|Kelly Fairweather - CEO, International Hockey Federation|
|Profile of the week|
Friday, 05 April 2013 15:51
Kelly Fairweather joined the International Hockey Federation (FIH) in October 2010 which marked a return to hockey after being a National Coach and High Performance and Coaching Director for South African Hockey Association in the early 1990’s.
Kelly served two years with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) as the Director of the European Office; and spent eight years (from 1999 to 2007) at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) where he was the Director of Sport
He is an alumnus of the University of Stellenbosch from which he received a Master’s Degree in Human Movement Studies in 1989 and also holds a Diploma in Business Management from the University of Durban Westville Business School.
What was your biggest challenge when you arrived at the FIH and how have you overcome them?
When I arrived the executive board had approved a new strategic plan and I was charged with implementing that. In any job, structure must follow the strategy, so I had to put the structure in place to implement the new strategy. That is what I have spent the majority of the past two and half years doing.
There is still work to be done but I think we are 70% of the way there. I would say in another years’ time we will be in a good position.
You’ve had previous experience with WADA. Has the FIH’s collaboration with WADA increased because of your connections and how has your previous experience helped in this role?
We have taken steps in that direction. We have joined the SportAccord anti-doping unit which provides specialist expertise in setting up and running anti-doping programmes. Now we are also looking at working with WADA and SportAccord to do some profiling on our athletes and improve our education. It is certainly something that we are paying more attention to now. One cannot assume that you do not have a doping problem in your sport. People say “we don’t,” but you cannot just assume that and think that will always be the case. You have to be vigilant.
You’re a previous hockey player yourself. How does that help you in your role and do you think it makes you better suited than someone who hasn’t played the sport?
I not only played but I also coached at a national and international level, so I think it helps massively to understand the sport and understand the culture of the sport. I was out of the sport for 12 years because I spent eight years at the IOC prior to WADA but although I was out of the sport, I was still on the periphery. I think it is a big advantage.
Despite hockey being a fast, entertaining sport, it doesn’t receive the same television coverage as sports like football, rugby etc. Why is this and what are you doing to increase your broadcast figures?
Well that’s the million dollar question! I think for many sports in our situation it is about how we increase our exposure, not only in television but the many other options that are available. There’s the second screen coming up, the internet streaming and we are working very hard on all these options, because we think that, yes we have to improve our coverage on television, but there are so many options now for the second tier sports.
We are never going to get as much coverage as football, we have to accept that, but we have to do two things; One, we have to improve the production of our sport on television. It is not an easy sport to produce. The second thing is we have to improve the presentation and packaging of our sport. We are looking at doing highlights packages and a lot more clips on YouTube. That is one of the strategies that we are going to be implementing in the next year or so. We have already seen an increase in our television coverage outside of the Olympic Games because we obviously got great TV coverage during the Games. The challenge now is to improve it on a more regular basis.
One of our challenges was we found that coverage was very inconsistent. As you said, you can now watch rugby, cricket or football throughout the year, because you either have the Six Nations, the Tri-Nations, the World Cup or various test days that are going on. We now have to make sure that our calendar is more consistent in terms of saying “we do have FIH events, but we also have a local series between England and Australia” for example. A lot of people said to me after London 2012 “the coverage of hockey was great,” but then you don’t see it for a year. That does not help our sport. We have to have more continuity, that is the key and that is what we are working on.
London 2012 saw the largest figures for hockey attendances in Britain. How proud are you of those figures and how has London 2012 boosted the sport?
London was a big success for many sports but for us in particular. We had the third biggest ticket sales in the whole of the Olympic Games behind football and track and field. We sold over 600,000. That shows that hockey cannot only appeal to people in the UK but also people outside the UK, who like to watch entertaining sport. That was a massive break through and we have seen through the England Hockey Board the interest in the game. The challenge now is to convert that success and create more continuity. It is no good having a massive spike of interest and then a big drop off between Games. That is our challenge but that is also typical of many sports at the Olympics who are not at the top.