Richard Glover, CEO, Tennis South Africa: How do you eat an elephant?

These are crucial times for tennis in South Africa. When Richard Glover took over as CEO two years ago, the governing body was in a perilous financial state. Therefore his first job was to develop the organisation’s partnership portfolio. His second was to start schemes to develop the grass-roots of the game. Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum and unrelated to Glover’s tenure, South African men’s No 1 Kevin Anderson reached the final of the US Open and Wimbledon. 

It has all created the correct conditions for a resurgence. 

But can Tennis South Africa close out the game when they are only a challenger sport in the country? What groups in this deeply sectionalised population are they targeting? Will the blazers or the country’s difficult history play a part? Where does social media fit in? How does a CEO balance short-term and long-term aims? And, most importantly, why are they talking about eating elephants? 

UFF: The future of football fan channels

Football Fan Channels have made a huge leap forward over the last few years. The likes of Arsenal Fan TV and United Stand have started to become essential viewing whether you supporter the club involved or not.

Now, the movement is evolving. Or, more specifically, organising, professionalising and monetising. We are seeing better videos by better presenters on a wider variety of platforms.

They have even moved to our television screens.

Ultimate Football Fan are at the vanguard of this development. I spoke to Managing Partner, Brett Lotriet Best and Rob Walk, from parent company DIG, about this maturing area of content.

Alan Smith: Penalty Box to Xbox via Press Box

Alan Smith has had a long career in English football

But, in all probability, his different achievements have different meanings depending on the demographic of the supporter.

For the over-40s, he is most famous as an unselfish striker for Leicester City, Arsenal and England. The thirtysomethings will recognise Smith from his co-commentary on Sky Sports. However, millennials will know him best as the voice of the video game Fifa.

He has just written a book, Heads Up, charting his career and I wanted to explore his journey from the pitch to the virtual pitch, via the commentary box.

John Dykes: Taking the Premier League to Asia

If you live in Asia and you follow the Premier League then John Dykes will be a familiar face. 

He hosts coverage of the English top flight for Fox Sport Asia out in Singapore.

John is English but has spent the majority of his broadcasting career in South-East Asia. Therefore he is well-positioned to discuss how interest in the Premier League has grown in the past few decades, analyse which leagues are best-placed to compete and also challenge some of the myths about football fans in this part of the world.

Misha Sher : The Art of Branded Sports Entertainment

Branded entertainment is one of the most important new components in the content strategy for any sports rights-holder.

Every club, governing body or broadcaster needs partners and, in the digital age, their demands have changed rapidly and dramatically

I wanted to explore this area so I spoke to Misha Sher, whose LinkedIN profile says he’s Worldwide Vice President, Sport & Entertainment at MediaCom.

Misha has vast experience in the field and sits on the Entertainment jury at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

He has collaborated with his fellow jurors on a new book called the ‘The Art of Branded Entertainment’.

This podcast is called the Art of Branded Sports Entertainment.

Barry Hearn: Darts, DAZN and Digital

Barry Hearn has been promoting sports for well over 40 years.

As the head of Matchroom Sport, he has revolutionised snooker twice and made his PDC Darts World Championship the second most viewed event on Sky Sports. He managed a stable of boxers in the 1980s and his son Eddie is now guiding the career of world heavyweight king Anthony Joshua among many others.

Now 70, Barry still describes himself as “an accountant from a council estate with a chip on his shoulder”. He still rallies against “the blazers” and still wants to change the sporting world on a daily basis.

Neil Smythe: Turning Hashtag United into a 'real' non-League team

For the last two decades, Neil Smythe has forged a career at the vanguard of football content.

He was behind the camera (and in front of them too) at Soccer AM before helping to launch Copa90 and the Man United fans' YouTube channel, FullTimeDevils. 

But his new role is helping Hashtag United convert from a 'YouTube team' filming friendlies to one that plays competitive football in the non-League pyramid in England. Their launch channel promised the Premier League in 10 years!

Suddenly, it is serious football and how with that affect the well-publicised success story of Hashtag United

John Cross: 'Scufflers', social media and Gareth Southgate

John Cross is one of the best story-getters currently working in British sports journalism.

As Chief Football Writer for the Daily Mirror, he was in Russia reporting on the World Cup when he chatted to Sport: Digital and Social.

We spoke in the first week of the tournament and there was much to discuss: covering England, the Panama team-sheet story, a new media approach for the Three Lions, social media, his career and the industry in general.

David Murray 2: Who won the race for the Premier League TV title?

It's sod's law. You produce an in-depth podcast on TV rights and then someone drops a digital bombshell a week later

When I spoke to former head of BBC Sports Rights David Murray about the current market for the Sport: Digital and Social podcast, little did I know that the Premier League were just about to announce that Amazon had made their much-anticipated move into football.

Then there was more on BT, Sky and the departure of the Premier League's executive chairman Richard Scudamore.

It was worth a revisit so here's an updated podcast on Premier League rights deal 2019-2022.

Call it an extra chapter in our co-authored book on the current field of play

Josh Chetwynd: Major League Baseball makes its UK pitch

Josh Chetwynd is the UK’s Mr Baseball.

He captained his country and then carved out a career as a broadcaster on Major League Baseball for the BBC and Channel 5.

He has also been a minor league player in the US, agent, international team manager and has written books on the topic.

