Mark Donnelly- Group CFO, The Football Association Share PDF Print E-mail
Profile of the week
Mark joined the FA as Group CFO in May 2011 with responsibility for Finance, Legal, HR and IT.
Mark previously was the Finance Director of the LTA, being a key member of the Board and Executive teams.  Mark joined the LTA in 2009 from The O2, the very successful music and sport venue.  At The O2 Mark was latterly responsible for running the venue having previously been the FD of The O2 and AEG Europe. Mark was a member of the team which managed the construction and hugely successful opening of the venue in 2007.
Prior to joining AEG, Mark has a wide range of media FD experience including at a private equity backed Outdoor advertising company and national radio/ TV (Virgin Radio and Ginger Media Group).  Mark qualified as a Chartered Accountant with KPMG in 1996.
By Edward Rangsi
With the LTA, you were part of the team to help change British tennis’ fortunes? How did that go and how much work has to be done?
It was a really enjoyable couple of years there. I think with any sport trying to make some quite fundamental changes in the way the sport is run, the whole performance structure and grass root structure takes a very long time. I think the LTA was making good progress and there were definitely some tangible signs that they’re moving in the right direction. Obviously, the attention is on the top players and the performance at the Grand Slams, in particular at Wimbledon. But, even leaving aside Andy Murray’s ongoing performances, if you look at some of the young girls that are now coming through and some of the juniors on the men’s side, there really is some good cause for optimism there.
As you mentioned, the public determine success by how a player does in the Grand Slams, particularly Wimbledon. How does LTA measure success?
I think again, it is important to remember it’s across the whole sport. It’s not just the elite side of the game and it’s not just that two week period in June and July. In terms of the measures that the LTA were looking at and trying to implement, it was the whole performance structure - the number of players coming through, the transition from good juniors to into seniors, the number of kids playing the game and the number of people regularly playing the sport. Then, you get onto the commercial side of it, looking at how tennis itself is developing and things like the ATP World Tour Finals coming to London for five years was a huge thing for tennis in this country.
How do organisations like the LTA differ from the more commercial companies that you have previously worked for?
I think in some ways they’re probably a lot more complex. A commercial organisation is pretty straight forward. You’re driven by profit and all the shareholders know fundamentally what the key return is whereas in sport, you’ve got so many different factors. As a governing body we got to be commercial and we got to try to generate as much as we can to invest in football. Our key targets are the number of people playing football, number of teams, how we develop the coaches, how we try and improve the young kids and develop the kids coming through. Obviously, then we got the national team, which gets a lot of attention. Then, Wembley and St Georges Park are huge projects for us as an organisation so how well we deliver those are going to account to our success.
What are your key responsibilities as CFO at The FA?
It’s broader than finance. I’m responsible for all the internal corporate services, which include HR legal and IT, so the first challenge I guess is that it’s quite a broad and varied role, which is great. The challenge from a financial point of view is, clearly with any organisation, it’s a difficult environment at the moment and we’re constantly trying to grow our revenues and manage our cost base. I think the added complexity of a sport’s organisation is trying to access where you prioritise investment and how do you then measure whether you’re getting return on investment in very different areas where you’ve got non-financial indicators.
I think as an organisation, we’ve got around 600 people so there’s managing the organisation in terms of different locations. Technology plays an increasingly important part in what we do and how we run the game across the country and how we get more efficient in delivering the game. So, there are a number of different challenges across all those areas.
Commercial businesses measure success by profit, what success measurement does The FA use?
We definitely got an objective to maximise the amount of income and profit that we can invest back into football. We’re not profit focused in that we want to return money directly to a group of shareholders, although our shareholders are representative of interest across the game. It’s important for us to maximise that investment into grass root football and back into the professional game via the F.A. Cup. We’re absolutely commercially driven, but we will make investments into football that are not for profit.
The FA often gets a bad press. What's it like to work for The FA? Does it warrant its public image?
It’s great working for the F.A. I think it’s a fantastic organisation. I guess the slightly frustrating thing is that a lot of the work the F.A does, particularly in grass roots and developing just doesn’t get picked up and is probably not as much a story for the national papers, which is a shame because there is a huge amount that goes on across the country in developing the game. I think it’s important for the F.A that we’re seen to be getting the big decisions right and there are some difficult challenges that we are going to face. We’re always pretty high-profile and there’s a lot of scrutiny in what we do, but overall I think it’s a fantastic organisation.
What’s the best part about working for The FA?
As a lifelong football fan, the chance to work directly in football and have the ability to impact on the way football is run and how football is going to develop in the future is great. I’ve got young kids and you can see the direct benefit on how the game is getting coached and the opportunities for developing the youth football format are brilliant. As for the perks, I’ve got to say I still love coming to Wembley everyday, you still get the ‘feeling’ as you walk up to the stadium and see the stadium. It’s just a brilliant facility. To be involved in an organisation that’s got so much history and importance attached to it is brilliant.
Would you change anything at The FA if you could?
I think every organisation has probably got things it can change. From my point of view internally, I’m still relatively new here so there are areas that we’re trying to look to see how we can continually improve and develop things. We’re certainly not standing still. There’s a lot to do internally. We’re obviously in the middle of a fairly well-documented process around the structure of the F.A. and governance and I think we’ve already made some significant strides in recent months, particularly with the appointment of independent non-executive directors to the board. I think there will be more around the structure of the F.A. and how/what is the right structure going forward.
What is the FA's overall strategy? What direction should we see it going in over the next few years?
Within the overall strategy there are some key definitive areas that we’ve worked on four year cycles. It’s around getting more people involved in football and really making football accessible as we can to the community, whether that’s coming from coaching or number of facilities. That’s a really important part of extending football’s reach. We’re always going to get judge on the success of the national team so we want to provide every opportunity for the national team to be as successful as we can. There’s a real focus around major tournaments.
I think a part of that is Wembley and St Georges Park and making sure that we not only provide fantastic facilities for the teams, but also for fans and people involved in the sport. We want to give the best opportunities we can for those teams to be successful.
I think then the third area is really our role as a governing body and making sure we run the game in the best way. We work with all of the many different stakeholders across the game both professionally, grass roots and internationally to make sure we keep developing English football in the right way.
Your job title says "Group CFO" which suggests that you have responsibility for The FA, Wembley Stadium, St George's Park amongst other things. These are very different businesses. What challenges do they bring?
It helps makes it very varied. There are a lot of different issues in all of the different areas of the business. Wembley is obviously a dynamic business. It’s an event business. We’re trying to host the best events we can here, whether its football matches, music or other sports. We got some long standing relationships with other major sporting bodies such as the Football League, the RFL and the NFL have committed to five years at Wembley. Obviously, the Wembley business is all about getting people, getting content, looking after our customers and trying to commercialise that business. Ultimately, Wembley is a long-term asset for the F.A. to help fund future years.
St Georges Park, it’s a huge project for us. We’re in middle of the construction phase at the moment and the business will open in the summer of this year. It’s been a long time coming, but it’s a fantastic opportunity for us to really provide a home for developing coaching, working on establishing best practice with young players and extending that through to everyone who plays every Saturday and Sunday on the local council pitch. St Georges Park is a massive opportunity to get it right. We think it can really help the international teams and provide the framework for future development.
With the F.A as a whole, we’ve got some challenges around the commercial nature of the business. We’re always trying to grow our revenue and trying to maximise the opportunities to then do more activity around the investment back into football.
UEFA have centralised the sale of broadcasting rights for competitive international matches, leaving The FA to sell the rights to friendly matches and The FA Cup. Will this reduce The FA's revenue?
No. I think obviously we’ve got to see how the four year cycle will play out, but we’re pretty satisfied with the deal we did with UEFA. We’ve agreed a new deal with ITV through to 2012 and were in the process of selling our international rights through to 2018 at the moment. I think that process is going well and we’re very pleased with where we’re getting to. We’re going to see an increase in revenue generated from those, so long-term it was an important deal to do. It’s important that we work with UEFA. We’re pretty confident we can protect and grow our revenues. I think we’re in a difficult domestic market at the moment, but it leaves us with a lot of opportunities.
What could be done to restore The FA Cup to its former position as a major trophy? Would more prize money help to incentivise clubs to take the competition more seriously?
Well, I still think personally and probably from the company view is that the F.A. Cup is still a fantastic competition. We only got to look at the ties that we’ve had this year and the way that the teams have approached it this year. I think pretty much without exception all the teams have played their first choice team throughout the competition. The F.A. Cup has so much history and holds such a strong place with football fans. The competition as well is so important for top football. Over the last ten years, the F.A. Cup has generated £650m for the teams that have played in it and about £250m of that has been in prize money and broadcast fee. It makes a significant impact to the clubs that play, from the grass roots teams up. If a non-league team has a good cup run then the F.A. Cup will pretty much double their revenue for the year. So, I think the F.A. Cup has a huge part to play. It’s still really important and will remain so. We’re really proud of it and will continue to support and invest in it.

