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Otago’s plight 'wake-up call' for all professional codes

Otago’s plight 'wake-up call' for all professional codes

The likely demise of the Otago Rugby Union is a wake-up call for all sports administrators, says Massey University sports management lecturer Associate Professor Andy Martin.

Dr Martin, from the School of Sport and Exercise, says the union’s issues – the latest in a number of crises within New Zealand professional sports clubs and franchises – highlight the need for more effective and qualified sport management staff.

Effective sports administrators need to understand not only the business aspects of sport, but also the emotional aspects of the product, he says.

“They need to look at the quality of their third-tier NPC product [after the All Blacks and Super 15], where declining crowds and unsustainable salaries have meant that income is not close to meeting expenditure and borrowing.

“The consumer is now looking for better products, such as the recent Sevens that clearly is more than just about rugby. Professional rugby cannot be sustained with this high level of debt. There is clearly a need for a change in product, such as cricket has done with its Twenty20 format.

"If something isn't working – if you fail to make money or break even each year – then doing the same thing next year is a recipe for disaster. You have to adapt and change to meet the market."

Dr Martin says the current environment calls for highly skilled sports administrators who understand not only the economic side of the business but also the nuances of the sporting code. Many Massey sport management graduates of the past 20 years are now managing national and international sports organisations, teams and events.

“A sound theoretical understanding of the business skills of strategic planning, marketing, and financial management along with applied sport industry knowledge and experiences through final year practicum projects provide an excellent foundation for future employment."

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