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Event Recap: Victoria's On The Ball - Sports Diplomacy in Action

20 September 2016

‘Sport has become a world language, a common denominator that breaks down all the walls, all the barriers. It is a worldwide industry whose practices can have widespread impact. Most of all, it is a powerful tool for progress and development’. This quote from UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon opened the keynote speech for ACBC Victoria’s Sport’s Diplomacy Forum delivered by The Hon John Brumby.

Over 80 guests joined our National President of ACBC together with Mr Jeremy Loeliger, General Manager, National Basketball League; Mr Ian Robson, CEO, Melbourne Victory and Mr Ben Slack, Head of International Business, Tennis Australia, to gain insight into the nature of Sports Diplomacy, how it is relevant for Australia and how businesses can become involved.

The proceedings began with an introduction from MC Mr Tom Parker, Board Member of the ACBC Victoria Executive Committee and General Manager - China Advisory at Bastion S+GO. Tom highlighted the important part sport plays in the Australian identity, and increasingly in our economy, and later provided an insightful and engaging facilitation of the panel discussion and Q&A session.

In the keynote address, The Hon John Brumby highlighted how timely the message of ‘greater engagement with China through sport’ was, especially in light of China’s rebalancing economy, shift to consumption driven growth and rising middle class. Like the Australian middle class, the Chinese middle class is aspirational with more than 70 per of urban Chinese consumers wanting to participate in sport or to buy sporting goods. This desire is positive for Australia, and naturally for Victoria and Melbourne, recently named ‘sports city of the decade’ at the SportBusiness Ultimate Sport City Awards in Switzerland. Yet as China’s growth profile evolves, it is crucial that Australia identifies what we do well and how to present this to the world in order to get them here. To conclude, John emphasised that selling to China means understanding it and having the capabilities to cater to the specific needs of the Chinese middle class.

The forum proceeded into a lively panel discussion with each representative speaking of their sport’s engagement with China and outlining their future plans to deepen their work in this area. Jeremy Loeliger from the NBL spoke of the way in which sport can break down social and cultural barriers and can be used as a means to get things done in China. Further he indicated the rising profile of Australian basketball in China and the opportunities this presents for the expansion of media networks, corporate partnership and relationships.

Ian Robson from Melbourne Victory elaborated on the club’s positioning away from the Oceania context and into the Asian context, aided by the success of not only Melbourne Victory in the Asian Champion’s League but also the Australian side in Asia and on the world stage.

Ben Slack highlighted Tennis Australia’s rebranding which reflects an intention to be more serious in terms of depth of engagement, as well as to highlight the stature of the Australian Open as not only the grand slam of the Asia Pacific, but a world event. Opportunities around tourism and chances for greater interaction with the Chinese community in Australia were also stressed.

What followed was an engrossing Q&A session, touching on topics such as the role of social media and ‘influencers’ in Sport, capacity constraints in Australia and Chinese language commentating in the broadcasting of sport in China.

We kindly thank all of our speakers for their time and expertise and extend our thanks to Mr Tom Parker for his facilitation of the event. ACBC Victoria also wishes to thank Mr Dan Pearce and Holding Redlich for generously hosting the event and for their ongoing support of ACBC Victoria.