with elephant or gazelle mascots, it’s these two animals that are often cited as being reflective of the two ends of the corporate spectrum; large global giants and smaller nimble organisations. There is a prevailing view that perhaps AFL House has become a bit of a lumbering elephant, whereas AFL clubs are responding to new ways of thinking much more quickly than the ‘parent company’ and in turn have much closer community alignment.

Our panel concluded the clubs are better champions for change than the AFL itself on a range of current issues. It seems the gazelle has trumped the elephant and those old bulls are a little slow when it comes to learning new tricks.

That’s our world@sport this week. What are the similarities and differences you see?  We’d love to hear.

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