Monday, June 25, 2012

Singapore lacks sports business talent

SINGAPORE : Sports is increasingly becoming a big part of economies around the globe and Singapore is in a unique position to take advantage of opportunities to transform itself into a hub of sorts, says world-renowned sports marketing guru Patrick Nally.

Top of that list is the opportunity to ride on the city-state's reputation as a top international financial centre, and to extend that into a global business centre for sports.

Formula 1's impending public listing here is being closely watched by other leading sports brands and, when it happens, could set things in motion.

While he is full of praise for Singapore's capabilities, Nally said the dearth of local sports business talent could stop the country from gaining in a big way from the "monster" business opportunities in sports.

Revered as the man who redefined sports marketing and transformed the Olympics and FIFA World Cup into multi-billion-dollar events, Nally said hosting big events such as the SingTel Singapore Grand Prix from 2008 and the Youth Olympics two years ago only showed off the country's organisational prowess.

The London native, who was in town last week, told MediaCorp Singapore needs sports marketing experts in the long term to drive all areas of sports if it is to become a global hub.

"There are two things happening here," said the 64-year-old. "You have the big events where people come and go, and then you have people struggling to try and make things work at the local level.

"What you need are people who understand the business of sports but I doubt there is a university here dedicated to providing a masters degree course in it to equip them with the knowledge of how sponsorship, television programming, licensing and legal structures work.

"You have some agencies but they tend to be international ones, who benefit in being here from a tax point of view but run their own sports marketing for other parts of the world.

"Young talent who see it as a career path must be developed because nobody I am aware of is recruiting people out of Singapore as none are being trained in that area here. And I'm talking about sports as a business, not sports management. I think this is an opportunity missed."

Nally said Singapore's key advantages are its reputation as a business hub and its location at the centre of "a very strong Asian market".

The country's uncanny ability for achieving things disproportionate to its size has also given it the tools to use sports to take its success to another level.

And if Singapore succeeds in attracting other major sporting brand properties aside from Formula 1 to float here eventually, it will be in pole position to take on the mantle as the financial centre for sports.

"If Singapore was suddenly home to the 10 or 20 biggest sporting brands, it would be in a strong position to be a global Forbes 100 list," Nally said.

"Internationally, sport is a monster, a massive industry. It is not about what can happen here within the limitations of your five million people, but the impact you can have on the billions of people on a global scale. Your limitation is only down to creativity."

Nally insisted if Singapore is investing so much in bringing big events like Formula 1 here and building a sports hub, its longer-term objective must first start with education.

"If you look at the amount of money that the country is investing in sport, my goodness just put a small proportion into education so that people understand the sports industry. It will actually reap substantial dividends," he said.

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