Profile: Michael Brown – AFC Asian Cup 2015

(This post originally appeared on iSportconnect)

michaelbrown

Born in England, Michael moved to Australia in 1967.  He is married to Jill and has two children.

Michael’s career began in teaching/administration, followed by a three-year period at North Melbourne Football Club as Football Manager from 1990-1992.  In 1992 Michael joined Tobin Brothers, Australia’s largest family-owned funeral company, where he gained valuable management skills.

From 1998 to 2002 Michael took the Hawthorn Football Club from a revenue base of $11 million to $30 million and grew the staff from 20 people to more than 60.

In 2002 Michael took on the role of General Manager/Acting CEO with Cricket Australia.  Michael was responsible for managing the day-to-day cricket activities of Cricket Australia including overseeing the operation and contracting of all Australian men’s and women’s cricketers and teams and the national umpiring panel, responsibility for all international and domestic cricket programming, responsibility for all annual international and domestic security and anti-corruption issues.

Michael was also appointed Director of Cricket for the Champions League Twenty20 and regularly acted as Chief Executive of Cricket Australia while the CEO was on leave.

Following nearly 10 years of service, Michael resigned his position at Cricket Australia to take on the role of Chief Executive Officer of the 2015 Asian Cup.

You spent almost a decade as General Manager of Cricket Australia, how has that experience helped you in your current role?

My role at Cricket Australia was diverse and included dealing with visiting international teams on a regular basis with many of them from the sub continent. It gave me an understanding of cultural differences that needed to be addressed to ensure Australia were appropriate hosts. I was also responsible for international relations and traveled extensively throughout Asia.

Having worked first-hand in many countries I am able to take those learnings into our work with the AFC and its members who will form the qualifying teams for the event.

Australia has a rich multicultural community which is looking forward to being part of the event and our ability to harness their knowledge and spirit will make sure those who come to our country for the Asian Cup 2015 enjoy the experience and leave with lasting memories.

What is the biggest difference between running a governing body and a major event?

The biggest difference is that running an event has a finite end date that looms as we get closer and closer to competition time.

We have 32 games in 23 days so activity will be strong across four cities and five venues.

Cricket Australia was a governing body with a team so in my ways it played in events ie Ashes, World Cups etc on a regular basis.

Focusing on the 2015 Asian Cup is exciting because as every day that passes it makes you one day closer to the event.

What were the motivations for Australia’s bid to host the AFC Asian Cup 2015?

As a new member to the Asian Confederation (2006), Football Federation Australia was very keen to host what is the jewel in the crown of Asian football.

The Asian Cup is the biggest sporting event in Asia and we see it as a fantastic opportunity to showcase Australia to Asia and the rest of the world.

Australia has a long history of hosting fantastic sporting events and of hosting an event of this kind will not only leave a strong legacy for football, but also cement Australia’s place in the Asian economic community.

Australia’s bid to host the AFC Asian Cup had the full support of the Federal Government as well as the support of the governments of Queensland, New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory and Victoria because they could see the magnitude of the opportunity.

The Asian Cup is a huge television spectacle, with a potential reach of more than 2.5 billion. So we believe there has never been a better opportunity to showcase Australia to football-mad Asia.

The Local Organising Committee (LOC) has four clear focuses: delivering a world-class event, driving tourism, promoting trade and investment and fostering community engagement.

The Asian Cup reaches Australia’s four biggest trading partners – Japan, China, India and South Korea – and seven of Australia’s top 10 trading partners are in Asia. Football is one of the few sports which links Australia with virtually all of the countries of Asia where the game is massive. The Asian Cup provides an opportunity to build business and social partnerships through football.

Why will Australia be a good host for the tournament?

The Asian Cup no doubt offers Australia the opportunity to build on our international reputation for delivering major sporting events, and to promote Australian tourism, trade and other interests in Asia.

With games being played up and down the east coast players and visitors to Australia for the Asian Cup will get a great taste of what our country has to offer and the diversity of our different cities.

Australians have a reputation as friendly and welcoming hosts and we have a great and diverse multicultural heritage and we want that to come across to people who come to Australia and those who watch the tournament on television.

There are more than two million Australians with Asian heritage and we want to encourage our multicultural communities to be involved in the event and to give the Asian Cup a great atmosphere. Australia’s cultural diversity is one of our greatest strengths and is at the heart of who we are.

When we started thinking about the Asian Cup and developing our vision, we were determined that it would be about more than 32 games of football on the pitch. Our vision is to deliver a world class event that celebrates Asia’s rich football culture and leaves an enduring legacy for the game in Australia.

If we can do that I’m confident the AFC and all of those involved will think this event has been a huge success.

Some have described this as the biggest sporting event Australia has hosted since the Olympics in 2000. How do you live up to those expectations?

It is an exciting and sometimes daunting challenge to think that the eyes of Asia and the world will be on us and we have to deliver.

