Q. You don’t have long to go until you conclude your time as CEO. What’s left on your agenda?
A. Well, we have to complete the review of Nationals Div 1 and 2, and meet with our sports strategy committee – chaired by one of our Directors, Chris Massey from The University of Western Australia. We have undertaken a lot of research and we have much to analyse in terms of participation trends and other data. The sports strategy committee will come up with recommendations for the Board of things we need to change, tweak, or reset. So that’s a big project that needs to be completed.
We have a number of major projects in the works. We have important meetings scheduled with Sport Australia and the Australian Institute of Sport in respect to funding, ongoing participation, and high performance. We are also meeting with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to discuss how we could collaborate with their sports diplomacy policy. I’m continually working on these things because I want to bring them to some conclusion by the end of the year - that’s my aim anyway.
Q. What priorities are taking shape the incoming CEO will tackle at the start of the year?
A. Our new UniSport brand is about seven months old, and will be nine months old when the new CEO takes over. We know with Nationals Div 1 and 2, we need to drive and increase participation. Our events, branding, education, and advocacy programs all demonstrate the value of sport and we’re working on lifting our commercial program to complement the new direction we’re taking.
I think for someone coming into the sector it, will take a while to get a hang of how the higher education sector works and the whole membership servicing and member benefit piece is an important aspect I know the Board is moving forward with. The new CEO will certainly be busy with that, as well as coming to grips with the sector, the people in it, the challenges, and opportunities – it’s a big job being CEO.
Q. Last time you discussed the success of Div 2, with Div 1 fast approaching. This time it’s the same question: was Div 1 a success?
A. It totally was. Once again we experienced really pleasing levels of participation. Previously it was arguable the priority was either sport or partying, but this time the focus was clearly sport.
Our live-streaming and media impressions were very good, and we were delighted with the programs that ran on Fox Sports.
Overall I think it was really successful and I thank all involved – particularly the students – for making it so great.
Q. How was the feedback from Div 1?
A. The feedback from students has generally been positive. We are yet to analyse all the data we have collected from university team managers, student-athletes and National Sporting Organisations. All of our partners at the event were very happy - something that is always important.
Q. Are there any things we could improve on?
A. My impression is we delivered a very good sporting competition. Our opening and closing ceremonies, and other functions that take place, are in support of the sport program.
The closing ceremony is especially important, and one of the things I emphasise to staff is that the organising committee in charge of the Commonwealth Games delivered a great sporting event, but what is very memorable is the lousy closing ceremony. So, just like the Commonwealth Games, a sporting event is about sport, but it’s also about completing everything else to a really high standard.
Q. So we will have a new CEO soon, and with that comes change, but where do you see, or where would you like to see the organisation head?
A. It’s important to point out that right now the Board is happy with our strategic direction, particularly in terms of our new event format.
Rather than calling it change, I’d call it “progress.” We are seeking greater future progress in member servicing and creating more commercial opportunities – we are surrounded by opportunities to support and enhance our sporting programs.
Q. Is there anything you would like to say to member universities and the broader university sector?
A. It is such a wonderful sector to work in. Both on a personal level and as UniSport, we have received tremendous support from our members. Our members have helped to guide us with our change agenda and to support the changes we have implemented. We would not have been able to achieve the huge changes of the past 10 years without the members, and of course, the tireless commitment of our Board and staff.
So I look back on my 10 years with UniSport and reflect on what has been achieved. This certainly has been a wonderful example of a really great collective effort.