by Hamish Barwick

Melbourne Storm chief talks about changing the business of sport

Oct 07, 2010
CareersIT Leadership

Turning around the fortunes of National Rugby League (NRL) club, the Melbourne Storm, has been no easy task for new CEO, Ron Gauci, but his background in management and technology gives him a unique advantage.

Contrary to popular belief, success in NRL is no longer determined by premierships but financial ability, said Gauci; strong management plays a vital role.

“If you were to judge success by premierships, the most successful clubs such as St George would not be featured,” he told delegates at the CIO Summit 2010 in Melbourne.

When the former Verizon ANZ vice president joined the Storm three months ago, the club was losing money and recovering from a salary cap scandal where it emerged that players were paid more than the cap. The team was fined, stripped of its premiership points and could not earn any more points for the remainder of the 2010 season.

“We had four major players and the best coach but we were still losing money hand over fist. If it was not for News Limited stepping in, we would be insolvent,” he said.

Gauci looked at the business and its revenue streams.

“There was no concept of budgeting or business planning so we had to get those processes in place. We’ve been running a series of think-tanks. That’s when the football guys say they understand why we need to have a business.”

He said there is “no question” the Storm has an opportunity to grow a business using tools and technology. Gauci plans to change the membership card into a chipped card that will give fans special discounts and provide a “value proposition”.

The club recently held a virtual participation event, opening home ground, AAMI Park stadium to fans to hear about the club’s plans.

“We did a webcast and received great feedback from all over the world,” Gauci said.

His other plans include player education and development, gaining ideas from other entertainment organisations and insourcing content production to produce multimedia such as webcasts.

A self-confessed Australian Football League (AFL) fan, Gauci said the club chose him as CEO because of his business and technology background.

“It was clear with the shortlist the Storm advertised that they were serious about hiring someone with that expertise.”

He told delegates their technology experience was of incredible value to businesses. “Technology is the differentiator so if that applies to your business than make the most of it. Innovation and technology is what I brought to the table.”