What is an intrinsically motivating environment? Why do people volunteer for the fire department or to raise funds for a charity? Why do people do things for little or no monetary reward? The answer would be that intrinsic stimulation is present for anyone to excel but often the ulterior motive of self-gratification and self promotion rears its ugly head.
Which brings me to “community ownership” in professional sport. Certainly over the years successful models have been observed with an all volunteer “Board of Directors“. Even in the National Football League, the most successful and powerful of all major sports leagues, has it’s champion from the past season, the Green Bay Packers as the sole surviving community owned club. Although the Packers are by structure under the community ownership banner as they do not have a singular owner or a private ownership group, the television revenue alone will have to preclude them from our immediate conversation in terms of the responsiblity given to the BOD to generate operational funding. They certainly will be looked at in terms of the BOD allowing the “football people” to execute the football operations of the product placed on the field while they concern themselves with the basic needs of the over-all business of running a professional franchise.
Too often people with a naïve belief that because they are tremendously loyal fans of the club and have experienced some level of success in the business world, be itself achieved or inherited, that they are entitled to hold a place on a BOD. The business of sport is in many ways no different from that of the world of manufacturing and production but there is a sub-culture and an understanding of player evaluation and schematic approach and a locker room environment that the business person is not familiar. Very rarely does the business person experience the type of turn-around that a football coach experiences each week in preparing a product viewed by millions nor are they accustomed to working under such short deadlines and the hours needed within a single day to prepare and execute. That type of self-imposed stress produces a haze from a singular in purpose approach that is an exhaustion only those that have lived it can appreciate.
What is rewarding gets done and I have tremendous respect for anyone that gives of themselves to a cause they believe in. Money and recognition is not a complete source of satisfaction as people need to learn, have self-worth and pride, have competence, and we need to serve others. All these aspects play to the heads and hearts of members of BOD. Too often however, the desire to belong to a BOD is misplaced where personalities come into conflict and not the challenges that are present.
In running a professional sport organization, the day of an all volunteer board is losing its merit. It had its place and time but management is complex of a club and external threats are taking on an enormity that volunteers are incapable of executing with full service to the product and the employees there. Members have their own professional lives to tend to and a weekly meeting to govern a professional franchise simply is irrational as the organization loses precious return on their investment in people due to a disconnect in everyday visibility and a consistency in approach.
An “advisory board” structure enlists people who are already directly engaged in the working nuances required for the franchise to prosper. Pay a stipend to GM’s, President’s, or CEO’s from industries that handle the requirements. Have those leaders then engage their companies with all their resources to work on behalf of the club. Members of the advisory board would be from specific entities and not a random selection of work experiences that often does not translate to the business of sport found on a board of volunteer directors.
Target successful people from marketing/promotions, merchandising/advertising, event management, facilities management, ticketing, security, fund-raising/development/grant proposals, and media relations. That would provide for eight members of the advisory board that would be working diligently in their chosen fields employing their hands and their hearts to the good of the club. Bring in an outside consulting firm that will evaluate the needs of the organization and have them hire a team President/CEO that will be the swing vote if a deadlock occurs in policy making and decisions. That President will be from the sport industry and they will have the autonomy to hire a General Manager who will work to put the best product on the field while the advisory board manages the business at hand and has zero influence on football operations.
People who volunteer are what make communities great. Civic involvement and community service are the backbone of humanity. Understanding when and were that need is proper and applicable demands scrutiny.