|Jonathan Ford- CEO, Football Association of Wales|
|Profile of the week|
Monday, 08 October 2012 16:12
Jonathan Ford is the CEO of the Football Association of Wales (FAW).
His remit includes the promotion of the game at all levels, as well as having responsibility for creating the vision, leading and motivating the teams in delivery of their plan. His key business responsibilities include P&L management, commercial negotiations, stakeholder management, media and brand management, as well as the governance of the sport in Wales.
Prior to the FAW, Jonathan was European Sponsorship Director at the Coca-Cola Company with responsibility for developing & implementing sponsorship & business building strategies utilising the company’s sports properties.
Previously within Coca-Cola, Jonathan was the General Manager on the UEFA European Championships 2004, responsible for delivering all elements of the global business building programme.
Jonathan was initially head-hunted into the GB Division of Coca-Cola, as Head of Sponsorship with responsibilities for all domestic sponsorships, including the Football Association (FA), the Scottish Football Association, the Welsh Rugby Union, Wimbledon, the British Open, The Commonwealth Games and many more.
Previously Jonathan worked for MTV, where his last position was Project Director, responsible for the key international clients & sponsorship programmes, including the MTV Europe Music Awards.
He started his career as a Graduate Trainee in the sales & marketing function for Fosters Brewing.
Jonathan attended Hereford Cathedral School and Hull University to read Economics & Marketing. Jonathan is married to Alison, a fellow Hull graduate, and has two children, Isabelle (9 years) and Amelia (7 years).
What are the differences between working for a corporation and a governing body?
Somebody once told me that the job that I was taking was 50% about football, 50% about business and 100% about politics. The major difference between corporate life and the life that I have now is the massive amount of politics that you need to maneuver around, manipulate and utilise. That’s not suggesting that corporations don’t have politics, but in most sports, they are a key part of it and you need to become a good political maneuver.
Has your experience at Coca-Cola helped you in your current position?
Massively. I was very lucky that I was able to inherit a business that really hadn’t been as ambitious as it possibly could have been. Coming from the corporate world, you’re very use to picking up experiences related to commercial management, marketing management, PR and stakeholder engagement. These were just some of the things that were needed at the FAW.
In the last three years, I was able to look at, improve and modernise every aspect of the business. Some of the results that we’ve had have been really quite startling; turnover has increased by over 40%, profits are up and I have managed to go bigger with regards to sponsorship.
FAW are one of the top 5 fastest growing companies in Wales. What do you put the success down to?
Unfortunately, I put it down to a lucky draw. Quite simply, if you’ve managed to select a big team, you’ve got a little bit of a windfall. So, my overall turnover is actually going down this year versus previous years.
That said, I’m pleased to say that all of the UEFA countries got together and recognised the issues on business planning that is faced. From 2014, UEFA’s centralised programme will kick in and that will remove the financial rollercoaster ride that has resulted from the draw system in the past.
The FAW has been very fortunate to have drawn England twice and Germany once that in the last four qualification campaigns. However, the impact unfortunately can simply be taken away if you don’t receive such a good draw. If I look at my TV revenue over those years, over 35% of it had come in on the result of bonus payments from those draws. From business planning purposes, that’s impossible to manage. Although gratefully received, it’s very difficult when you aren’t selected with a top team.
This particular draw, we’ve drawn Croatia, which isn’t the draw that the Chief Executive wants, but it’s certainly the draw that the manager is happier with. It means I need to look a little bit differently at the way in which we organise the finances at the FAW. We will have a much more stable financial base in which to plan all of our activities and put the football association on more stable footing, knowing the likely income over the coming six years.
What do you think is the best method to increase participation in the sport, particularly at a younger age?
Clearly, a national team performing well will provide an awful lot of enthusiasm to those kids. Unfortunately, our national team needs some points on the board with regards to the qualification. We need to do well and it’s not a matter of if we qualify, it’s a matter of when we qualify. We’ve got a fantastic group of young players, very aspirational players and that very much helps.
As far as encouraging people at the grassroots level, a lot of it is down to the cash. One of the things that the FAW did some time ago was set up a specific charity, the Welsh Football Trust, which is an organisation that is there to bring to life the strategies that we put in place and deliver those programmes at a grassroots level. The benefit of this is two-folds:
1) It’s tax efficient vehicle because it’s a charity
2) When you put a funding in place, that level of investment is protected
We pretty much put 25% of our total income to grassroots. If we hadn’t had that charity route and if we hadn’t had those funding agreements in place, then we’d probably be spending considerably less on we wouldn’t see the results of that coming through.
Welsh involvement in the Premier League must help?
Absolutely, the Premier League is the world’s leading league in my mind. I’m hoping that Cardiff, who are doing extremely well in the Championship at the moment, do go up. One of the things that we’re always looking for is making sure to maximise the grants available to us. The Premier League put an awful lot of money through the Football Foundation, perhaps some of that needs to come across the border in the future as well.