Barry Hearn

Week 63 (29 November - 5 December 2014)

In selecting one of the most outspoken sports promoters in Britain, Barry Hearn, to address their convention this week, the Scottish Football Association (SFA) showed its sense of humour and its desire for change.

It's fair to say – and Hearn certainly did so on Wednesday night at Hampden Park – that football in Scotland is not going through the best of times at the moment. The flagship league in Scotland, the Scottish Premiership, is without a sponsor and the league's average attendance is just under 10,000. Meanwhile, one of the country's most revered clubs, Rangers, is still recovering from the effects of going into liquidation in 2012 and is plying its trade in the second division.

And Hearn – a successful promoter of boxing, snooker and fishing - isn't impressed:

"I look at Scottish football and see a nation with its head down looking at its shoelaces. You're better than that. When I started off with the darts and snooker, we were way down, but we believed in ourselves and had a bit of a passion. Sometimes organisations get into that mode of 'Oh, that's how it is.'"

Yet through the abrasive pep talk came some marketing pearls of wisdom about doing business in the sports world. These included:

"Dress the operation in the clothes of a King even if you're a pauper."

"Two donkeys make a great race. You don't have to be the best in the world to be entertaining."

"Even if you're useless, I want to see you acting like you're good, selling yourself. I'm selling-out darts arenas for a sport that's not visible to the naked eye."

"I can sell live fishing. Live fishing! I'm good and you're not good enough."

Quite how the delegates at SFA's inaugural convention felt after sitting through Hearn's speech is not widely known but as uncomfortable as it may have been, they won't easily forget the advice handed out.

Of course, it's important to put Scottish football's current situation in context: all sports in all countries go through hard times, and most return in better health because of it. But Hearn may just have helped accelerate that process, whilst laying down some core marketing values for the sports industry at the same time.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons