Vice President, World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry, Council Member World Badminton Federation,
Best campaign (that wasn’t yours):
I was going to say Sport England’s ‘This GirlCan’ because I love campaigns that serve a wider societal purpose or emphasise social justice issues. But then I learned that Jane Fonda’s workout videos in the
1980s funded her environmental activism and now I am a bit torn
Best agency (that isn’t yours):
I’ll say Dark Horses because it’s a great agency (which I nearly worked with in a previous life)
Best sporting event attended:
My best was also my worst: The Rugby World Cup Quarter Final 2015 match between Australia and Scotland at Twickenham. I had paid an English colleague a fair amount of money to take 4 tickets off his hands and for 72 glorious minutes it seemed like the best investment I had ever made....
I’ll never forget Flower of Scotland ringing round the Twickenham Stadium. Or the joy of the Australian fans sitting next to us as the final whistle blew... Best sporting event on TV – I grew up religiously watching five sporting events: the Olympics, the football World Cup, the Six Nations, Wimbledon, and the All
England (badminton). I would happily watch any or all of them but, if I have to pick a favourite, I’ll be fickle and opt for the one where a Scot/the Scots is/are doing best. There is nothing better than watching sport where you feel emotionally invested in the result.
Best brand ambassador:
I’ll take a slightly different approach on the answer to this question and say that I think that P.V. Sindhu (World Champion Women’s Singles Badminton 2019) has been one of the best recent ambassadors for a sport. Not only has she driven the growth of the popularity of the sport in her home country of India after a silver medal at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and becoming World Champion in 2019, but she has also reached new heights of global marketability for a female athlete from our sport (in 2018 Sindhu was
named in Forbes' list of highest-earning female athletes with a total brand value of ($8.5 million). In my view, that has had an impact on the way that brands and potential sponsors look at badminton. Sindhu is also a modern-day and smart influencer: she knows that building her brand and having a meaningful relationship with fans requires more than just performance on the court. Sindhu uses her position at the top of her sport to influence the evolution of her sport at a governance level by being a member of the BWF Athletes’ Commission and is an advocate for BWF’s sport integrity campaigns. Away from the court, she is taking a stand on social justice issues including being an advocate for normalising menstruation and female sportspeople’s experiences of periods within India and further afield. She’s an incredible role model for all kids entering the sport but particularly for young girls.
Best film containing a scene depicting the sports business:
Moneyball. Based on the book by Michael Lewis, the whole film does a great job of encapsulating the fact that sometimes our commitment to the traditions of sport and the way we do things holds back development. It looks at the opposition faced within sports when a general baseball manager uses computers and data analysis to compile a team, away from the conventional scouting methods. At the time, the concept was alien and laughed out by many. Now, I struggle to think of any team, club or coach who doesn’t use some form of statistical analysis to better inform their decisions. You see the same resistance now with some sport tech or technology that could be applied to sport. I am convinced there is still many ways in which existing tech could further develop sport without impacting on the integrity.
Best book recommendation:
I love Michael Lewis’ books generally. But I recently read Stephen Levy’s: Facebook – the Inside Story and thought it was excellent.
Best bar or pub:
When I lived in London, I used to love Scarfes Bar in the Rosewood Hotel.
Grill Royal, Berlin. I’ve had so many fun evenings there (pre-COVID!) and would recommend it to anyone visiting Berlin.
Best holiday resort:
Thailand or anywhere on one of the Italian Lakes. Great weather, great food and great people in both places.
Best box set:
The West Wing, I think it’s what got me initially interested in politics!
Best influence on your career:
There’s been so many people who I’ve been lucky to meet or grateful that they’ve helped me along the way. But generally, everything I have achieved in my career (and many of the most significant people in my life) I owe to sport. Being an elite athlete (even one who didn’t achieve what I set out to) gave me such a great schooling in life and I’m thankful for all the opportunities it has given me. It’s a privilege to work in sport and I’m doing my best to give back to the industry through my various positions.
Best dinner companions (min 4, max 6):
Tough! I’ll go for: Serena Williams – a living legend in so many ways. It would be a privilege to be in the same room. Alex Ferguson – his book on leadership was insightful and inspirational in so many ways. I think I would try to recruit him as a leadership coach. Elon Musk – I listened to a two-hour podcast with him on SpaceX recently and I
realised how narrow my view of life on earth is. I have so many questions. The Queen – I missed out on meeting her twice. Once because I was injured and once because the event was for over 18s. I’m not sure she’d be the most vocal dinner companion but at least it checks it off my list. Dimitri from Paris – I only discovered this DJ in the last few years but love his remixes and every good dinner party needs some music! Boris Johnson or Nicola Sturgeon – There’s been so much change in the UK and UK politics in the last few years and, with plenty still to come, I’d love to hear the inside stories. Maybe I should just invite Laura Kunssberg instead?
Best job in the sports biz:
I cannot think of a job where you have more opportunity to positively influence a broad range of sports, global public health, and the future of the biggest sporting event in the world than the President of the IOC.
Best professional regret:
I try not to have regrets because everything that happens is a learning opportunity, but I regret not learning a language at school!
Best skill you most covet:
Language skills. Particularly German as I’m based in Berlin.
Best trait you admire in others:
Best overrated virtue:
Normally, I’d say something career orientated or running based, but given the last 12 or so months, my ambitions for the next year are to see all my friends and my family, to attend a live sporting event, and to dance at least once until 5am.