The admission from Bud Selig, the US Major League Baseball Commissioner, that he has never used email raised lots of eyebrows around the world.
As Business Insider notes, Selig is 79 years old and there are plenty of other sports administrators challenged by technology so it’s understandable that the commissioner might not see the need to use a technology that became common twenty years ago.
Bud Selig’s story illustrates a much more important issue facing the professional sports industry, that it’s run on an aging business model.
The last fifty years has been very good for professional sport as television and Pay-TV networks bid sporting rights higher across the world.
In most nations, the dominant sport did extremely well as broadcasters fought each other; the Olympics, Soccer leagues in most of the world along with baseball, American football and basketball in the US, Cricket in India, Aussie Rules in Australia, Rugby in South Africa and New Zealand all became incredibly rich.
There weren’t many competitive pressures on the managements of those sport as the dominant sports rarely had any competition, it was a matter of just playing the TV executives off each other.
As a consequence, many sports are run by people with a somewhat exaggerated sense of privilege – they believe it’s their talent, not Rupert Murdoch’s or NBC’s money, that is responsible for their game’s riches.
Bud can dismiss the disbelieving gasps of people in the real economy because for most of his career the only competition he’s had to deal with was from his colleagues has he fought his way to the top job which he won in 1998.
In the real economy, there’s no such luxury. In fact, email may be becoming yesterday’s technology as social media and collaborative tools take over. David Thodey at Telstra and Atos’ Thierry Breton are two leaders in this field.
The danger for sporting organisations is that they are ripe for disruption, so far broadcast media rights have stood up well while revenues in other parts of the entertainment and publishing industries has collapsed. There’s no guarantee though that broadcast sports will remain immune from those changes.
Should disruption come along, even just in the form of sporting rights stagnating, many professional codes will suddenly find inefficiencies like Bud Selig are an expensive luxury.
While Bud’s story is amusing, in reality there’s little the rest of us can learn from how Major League Baseball’s senior executives run their offices.