Stars Take Next Step

Stars Take Next Step

Stars Take Next Step

AFL players are among those wanting to learn more about the inner workings of the football industry.

Geoff Walsh picked a good time to leave Collingwood if he rekindles his enthusiasm to work in football after a break from the game. The game is short of experienced people to fill the increasingly complex director of football role that he managed so astutely at the Magpies.

Already Melbourne CEO Peter Jackson – a person the game reclaimed after time away – has indicated he wants to catch up with the experienced operator. North Melbourne would not be doing its due diligence if it did not make contact with its former CEO and Hawthorn has a position vacant after James Fantasia departed due to health reasons not long after Mark Evans took the football operations job at the AFL. Financially strong, with a good list and stable administration, the Hawks job will be sought after.

The vacancy at Collingwood means four clubs are on the lookout for someone to fill that important position. The AFL has recognised the shortage and beefed up an education program to up-skill people working within the industry.

Earlier this year, 26 people, including Geelong stars Jimmy Bartel and Joel Corey, attended an AFL SportsReady course, Executive Certificate in AFL Management (Football Operations). They did a range of subjects such as overview of the Total Player Payments program, draft protocols and people management, heard keynote addresses from AFL

CEO Andrew Demetriou and AFL Commissioner Linda Dessau and passed a 6000-word assignment that was independently assessed. Next February, 40 people are expected to do the course, including assistant coaches and players.

Matthew Scholes, AFL SportsReady’s director of education and training, said building the skill base would benefit the industry. “The real driving force is up-skilling people within the AFL and making each of those positions, including the footy operations and the list manager and those sorts of roles, professional roles” Scholes said.

With increased regulations and constant scrutiny, those employed in the role face a steep learning curve if new to the position. One football manager who had worked in the industry for a time told the AFL Record his first season was literally spent learning what the job required. Those who have been in the game for a while understand the demands of the job to be constant, draining and filled with compliance measures. And, it must be said, rewarding enough at times to keep on keeping on. It is not just football management roles that need further support. The AFL is keen to create education opportunities and career pathways for those working within football so that the future pool of candidates is larger than it is now.

In October, AFL SportsReady intends to launch the Executive Certificate in AFL Management (Leadership and Strategy). The industry has recognised that few football operations managers are progressing to become club CEOs. The job is in danger of becoming an endpoint rather than another step on the path to running the club. Having a CEO with a good understanding of football and the workings of football departments helps clubs make better decisions. 

Some of the most respected CEOs – Trevor Nisbett, Brian Cook, Keith Thomas and Andrew Ireland – have that skill set. That course will be structured in a case-study format based on a Harvard University model. It will have two units assessed independently at La Trobe University in Melbourne and will be a bridging opportunity towards a Masters.

The connection with La Trobe is considered important as it provides an outside perspective, challenging those stuck inside what can become an industry bubble. The AFL has recognised it needs to put in the time to make sure people are ready to go when appointed to key positions. The effect of poorly managed environments can potentially be catastrophic. But as Walsh knows better than most, get it right and a premiership can result, a feeling he knows is one of the best one can. 

DATE: 5 September, 2013
IMAGE: Life after playing: Jimmy Bartel has completed a football operations course.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE: Peter Ryan, AFL Record – Stars Take Next Step