It is often hard for people who don’t love football to understand the magnitude of the game across the world, and especially across Asia. In Asia there were 80 million people playing football in 2006 and by 2020 there will be 380 million players. That’s staggering.

Australia has a long history of hosting fantastic sporting events and hosting an event of this kind will not only leave a strong legacy for football, which continues to grow in this country, but also cement Australia’s place as a major events host. As a result of that experience of holding Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games, World Championships and other international events we have some amazing people and companies in Australia with the experience to put on a show.

On my team I have people who’ve worked on the London Olympic Games, Sydney Olympic Games, Melbourne Commonwealth Games, Delhi Commonwealth Games, FIFA World Cups, Rugby World Cups and other sport and major events.

michaelbrown2What effect will hosting the Asian Cup have on Australia’s tourism industry?

We are anticipating about 45,000 international visitors and 3500 international media to come to Australia for the tournament.

Our ability to drive tourism will be a key indicator for the event. The LOC has started working on a number of initiatives and has been working with Government to partner agencies like Tourism Australia and Austrade.

The Asian market is critical to Australia. We know inbound tourism from China is growing 20 per cent year on year and China Southern have grown from 18 flights a week to Australia two years ago to more than 40 flights a week now.

So showcasing Australia in these key markets is a big driving factor for our governments and for the LOC.

How will you decide on the venues to be used throughout the tournament?

As part of the bidding process for the competition, the FFA conducted a preliminary stadium selection process in which it nominated eight stadiums for consideration, of which five will ultimately be selected to host matches.

AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015 features a rotating draw for the four groups. Each of the 16 teams will play three group matches and each team will travel between venues for every match. In past Asian Cups, each group has been allocated to a region, city or stadium; however this will change for the 2015 competition to allow the Socceroos and the other teams to play in multiple cities.

The Federal Government agreed to provide half of the funding for the tournament and State and Territory Governments were asked to express interest in hosting matches in their jurisdictions.

New South Wales is providing the most funding for the tournament because it wanted to secure the final and semi finals, while Victoria wanted the opening game, so we will chose two stadiums in New South Wales and one in Brisbane, Canberra and Melbourne.

Australia is known as a huge sporting nation, but the Asian Cup will be held around the same time as the Australian Open, a Test cricket series against India and the Cricket World Cup, which you are also hosting. How can you retain local interest in the tournament in such a busy calendar, especially for games that don’t involve Australia?

We are excited that the Asian Cup will be the opening tournament for a huge summer of sport in Australia in 2015.

As well as the ones you’ve mentioned we shouldn’t forget the World Netball Championships in Sydney in mid 2015 and centenary of ANZAC Day celebrations, as well as Sydney’s biggest cultural event – the Sydney Festival, which happens in January! So it is indeed a really busy calendar, but Australians love sport and major events and we think having the event in January, which is a big school holiday time, will mean more families can attend.

I believe we can work with other events to provide visitors to Australia and people who travel interstate for events with a brilliant experience.

How do you plan to attract a global audience to the tournament?

We will have a host broadcaster to produce a world-feed of the entire 32-match tournament, making the games accessible to a world-wide audience.

The LOC does not have an international marketing budget to promote the event to international television audiences, however with 3500 international media expected to attend the event we have a ready-made international marketing machine!

The LOC will also be working with the AFC and Tourism Australia to promote the event internationally and with a tournament of this stature we are very fortunate to have an established audience throughout Asia and the world which watches the event.

The 2014/15 A-League season is expected to be suspended for three weeks as a result of the tournament. What effect will that break have on domestic football?

The LOC is working with the FFA on a number of options regarding the management of the Hyundai A-League during the AC2015.

These options include a full suspension of the League in January 2015. Whatever decision we make we want to ensure the A-League continues to go from strength to strength.

The 2011-12 Hyundai A-League season was the best yet, with more than 1.4 million fans going to games and major attendance increases in Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, Central Coast, Newcastle and Wellington. The A-League enjoyed a major boost in television ratings – up 46 per cent on the previous season – memberships and attendances. That is a testament to the league’s potential and the work taking place in clubs, communities and regions across Australia and New Zealand. With the introduction of the second Sydney club – Western Sydney Wanderers – 2012-13 has been an even better season, breaking all these records. It will be exciting to see the results at the end of the season.

What legacy do you hope the event will leave in Australia?

The Asian Cup is a massive and unprecedented opportunity for Australia and for football and we have a comprehensive Legacy Plan that addresses both of those elements.

For football we want to grow participation and A-League and W-League membership, build football infrastructure and capacity and improve revenues for the game.

On a national level, this is an outstanding chance to strengthen cultural, social, diplomatic and economic ties with Asia.

We see the Asian Cup as an opportunity to promote tourism, build business partnerships and social relationships through football. We want the tournament to open doors for government, to open doors for business, to open doors for tourism and to create new community connections and we’re establishing a curriculum-based schools football program which will help to improve children’s understanding of our place in Asia.

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