The Power of Sport To Inspire

The first Middle East iSportconnect Directors’ Club was held in partnership with Interact Events in Dubai on Thursday. The event brought together leaders in sport from around the region to discuss a wide range of topics from creating local heroes to the logistics of staging world class events.

The highlight of the program was an impassioned keynote speech by Dr Mohammed Ben Sulayem, Vice President of the FIA and an international UAE sports star. Central to his talk was an idea that sport needs to do more to prepare its stars for the day they stop competing. He said that as sports people become younger, the length of their careers spent outside of competing gets longer.

Speaking about what motivated him to win 14 FIA Middle East Rally Championship titles, Dr Mohammed said it was not the feeling of winning, but the fear of losing that was the driver – especially when the hopes of the nation were riding on his performance.

Dr Mohammed also spent some time talking about an often forgotten part of sport – the volunteers who enable even the most professional sports to happen.

Getting involved in sport is not just about competing, and often, participating in the organisation and administration of sport gives people skills that can be transferred to business.

An economic impact study conducted for the Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Grand Prix estimated that the use of volunteers for marshalling and other roles saved the event $6 million, but the larger benefit was giving those volunteers, a large percentage of whom were local Emiratis, skills which could be used elsewhere.

It doesn’t have to be a global professional sport like F1. Volunteering to be the President, Commodore or Treasurer of your local sports club or kid’s sports club can teach valuable skills that can translate into business.

The delegates at the Directors’ Club agreed that starting with the Athletes was the best strategy to build long term fan engagement and grass-roots participation, the best people needed to be employed for the position. Sports like Formula 1, NBA and top football teams are focussed on finding people who ‘know what good looks like’ from the world of business, or from other sports that have highly developed commercial structures and processes.

The crossover between sport and business will be discussed at the first ‘Top of Her Game’ event on the 10th of June. Professional sailor – Dee Caffari and Telecoms entrepreneur Candace Johnson will give their insight into how business and sport complement each other and how to gain the mindset for success.

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