ASP Patient to Appoint New CEO!


Kelly Slater

PRO surfing, battling to find its place in a crowded sporting market, will be without an international figurehead for at least another two months, with the search for a new ASP chief delayed until March.

Australian Brodie Carr resigned as CEO of the Association of Surfing Professionals last year after accepting responsibility for the debacle of Kelly Slater being prematurely awarded the 2011 world title.

Now ASP chairman Richard Grellman has told The Australian that the board will not discuss appointing a new CEO until it reconvenes during the Quiksilver pro on the Gold Coast in late February.

“The board took the view that we should hasten slowly and the discussion in February will be around the sort of person we might think is what we need at this point in time,” he said via email.

“We will be talking about factors like experience, qualifications, maturity, nationality, gender, from within the sector or external to it. These are fundamental factors that need to be agreed so that the search, when it commences, can be more focused. Therefore, the (global) search will not start until March and any appointment will thus be somewhat later.”

Grellman said the ASP was running smoothly without a CEO.

“Operationally all is under control and there is no “burning platform’ as such. In circumstances like this, it is not all that unusual for the appointment to take a little longer in the interests of finding the right person as opposed to rushing out and compromising the search with too much haste.”

Byron Bay pro surfer Kieren Perrow, who is the surfers’ representative on the ASP board, said the slow progress was justified.

“We’re better off taking time to find the right person,” he said. “The process is enormous. Hundreds of applicants have already passed through their details. There will be a lot of decisions to be made at the board meeting in February.

“Richard’s recommendation, which I thought was a good one, was not to rush things. This person might be the head of the ASP for the next five to six years, or longer. We really want to make sure that it’s not hurried.”

Perrow said an appointee from within the sport or industry would have an advantage. “Just getting a grasp of the sport, where there’s a lot of politics, may take some time,” he said. “I doubt that it would be easy for someone to step in from outside.”

The board was open, however, to ambitious applicants from inside or outside the industry.

“Someone might come along and present a great case based on what they’d like to achieve,” Perrow said. “We just want to keep the sport growing. It will be interesting to hear new ideas from outside the box. At the moment it’s a bit inside the box, and it would be good to hear some external ideas.”

Kelly Slater, who is not on the board, told The Australian that someone from outside the industry would “run the risk of being outcast at some point”. Nevertheless, an outsider was what the sport needed. “I’ve said for years we need a business person running things, not a surfer first.”

Slater said the new CEO needed to display “honesty and transparency with everyone. Someone not impressed with our world to the point that it would change them or their decisions.”

The new CEO’s first priority should be to reacquire the sport’s own media rights, Slater said. (Currently, the sponsors of each pro event acquire the media and broadcasting rights with the licence. This has led to disjointed, inconsistent broadcasts that are delivered on a variety of channels.)

“The media rights is an issue to really be looked at,” Slater said. “There should be a uniform, independent web team and structure to the online (broadcast). Sponsors shouldn’t run events, the ASP should, with sponsor backing. Just simple things like sports statistics are missing from media releases. There are a lot of improvements to be made.”

Channel Nine boss Dave Gyngell, himself a surfer, said the ASP’s decision to sell media rights to sponsors was “dumb”.

“F…ing oath it’s dumb,” he said. “You need to hold onto your rights and you need to package it up. People in business roles like me would have told these guys that 100 times.

“The smartest thing they could do is all band together and have a quality team who travel around with them, brilliant cameramen and a commentary team that gave outsiders a feel of consistency.”

Gyngell said the existing broadcasts gave viewers the impression that surfing was for insiders only. The live interviews during contests were “cliquey”, he said.

“It’s just mates chatting with mates. It’s not broad enough for a broader audience. To broaden it, they need to have access to the clique but (also) to go to another level. I don’t want to be seen as a sideline kicker, but to me it (surfing) is better than it’s being represented from a broadcasting point of view.”

Gyngells advice was that surfing, once it sorted out its broadcasting, needed to find a recognisable voice. “Every sport in the world has its famous commentators,” he said. “That voice comes on, and without seeing any pictures you feel something. When Richie Benaud speaks you know the crickets are literally about to start chirping. Ray Warren calls the State of Origin, and you know you’re about to get tingles down your arms and feet because you’re about seeing an amazing spectacle.”

And who in surfing could fill that role?

“They’ve got the greatest sportsman of all time,” he said. “Kelly Slater is (already) the sport’s ambassador.”

From The Australian