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Volume 21 No. 2


From its introduction in October 2011, our list of “Game Changers: Women in Sports Business” now numbers 126. And this year, we’re extending the concept by holding a one-day conference on Tuesday in New York that will examine some of the key issues facing women in sports today. We’re expecting a dynamic discussion before more than 350 industry executives, including roughly 80 of the 126 Game Changers. The conference is a natural extension after three years of recognizing women executives in print, and we look forward to bringing thought leaders together as we move the discussion forward on some key issues. Frankly, it’s about time.

Over the past three years, our goal of introducing these talented executives to the industry and our hope of creating a network of leaders have seeds of growth. I’ll go back to what we wrote in October 2011, when we introduced the program: One of the most consistent criticisms of our editorial products has been the emphasis on white men and a lack of gender and ethnic diversity within our pages. So through Game Changers, we aimed to raise the awareness of the accomplishments and perspectives of women who are taking the lead across sports. By shedding light on these women, we firmly believe it helps develop relationships, mentors and future CEOs. This week’s event in New York is our first physical manifestation of such a network, similar to those developed by WISE, the Women’s Sports Foundation and espnW.

Game Changers could not have been completed without the hard work and creative energy of Assistant Managing Editor Mark Mensheha, who has led the process since its inception and each year spends countless hours doing outreach, research and editing on the section. He started in the spring paring down an initial list of more than 600 names. Those who have appeared on our Forty Under 40 lists were not considered for inclusion, given the unique platform that honor already provides. People were considered because of their influential voice or deal making, their ability to make a mark on the sports business, their willingness to innovate, their stomach for entrepreneurism, or the compelling nature of their personal journey. As was written before, this is not a “best of” list; it’s a way to tell the stories of women who are having success, serving as leaders, or just kicking ass in a largely male-dominated industry.

This year showcases another group of talented, hardworking, successful leaders. They represent diverse backgrounds and lines of work. Some are leading big companies, some are entrepreneurial in spirit. Regardless, they are all making a difference within their organizations.

In addition to Mensheha, special recognition goes to Brian Whelihan, who worked side by side in the design and packaging of the profiles. We hope you enjoy learning more about these talented, creative and passionate executives. We welcome your thoughts and ideas on what we can do better — and most importantly, suggestions on future Game Changers.

> WORLD PARTY: I’ve heard from a number of you regarding our special issue published last week looking at some of the trends, companies and people to keep an eye on around the world in sports business. That issue could not have been done without the ideas and efforts of SBJ Special Reports Editor David Bourne and SBD Global Managing Editor Dave Morgan, who worked together on story ideas, as well as the editing and packaging of the issue. In addition, designer Corey Edwards brought a fresh set of eyes for an impactful presentation. I hope you’re able to spend some time with the speical issue, and we welcome your questions, thoughts or comments.

Abraham D. Madkour can be reached at

I wanted to congratulate you on your recent article “Can academic research help sports industry?” (SportsBusiness Journal, Aug. 12-18 issue). It was a much needed start to an important discussion. There truly is a disconnect between the sports industry practitioners and the faculty members who teach in the area. There is a lot of fault to be spread on both sides. On the practitioner side, there are those who have worked in the trenches and do not trust those from outside. Some in the industry have significant business school training (e.g., Harvard, Wharton, etc.) and feel they have a stronger grasp of the topic than many academicians, yet others feel there are enough people interested in breaking their teeth in the industry that they can get the research or data from other sources rather than searching/paying for academic research. On the academic side, there are many educators who research what they like, not what the industry needs. There are those who conduct research on areas where it is easy to find data to cut down on research time/cost, yet others have no real connection to the industry and sit more in ivory towers rather than getting their hands dirty in the trenches.
The most widely successful business school faculty members are hired by the industry to help drive industry growth. These academicians’ research is often funded by an industry willing to invest with the thought that that investment will be returned many times over with great findings. Sometimes these findings are beneficial while other times the results are wrong. These academicians then disseminate their research in popular publications read by the industry — everything from Bloomberg Businessweek to Harvard Business Review. These summarizations of the research make it accessible to the average business person with simple-to-understand charts and suggestions for implementation.
In contrast, many sport management professors have to fight to undertake free research in the industry, have very few grant opportunities for research, and publish primarily in academic journals where the focus is so much on statistical analysis that few academicians actually understand what is written. This trend, though, is changing, as more practitioner-based publications are being launched. Also, some areas of sport management education have had a very strong industry connection. Sports law is such an example where research is often cited by courts and used by attorneys. I personally (as well as many other professors) have fashioned my research agenda based on cases or consulting projects as a way to address industry questions and provide hard data to support positions. This keeps us in the loop, and everyone is a winner.

Instead of placing blame, let’s move the dialogue to a solution. That solution is creating a forum where folks from the industry and academicians can connect and talk about potential projects and ideas. I just created a forum on LinkedIn called Sport Management Research Forum. The idea is to create a collaborative environment where faculty can propose research ideas and industry can propose ideas so we can try to create a match. Faculty and doctoral students can try to find research sponsors or see if the industry is interested in a research idea. Industry professionals who have some nagging questions or desire to have some research undertaken can post an idea and see if any researchers are interested in working with them. The idea is to have a collaborative dialogue in a nonjudgmental and healthy environment.
I look forward to having my brethren in academia and my colleagues in the industry work together to help professionalize and improve our industry for the benefit of everyone involved.

Gil Fried
New Haven, Conn.

Fried is chairman and professor in the sport management department of the College of Business at University of New Haven.