Therefore he is perfectly positioned to explain the challenge baseball faces in finding a foothold in the UK and Europe.

It was announced recently that the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees will play a pair of games at London in 2019.

Josh and I look forward to those games, the game’s history in Europe, MLB’s international expansion and the issues the game is having in the US. 

David Murray: Finding the cracks in the sports rights market

David Murray is an expert in sports rights.

He led the BBC’s negotiations between 1999 and 2014, sealing deals with almost every major governing body during his time.

Sports rights have always been a contentious issue but now, with social media platforms and new OTT players entering the market, the conversation has taken a very different turn. 

He is an independent, rational and intelligent voice who can put the current sports rights environment (especially its threats and opportunities) in context. 

Paul Beirne: A new leaf for Canadian Soccer

Paul Beirne is a serial builder of Canadian sports organisations.

He was employee #13 at the Toronto Raptors basketball team, #1 at current MLS champions Toronto FC and was also first through the door at the Candian Premier League.

The CPL will launch in April 2019 with Beirne as President. We talk about the compelling metrics behind the League’s formation, the role fans are playing in building it from the ground up, the specific Canadian solutions they are searching for and the content strategy they’ll need to tell their story

Henry Winter: Social media and sports journalism

As Chief Football Writer of the Times, Henry Winter is one of the most respected and influential sports journalists currently working the UK.

Winter’s career started well before social media but he has fully embraced the medium and now boasts a Twitter following akin to that of a mid-table Premier League club.

This is a wide-ranging conversation taking in the state of sports journalism, the newspaper industry, TV and sport as well as social media. But it is all underpinned by the thoughtful analysis and humility Winter’s readers will know so well.

Rudy Gestede: Entrepreneur, YouTuber, Striker

Rudy Gestede is the epitome of a modern footballer.

Aside from training and playing, he is building businesses, developing his charity and promoting a personal brand on YouTube.

The Benin international has featured for Blackburn, Aston Villa and Middlesbrough during a high-calibre career. But his is looking ahead to later life with a spirit of entrepreneurship and self-development.

And social media underpins all it. 

Jason Chilton: The Fan-Controlled Football League may change sport forever

The Fan-Controlled Football League is like nothing we've seen before.

This competition puts the supporters in charge.. of everything... yep everything.

So many clubs in so many sports see conflict between those in the directors box and those in the stands.

This Arena American Football event merges the two with fans voting for the coach, the signing, the team colours and, most intriguingly, the plays in the game.

It has been called a real-life Madden by its devotees and an unworkable novelty by its critics.

Starting in late 2018, it promises to be an interesting blend of traditional sports, esports, crypto-currency, reality television, crowdsourcing and democracy.

I spoke to Jason Chilton, Head of Football Experience, to understand how this is going to work

Ed Latimore: Self-help author, heavyweight boxer

In all probability, Ed Latimore is a unique sportsman.

Raised in the projects of Pittsburgh, he became an elite amateur boxer, mixing with heavyweights who fought Anthony Joshua for the world title. However, like many athletes, he would lose his way, personally and professionally.

Latimore regrouped, went back to school and into the military. Now he combines a professional boxing career, with a degree in physics while writing self-help books with titles like “Not Caring What Other People Think is a Superpower”.

It is a strange world, money-orientated, often murky, environment of small-hall boxing, while blogging and writing about the more philosophical aspects of the human condition.

So how does that dichotomy work?

How did he handle a crushing first defeat? Did he take his own advice?

After all, Latimore is the only fighter who has written a book on confidence.

Colin Kelly: Launching LA-LAFC

Colin Kelly is Director of Digital at a soccer team who are yet to play a game.

LAFC will kick-off their first MLS season in March 2018. But, unlike most of the recent expansion franchises, they are an entirely new club.

For the content team this one huge blank sheet of paper, when I spoke to Colin, he had barely met the playing staff.

So, how do you create a fresh and engaging soccer tale in Tinseltown, the storytelling capital of the world? Still, LAFC have a star-studded ownership group, a nationally known-coach, a soccer-lovers stadium on the way and soaring ambition

But will they fly in the City of Angels?

Kevin Doyle: How to be an ex-footballer

Kevin Doyle was forced to retire from football in September 2017 at the age of 34 after suffering complications over concussions. An intelligent, hard-working striker, his 16-year career including successful spells at Reading, Wolves and, in the US, where our paths crossed at the Colorado Rapids. Doyle also won 63 caps for Ireland, scoring 14, with the highlight being his involvement in Euro 2012.

Doyle’s decision to call time drew tributes laced a tinge of sadness, given the enforced nature of his retirement. But, a few months on, how is he feeling now? How is he reassessing his life and career? Where is he going next? And how does he feel as a former footballer?
 

David Higgins: How to make a World Heavyweight title fight

We are getting ready to rumble.

Anthony Joshua is fighting Joseph Parker at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff on March 31 with three of the four heavyweight title belts on the line.

On this edition of Sport Digital and Social, I speak to Parker’s promoter David Higgins about how he managed to engineer a lucrative unification bout for his fighter when the chances seemed remote. Also how technology helped and hindered in that process, the counterintuitive nature of boxing PR, how and when the ‘trainwreck’ a press conference, his plans to unnerve Joshua, how the fight will secure Parker’s future and how David Higgins got into the boxing business.