Q&A is a bi-weekly feature where Sports Business Canada sits down with someone involved with the sports industry in Canada. This week we chat with Susan Gordon, Deputy Commissioner of NBL Canada.
Sports Business Canada: When were you named the Deputy Commissioner of NBL Canada? Were you involved in the sports industry before joining the league?
Susan Gordon: In my previous role as a marketing executive with Rogers Communications, I was responsible for the development, management and execution of corporate and regional sponsorships including MLSE, Vancouver Canucks, several CFL teams, and of course, several of the NBL Canada teams among others. However, aside from being a passionate sports fan, that was the extent of my involvement in the sports industry. I was appointed the position of Deputy Commissioner of NBL Canada in September of 2012.
SBC: What was your motivation to accept a senior job with a newly establish league?
SG: I had been involved with sponsoring the Halifax Rainmen and the Saint John Millrats prior to the formation of the NBL Canada league. So when they broke away from the PBL to form a Canadian League, I was fully supportive and excited that Canada would finally have its own professional basketball league. I loved the quality of the product that the League was bringing to the court and I absolutely believed in the vision of the League. For the past several years, I had wanted my next career move to be more directly in the sports industry so when the League executives asked if I would take on the role of Deputy Commissioner, I saw it as an opportunity to help the League achieve its vision as well as move my career in the direction I wanted it to go.
SBC: For any sports league, a healthy fan base, corporate sponsor support, and broadcast deals are needed. Currently for NBL Canada, is the focus to build the brand across the entire country or is energy being focused entirely in markets that the league currently has teams located in?
SG: At the moment, we are focused on building the League in our current markets with careful, deliberate expansion within eastern Canadian markets.
SBC: The league currently has a strong foothold in Eastern Canada. What’s the league’s stance on expanding west?
SG: We need to walk before we can run so expansion in the west is not in our game plan at this time.
SBC: For future expansion NBL Canada teams, is there a preference to have private ownership or would community ownership be welcomed?
SG: The preference is to have committed private ownership with ties to the local community. We are looking for owners who understand the long term nature of the investment, have a passion for sports and business, and believe in the vision of NBL Canada.
SBC: Where do you view the future of the league? Will it rival the NBDL, or some of the Europe leagues?
SG: Our vision is to be recognized and respected as one of the leading basketball leagues in the world. We are committed to running a professional and credible basketball league in Canada, which will provide Canadian and international athletes, as well as coaches and officials, the opportunity to participate in the game they love here in Canada.
SBC: In today’s sports world, player safety is becoming a trending topic. What are some initiatives that NBL Canada has taken to ensure player safety?
SG: The League takes player safety very seriously. NBL Canada operates under FIBA rules and we have strict fines and penalties in place for any player who engages in fighting or flagrant fouls.
SBC: By building working partnerships with Basketball Canada and CIS, is the goal to continually grow the number of Canadian players on each team? Or will the focus be for each team to field the best possible team regardless of a player’s passport?
SG: Yes, the goal is to increase the number of Canadian players on each team while still ensuring that we maintain the quality of the product on the court. The number of mandatory Canadian players on each team’s roster was increased from 2 to 3 for the League’s 2nd season and we will continue to evaluate that number each year.
SBC: What achievements are you most proud of since joining NBL Canada? What have been some of the struggles?
SG: As I watched our 2nd season unfold, I was most proud of the way our teams continued to develop and grow their fan base. The calibre of play has been amazing and we are developing some pretty intense rivalries which have been great in terms of energizing our fans! As for struggles, the League has faced the same challenges that any new business faces; the need to contain costs while we increase our customer, or in this case, our fan base.
SBC: What’s your favorite NBL Canada team? (just kidding!) What’s your favorite part of the job?
SG: My favourite part of the job is watching the games! I can do that and call it work!
Visit http://nblcanada.pointstreaksites.com for more info on NBL Canada.