All To Play For: Predictions for Sport's Future

30 Jun 2021

By: Sport Industry Group

As sport looks to recovery after the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, former CEO and Executive Chairman Two Circles, Matt Rogan's new book, All To Play For, outlines the sport's power within society - as well as its promising future.

In an excerpt from the book (which is released on Thursday 1st July), Rogan looks to the future, far beyond the confines of industry, but makes a series of predictions which will have a profound impact on a changing sport sector.

Future movements of professional sport’s tectonic plates will change our industry as we know it. Currently we can still carry the vestiges of a rather teenage outlook – prone to moments of brilliance and clumsiness in equal measure. However, after the reality check of the pandemic it will start to balance itself out as it matures. It will remain big business – but not at all costs. The new market forces will make that so. 

Front of house, new generations of stars will wear their broader responsibilities more heavily – and rightly be rewarded as a result. Pakistan’s current prime minister, former cricketer Imran Khan, will not be the last to come from elite sporting ranks on an anti-corruption, centre-ground ticket.

Behind the scenes, the sports industry itself will exit its teenage years with pride in how far it has come, but a slight degree of embarrassment at the lack of diversity of personalities, thoughts and actions so far. Board-level diversity will be mandated but will anyway be good business sense for an industry that will focus its tighter budgets on growth areas like women’s sport. Somewhere along the line, natural leaders like Andy Murray, who can argue rationally for change, are bound to play a leading role. 

While the biggest sports organisations and leagues will continue to dominate column inches, success at a local level will be driven by clubs, sports and teams rooted in the heartland of their communities. Global events (such as the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022) will be a community change programme with a sports event to celebrate, rather than a sports event with a legacy programme tucked behind. That’s the only way they will garner enough local support to be welcomed. They will be avidly watched on screens of all sizes, as long as watching is a social experience. 

While our lives will still be complex, many of us will use our exercise to get back to outdoor simplicity. Technology will encourage, connect and motivate us, but it will quickly wane unless it genuinely adds to our enjoyment and provides three key components of personal autonomy, self-belief in individual competence and a sense of community and belonging. Climbing could well be the new cycling, albeit with less Lycra involved. In fact, the climbing wall might well be built on the back of the local professional sports team’s main stand as a means of keeping the stadium busy when there are no games on. There will still be mass inner-city marathons, but also gatherings of no particular distance, where families run and then party together.

The forty- and fiftysomethings currently heading up the industry are already working in the knowledge that sport as we knew it in the early twenty-first century is no longer bulletproof. They – we – need to understand that the direction new generations are likely to take with the businesses we built will be very different, and necessarily so. If we are unable to change, very quickly we’ll be asked to hand on the baton.

Extracted from All To Play For by Matt Rogan with Kerry Potter (Ebury Press, £20), which is available for purchase from 1st July.