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SBD Global/April 11, 2014/People and Pop Culture

Hangin' With... International Netball Federation CEO Clare Briegal

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Int'l Netball Federation CEO Clare Briegal wants to increase the sport's int'l exposure.
CLARE BRIEGAL joined the Int’l Netball Federation as interim CEO in September and was named to the permanent CEO position in February. Briegal came to the INF after working in sales marketing and general management roles at ICI Acrylics and Twyford Bathrooms. She spoke with SBD Global about switching career paths and her goals for increasing netball’s worldwide exposure.

On leaving the commercial and marketing sector …
Briegal
: Most of my career has been in manufacturing products and commercial sales marketing. Then I took a rethink and realized that I spend all my spare time in sports. I played netball in school and my other sport is rowing. I’m an umpire and competitor and a coach in that. I just thought it’s about time I combined my career with my passion -- which is sport. I took on the role as interim CEO here at the International Netball Federation, which was to cover for a maternity leave. I had been doing some interim work, so I was an experienced interim. I thought, if I’m going to target sport, then I can go in as an experienced interim. I knew the sport, obviously, even though I wasn’t active in the sport. But it was all about transferable skills.

On transferable skills …
Briegal
: One of the first tasks I worked on was rebranding the INF itself. It used to be known as IFNA [Int’l Federation of Netball Associations]. In my first period here, I was actually delivering a change to the brand image, which was the starting point to a bigger communication program. So that was straight into my comfort zone, quite frankly. I was also on the board of a local hospital. I was a non-exec director there. So I’d learned a lot from that about governance. And that’s something that’s really critical in terms of an international federation. So I was able to transfer those skills.

On her biggest challenge at the INF …
Briegal
: I was used to coming in to companies and hitting the ground quickly. So it was really about coming in, identifying and building those relationships with the key stakeholders. In an international federation, that’s the member organizations -- the board of directors. So [the challenge] was making sure that I was addressing their needs and understanding what they were looking for. When you come in as an interim, obviously, you’re delivering the immediate plan, not changing plans, not necessarily. My role as interim was about managing status quo and making sure that the strategic plan -- a game plan as it’s known -- was delivered for the INF.

On her biggest professional risk …
Briegal
: Probably the sector change. I’m not averse to risk-taking, quite frankly. I enjoy the challenge and the change. Coming into a new environment, you think you’ve got transferable skills. Obviously you’ve sold those to whoever you’re working with as an interim or as a permanent role in an interview situation. It’s about making sure that you demonstrate that those skills are transferable.

On boosting netball’s exposure …
Briegal
: In New Zealand, netball is the No. 2 sport televised. So we know it can happen. It’s right there after rugby, so we know there is an interest. Men and women watch it, so it has primetime television appeal. The starting point is to get the message out to those audiences that it’s interesting to watch. My biggest priority as chief exec is working with the board and the national federations to increase the exposure of the sport across the world using our television partners. That can drive all sorts of interesting sponsorship opportunities. The networks we use are Sky Sports, SuperSport in Africa, ESPN and Sky in New Zealand. At the moment, we’re thinking ahead for our World Cup, which is in 2015 in Sydney. We have our qualifiers this summer, in the five regions, and we’re working on how we can sell the TV rights to those -- not just television, though. Online streaming is really important for us because our target audience is women ages 18-24 and they use online media a lot. So being able to live stream matches works particularly well. We had our world youth netball championships in Glasgow last year and all those games were streamed live. There were people watching it in the Cook Islands, in the Caribbean and Africa. Most of our target audience, they’re not all in areas where they can access television, so the Internet is really important.
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