SBD/August 14, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NHL's Bettman Details How The Role Of A Big League Commissioner Has Changed

Bettman says commissioners now need to be available around the clock
The sports world has "changed much" during the 22 years Bud Selig has served as MLB Commissioner, and USA TODAY's Allen & Brady examine the role of the "modern commissioner in major American team sports and how it has evolved." NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman will be the "dean of commissioners of major American team sports come Selig's departure,” and he gave his points of view. Bettman said, "There is more to do. ... To be a commissioner you always had to multi-task. But there are now multiple tasks, compared to what there were." Bettman sees three "vital differences between then and now."
  • "For better or worse, the world seems more litigious. That is something you have to manage. And being a lawyer certainly helps."
  • "You need to be facile and adaptable with respect to the changes in media that are happening at breathtaking speed. You have to be on top of the industry."
  • "You have to be prepared to look at A) new business opportunities, such as international and the shrinking of the world and B) changing old business into new businesses, such as how you distribute your licensed products. Retail in a brick-and-mortar building used to be the only way for fans to go, and now you can get anything on the Internet in 24 hours."
Allen & Brady note that is not the "only thing fans have come to expect with immediacy." Bettman said, "Twenty years ago if there was an incident in a game, you would see a tape a day or two later. We now have to act and react in real time. (Commissioners) need to be accessible 24/7 and we are. That's part of the scrutiny and transparency that the digital space provides us. That means everyone at the senior level of our organization knows you are never really off. My old joke is that my idea of a vacation is I'm in a different place to make and take phone calls and emails" (USA TODAY, 8/14).
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