Five CAs impacting the sports industry

Sporty businessman
By Eleanor O'Neill, CA Today

12 August 2016

With Olympic fever sweeping in from Brazil, Eleanor O'Neill talks to five CAs who have been making their mark on the sports and leisure industry.

Ian Beattie CA, Chairman, Scottish Athletics

Ian BeattieHow did you get involved in sport?

I have been a keen runner for many years and am a member of several athletics clubs. I sat on the Board of Scottish Athletics in a non-executive capacity between 1998 and 2002, then had a six year spell as a board member of SportScotland.

In 2012, I was appointed non-executive Chair of Scottish Athletics for a four year term and this has just been extended for a second four year term to 2020.

Which part of your job are you most passionate about?

I combine the Scottish Athletics role with my ‘day job’ as Chief Operating Officer of Lindsays Solicitors. I am passionate about the opportunity of leading an organisation that is focused on developing athletes, coaches, officials and clubs, and seeing the progress that the organisation has made in improving participation and performance.

What has been your greatest achievement?

This year, 15 Scottish athletes have been selected for the Olympic Games in Rio, which is the highest total ever. While I would not for a minute claim this as ‘my’ achievement, it has been wonderful to see what a sport can achieve when everyone within it works together with a desire to do the best they can.

The impact of the athletes, their coaches and their clubs over the last four years has been remarkable, and I am proud to have played a part in that success.

How has the CA qualification benefited your career?

My CA qualification has benefited me enormously. It has helped me bring a strong strategic focus to leadership within sport, combined with an understanding of the importance of good governance and solid financial management.

Who has been your inspiration?

In sports leadership terms, I learned a huge amount from Dame Sue Campbell.  Sue was the chair of UK Sport when I had a four month stint as interim chair of SportScotland, and as part of that remit sat on the UK Sport board. She was a superb people manager, and her presence meant that she was hugely respected, not only by those within sport, but also by senior politicians of all parties.

Which Olympic event would you like to compete in?

It would have to be the marathon. I am a regular long distance runner and have completed more than 100 marathons and ultra marathons and organise the annual 95 mile West Highland Way Race.

The fact that the top runners can run 26.2 miles in little over two hours is something I find both incredible and inspirational.

Rachel Corsie CA, Professional Footballer, Seattle Reign FC

Rachel CorsieHow did you get involved in sport?

I have always had a passion for sport and being active. As a child, I spent all my free time outside, playing some kind of game with my friends and I naturally just loved it.

I was also very fortunate that I had a group of peers that had the same interests and my family always encouraged me.

Which part of your job are you most passionate about?

I get to play the game I love, every single day. I know how fortunate I am to do what I do for a living, and it makes me very proud how much I have achieved.

What has been your greatest achievement?

The one thing I remain most proud of is gaining my CA qualification. The work rate and challenges I faced make it something I value enormously. 

From a sport perspective, I will always remember my first full cap for the Scotland Women's senior team, along with my first match for Seattle Reign FC. Playing in the US is a childhood dream and it has given me the opportunity to play with and against some of the world's greatest players.

How has the CA qualification benefited your career?

The values upheld and the skills developed whilst studying have been invaluable and will always be helpful in any aspect of life.

Determination, commitment, and focus are imperative to reaching the top in sport and were absolutely required within my CA training. I feel my work ethic and attitude are something that remain a huge factor to my success.

Who has been your inspiration?

I feel that I have always had a lot of family support towards my football ambitions and  my mum and dad ensured I was given all the opportunities possible. My great grandfather also played professionally and I feel that's something I always carry with me.

Which Olympic event would you like to compete in?

I would absolutely love to be in the 4x100m sprint relay team.

Matt Archibald CA, Performance Adviser, UK Sport

Matt ArchibaldHow did you get involved in sport?

Sport has always been my passion and post qualification at Deloitte in Aberdeen, I decided I wanted to focus on working in the sport sector above any others.

I was fortunate enough to spot a role in the governance team at Sport England, a lottery distributor to grassroots sport, and moved down to London to do that. They were looking for CAs with internal audit experience.

Which part of your job are you most passionate about?

Working with teams and athletes in the operational environment – whether that be in training or competition.

What has been your greatest achievement?

Being the Boxing Competition Manager of the London 2012 Olympic Games. It was exhausting but we put on a great 16 day event.