Mark Donelly Cropped 1

Mark joined the FA as Group CFO in May 2011 with responsibility for Finance, Legal, HR and IT.  

Mark previously was the Finance Director of the LTA, being a key member of the Board and Executive teams.  Mark joined the LTA in 2009 from The O2, the very successful music and sport venue.  At The O2 Mark was latterly responsible for running the venue having previously been the FD of The O2 and AEG Europe. Mark was a member of the team which managed the construction and hugely successful opening of the venue in 2007.   

Prior to joining AEG, Mark has a wide range of media FD experience including at a private equity backed Outdoor advertising company and national radio/ TV (Virgin Radio and Ginger Media Group). Mark qualified as a Chartered Accountant with KPMG in 1996.

By Edward Rangsi

 

With the LTA, you were part of the team to help change British tennis’ fortunes? How did that go and how much work has to be done?

 It was a really enjoyable couple of years there. I think with any sport trying to make some quite fundamental changes in the way the sport is run, the whole performance structure and grass root structure takes a very long time. I think the LTA was making good progress and there were definitely some tangible signs that they’re moving in the right direction. Obviously, the attention is on the top players and the performance at the Grand Slams, in particular at Wimbledon. But, even leaving aside Andy Murray’s ongoing performances, if you look at some of the young girls that are now coming through and some of the juniors on the men’s side, there really is some good cause for optimism there.

 

As you mentioned, the public determine success by how a player does in the Grand Slams, particularly Wimbledon. How does LTA measure success?

I think again, it is important to remember it’s across the whole sport. It’s not just the elite side of the game and it’s not just that two week period in June and July. In terms of the measures that the LTA were looking at and trying to implement, it was the whole performance structure - the number of players coming through, the transition from good juniors to into seniors, the number of kids playing the game and the number of people regularly playing the sport. Then, you get onto the commercial side of it, looking at how tennis itself is developing and things like the ATP World Tour Finals coming to London for five years was a huge thing for tennis in this country. 


How do organisations like the LTA differ from the more commercial companies that you have previously worked for?

I think in some ways they’re probably a lot more complex. A commercial organisation is pretty straight forward. You’re driven by profit and all the shareholders know fundamentally what the key return is whereas in sport, you’ve got so many different factors. As a governing body we got to be commercial and we got to try to generate as much as we can to invest in football. Our key targets are the number of people playing football, number of teams, how we develop the coaches, how we try and improve the young kids and develop the kids coming through. Obviously, then we got the national team, which gets a lot of attention. Then, Wembley and St Georges Park are huge projects for us as an organisation so how well we deliver those are going to account to our success. 


What are your key responsibilities as CFO at The FA?

It’s broader than finance. I’m responsible for all the internal corporate services, which include HR legal and IT, so the first challenge I guess is that it’s quite a broad and varied role, which is great. The challenge from a financial point of view is, clearly with any organisation, it’s a difficult environment at the moment and we’re constantly trying to grow our revenues and manage our cost base. I think the added complexity of a sport’s organisation is trying to access where you prioritise investment and how do you then measure whether you’re getting return on investment in very different areas where you’ve got non-financial indicators. 

I think as an organisation, we’ve got around 600 people so there’s managing the organisation in terms of different locations. Technology plays an increasingly important part in what we do and how we run the game across the country and how we get more efficient in delivering the game. So, there are a number of different challenges across all those areas. 


Commercial businesses measure success by profit, what success measurement does The FA use?

We definitely got an objective to maximise the amount of income and profit that we can invest back into football. We’re not profit focused in that we want to return money directly to a group of shareholders, although our shareholders are representative of interest across the game. It’s important for us to maximise that investment into grass root football and back into the professional game via the F.A. Cup. We’re absolutely commercially driven, but we will make investments into football that are not for profit.


The FA often gets a bad press. What's it like to work for The FA? Does it warrant its public image? 

It’s great working for the F.A. I think it’s a fantastic organisation. I guess the slightly frustrating thing is that a lot of the work the F.A does, particularly in grass roots and developing just doesn’t get picked up and is probably not as much a story for the national papers, which is a shame because there is a huge amount that goes on across the country in developing the game. I think it’s important for the F.A that we’re seen to be getting the big decisions right and there are some difficult challenges that we are going to face. We’re always pretty high-profile and there’s a lot of scrutiny in what we do, but overall I think it’s a fantastic organisation. 


What’s the best part about working for The FA?

As a lifelong football fan, the chance to work directly in football and have the ability to impact on the way football is run and how football is going to develop in the future is great. I’ve got young kids and you can see the direct benefit on how the game is getting coached and the opportunities for developing the youth football format are brilliant. As for the perks, I’ve got to say I still love coming to Wembley everyday, you still get the ‘feeling’ as you walk up to the stadium and see the stadium. It’s just a brilliant facility. To be involved in an organisation that’s got so much history and importance attached to it is brilliant. 

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