SBJ/Aug. 11-17, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

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  • New executive, and new focus, coming to NFL events position

    The NFL this month plans to fill its vacant events position, a job that has been open since Frank Supovitz announced in April that he was leaving the league.

    But the position Supovitz left and the one a new executive will fill may not be quite the same. That is because the NFL, according to numerous sources, wants the role to become more operational and less strategic, a main part of the reason Supovitz left.

    Supovitz

    The job manages Super Bowls and numerous other league events, from the Pro Bowl to owners meetings to the league’s season-opening kickoff celebrations, such as the one set for next month in Seattle.

    Supovitz declined to comment on his reasons for his leaving the NFL, but the sources said Supovitz grew frustrated that many of his ideas were greeted by silence because the league only wanted him to execute their concepts. The NFL also declined to comment, but a source at the league denied any friction between the NFL and Supovitz and said the role was not changing. 

    Nevertheless, the posting for the opening on NFL.com largely lists operational duties: “This individual will display solid budgeting abilities, and should have substantial experience in operations, logistics, communications and managing large staffs,” the job posting states.

    Rob Tuchman, president of sports experiential agency Goviva, said the job description “sounds like they are looking for a guy to execute events. This job is typically operations-driven. You had a couple really solid guys who were more creative.”

    Supovitz had been with the NFL since 2004. His predecessor, Jim Steeg, had a big hand on the creative side during his 26-year-long tenure with the league.

    The events position reports to Eric Grubman, one of a handful of NFL executive vice presidents, the highest-ranking title at the league below commissioner. Supovitz’s title was senior vice president of events, so the designation of the new executive will be worth noting. The job description lists the position as “head of events.”

    Supovitz, who is launching his own firm, also reported to Grubman.

    It is not believed the NFL is using an executive search firm to assist in the hiring.

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  • Supovitz’s company launches with four clients

    Frank Supovitz’s new company, Fast Traffic Events & Entertainment, formally launched last week with four clients. 

    The firm will consult with sports groups and other entities on event planning and strategy.

    Supovitz counts as his firm’s initial clients two sports leagues along with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the developer of New York City’s South Street Seaport. All come to him, not surprisingly, from ties to his previous work as head of events for the NFL and, before that, for the NHL. 

    IMS is run by Hulman & Co., whose CEO is Mark Miles. Miles ran the bid committee for two Indianapolis Super Bowl tries (one of them successful), during which time he got to know Supovitz. Fast Traffic is working with the speedway on beefing up its events business. 

    Supovitz said he got to know the South Street Seaport developers when they approached him during the run up to this year’s New York Super Bowl, to brief him on their efforts to redo the area wiped out by Hurricane Sandy. 

    When completed in 2016, the four-story seaport building will have a rooftop events space.

    Supovitz declined to name the two leagues on board as clients but did identify one as domestic and the other as overseas.

    The firm does not have a staff beyond Supovitz at this time.

    — Daniel Kaplan

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  • Head of NFL’s international push leaving league

    Chris Parsons, the NFL’s senior vice president in charge of international, resigned on Friday to take a job running a consumer products company. 

    The development comes as the NFL is on the verge of playing three regular-season games in London this fall for the first time. League officials said they plan to continue with, and perhaps increase, their commitment of resources to international efforts despite Parsons’ departure.

    Chris Parsons will run a consumer products company.
    Photo by: NFL

    “International and fan development is a huge priority for us, so it will be critical with his departure we not only maintain that priority but, in all honesty, increase the weight and resources we put behind it,” said Mark Waller, the NFL’s chief marketing officer. “That is where I will spend a lot of my time in the near future.”

    The loss of Parsons, who reported to Waller, is the NFL’s second recent high-profile division head loss, following the departure earlier this year of Frank Supovitz, the league’s events chief.

    “It was a hard decision,” Parsons said. “You know how passionate I am about this [international] and how it has grown the last five years. And it will keep growing.”

    Parsons declined to name the company he’ll lead other than to say it is a consumer products company headquartered in Massachusetts. An executive recruiter reached out to him about the position, and he termed it too good an opportunity to pass up. He informed Waller two weeks ago of his decision.

    Before arriving at the NFL in 2008 as vice president of international, Parsons worked for Diageo, the England-based spirits company, at a time when Waller worked there as well. The NFL last year promoted Parsons to senior vice president, a perch from which he oversaw the dramatic investment by the league into his native England, with talk the league could base a franchise in the country. 

    The league played a single regular-season game in London from 2007 to 2012, two last year, and now three are scheduled this season.

    Parsons, who was based in New York, oversaw a staff of more than 40 employees around the world, according to his LinkedIn page. Recently, he began focusing on what comes next in the wake of the league’s U.K. push, Waller said. 

    “We have an agenda to take the U.K. focus to the next level,” Waller said, “and we have an emerging agenda to build out other growth drivers in the international business.”

    Waller plans a review of the structure of the league’s international operations in the next few weeks to determine how to replace Parsons. While he said it is too soon to say whether the replacement, or replacements, for Parsons come from inside or outside the league, the NFL has a “pipeline of internal talent,” he said.

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