The British boxers won five medals, culminating in Anthony Joshua winning Gold on the final day!

The role I am currently doing for Team GB in Rio may well surpass that though. Ask me in a fortnight!

How has the CA qualification benefited your career?

The academic rigour of balancing study and work has helped me to prioritise and, hopefully, deliver to a high standard in a pressurised environment.

Also, the concept of materiality has stayed with me.

Who has been your inspiration?

I am fortunate enough to learn from lots of inspirational people on a daily basis – I currently work at UK Sport and liaise closely with Gymnastics, Judo and Taekwondo.

Overall, I have probably learnt the most from Terry Edwards, who was the boxing coach for Team GB in Sydney, Athens and Beijing. More recently Steve Headington, an Operating Partner at a private equity firm, has been something of a mentor to me.

Which Olympic event would you like to compete in?

The 100m sprint. It has to be the most exciting 10 seconds in sport and you have to wait four years between races. You can’t beat it.

Duncan Fraser CA, Chief Executive, Aberdeen FC

Duncan FraserHow did you get involved in sport?

I was approached by the board of Aberdeen FC to take an executive role within the club. My background is primarily oil and gas related but I have a real love of sport so, from my perspective, it was a career decision I couldn’t turn down.

I think to be involved in sport in a financial or executive position, you really need to have a love for it. It’s not an industry you would choose to go into unless you did.

Which part of your job are you most passionate about?

The passion comes from success, doing all you possibly can to deliver success for your organisation, and to do that within any financial boundaries you might have.

Success on the field without success off it just doesn’t work. They have to go hand-in-hand.

What has been your greatest achievement?

Restructuring and eliminating the club’s debt in its entirety. I spent the best part of a year on that process and it was, I think, the most significant achievement. It enabled the club to look forward without a millstone around its neck.

How has the CA qualification benefited your career?

The CA qualification gives you a wider understanding of the industry than others may bring to the table.

If you look around, many of our leading football clubs throughout the UK have chartered accountants involved in either executive or non-executive roles. What they have been able to offer in the past couple of years is a realism that might not otherwise exists.

Sometimes they can act as the brakes and make sure that the sport we are all a part of is there for the long term.

Who has been your inspiration?

To an extent, I think the Chairman has to play a key role as they lead your organisation.

You are also inspired by those around you, the people who work for you and, ultimately, the ones you work for, who are the supporters.

When you deliver, the joy they express knows no bounds and that is very inspiring also. 

Which Olympic event would you like to compete in?

The marathon. Just the sheer thought of being able to run at the pace those guys keep up for 26 miles.

And, I suppose, being an accountant is like a marathon, not a sprint!

Anna McKay CA, Founding Run Leader for GoodGym Hammersmith & Fulham

Anna McKayHow did you get involved in sport?

I have been involved in sport for as long as I can remember.

I was lucky enough to attend a school that was very passionate about it. We placed in the top four teams in England in the All England Championship finals for netball in my final years at school.

Which part of your job are you most passionate about?

At GoodGym, I love being able to make a difference every week - to our runners and also to the members of the charities we visit.

It often doesn't feel like 'work' as I actually feel like I get as much out of every week as the people we 'help'.

What has been your greatest achievement?

From a sporting perspective, representing GB at the Age Group Aquathlon World Championships in London in 2013.

From a business perspective, I am proud of my leading role in launching Spinach, Athlete Lab and GoodGym Hammersmith & Fulham.

How has the CA qualification benefited your career?

It is hard to find people who are hugely passionate about sport and have the business acumen to launch and run a successful enterprise.

I feel very lucky to have both and to have met some great people along the way whom I've been able to work with to bring these businesses and charities to successful, profitable operation.

Who has been your inspiration?

I love the people who complete amazing sporting feats through great adversity and make you think 'wow, I really have no excuse!'

Claire Lomas and Bailey Matthews are two wonderful examples of 'sporting greats' in my book.

From a business point of view, Paul Sinton-Hewitt, the founder of ParkRun. He has taken a 'weekly run with friends' and made a successful, self-sustaining enterprise that has changed the lives of millions of people - truly phenomenal.

I'm also hugely thankful to my Dad (also a CA) who has always been really supportive of my start-ups and hasn't once said that I should follow the 'standard CA path'.

Which Olympic event would you like to compete in?

I would love to give the canoe slalom and the mountain biking courses a go - they look like great fun!

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