Cam Vale joined Hockey Australia as its Chief Executive at the start of August. With 13 years’ experience of working in professional sport in finance and senior strategic roles, Cam joined Hockey Australia on the back of five years with AFL club North Melbourne where he was most recently Chief Operating Officer.
In his time with NMFC, he held a broad strategic role across all parts of the business and in 2012 spent nine months as interim CEO. At North Melbourne he oversaw and implemented the club’s five year strategic plan, including responsibility for its new market growth plans in Tasmania, Ballarat and North West Melbourne. He was responsible for a number of other special projects across debt reduction, sponsorship, and facility and oval redevelopments. As interim CEO he oversaw the club’s biggest ever profit and the team playing finals football for the first time since 2007.
After a whirlwind first few weeks Cam gives us an insight into his early impressions of hockey and his new role and explains what’s in store for the next few months.
What has your first month involved?
My focus in the first month has really covered three main areas. Overall this has involved connecting with “hockey people”.
Specifically, a large amount of time has been spent understanding the implications and requirements of the new Winning Edge Australian Sports Commission funding that is critical to the sport’s success.
- Understanding the culture of hockey, what has made the sport so successful and the participants so passionate about hockey by connecting with the state associations
- Getting to know the staff and athletes who represent the organisation in Perth and Melbourne
- Getting to as many key stakeholders as possible across all parts of the organisation
I’ve also been working on a plan around potential future FIH events across 2015 – 2018 and whether Australia can host any of these key events. As you may have seen recently, we’ve submitted potential bids for future tournaments including a World Cup in 2018. There’s plenty of work still to do on those before the FIH announces the winning bidders on 7 November.
These are some of the direct initial items that have needed my attention early on.
What has impressed you?
In short, the people and the culture of the sport have impressed me. Despite not being a hockey tragic or player, I have had a good awareness of the sport and its success without a detailed knowledge. But the number of people who play the sport at all levels, from the youngest to the Masters and everything in between, is impressive and something the sport should be proud of.
In fact, I think we compare very favourably to a number of sports that often speak a lot about their numbers publicly. The importance of clubs in everything we do at Hockey Australia is also something that is impressive and huge asset for our sport.
The communication of our sport in the broader media is a strong and successful message that will surprise a few non-hockey people and other sports. Again, we are a strong sport that compares well to other sports in this country.
Another thing that has impressed me so far is that the vast majority of people engaged with hockey who aren’t participants – sponsors, government and other funding partners like ASC and state organisations - all speak very highly of their roles in the sport and the importance of Hockey Australia and, in particular, our teams, the Hockeyroos and Kookaburras. Again, another strong indicator about the people in the sport being successful.
Where do you see the challenges for hockey?
The challenges whilst tough are also the opportunities for the sport:
- How do we grow the exposure of hockey to the wider community outside the Commonwealth and Olympic Games?
- How do we generate increased revenue to invest in all levels of the sport, from grass roots to clubs and to the national program?
- How do we remain Australia’s most successful team sport in a truly international sport?
- How do we keep all levels of participation in the sport easy to access and affordable?
All great challenges, but all areas in which I am confident we can succeed.
It is important to never be complacent with your sport. As Australia is such a competitive market for exposure, talent, commercial and other revenue we need to be continually growing and setting the benchmark for success as high as possible.
So, what’s next for the coming months?
After completing my people engagement strategy to understand the culture of hockey, the key priority for the next few months is to develop our new strategic plan for 2014 onwards. It is critical that the initial knowledge I learn from all stakeholders, combined with my strategic sports experience enables us to implement a ‘whole of sport’ strategic plan that represents everything our organisation is responsible for.
This is an exciting time for hockey and that will be my key focus in the coming months.
Let us know what you think of Cam’s comments via the Hockey Australia Facebook page at Facebook.com/HockeyAustralia.