“What is a club in any case?”

by | Jul 16, 2017

When I first got involved in league football, I was told that clubs are in the ‘Premiership winning business’. In fact, there are clubs which have this as their sole ‘statement of purpose’.

I grew up as a Richmond supporter in the 1970s. It would have been difficult to argue against this mantra. In my lifetime they’d won five Premierships by the time I’d reached my late teens.

My father Alan was Secretary of the club. With the likes of Tom Hafey, Graeme Richmond and Ian Wilson, they formed an off-field team that was clearly focused on winning, which they did regularly.

As my relationship with the game evolved, my sense was there was something deeper than the week-to-week performance of the team.

This view was confirmed when I was part of the Richmond ‘Save our Skin’ campaign when General Manager of the Tigers in the early 90s. In just a few weeks of committed fund-raising (mostly tin-rattling by thousands of supporters) the club raised over $1.5m and was saved from extinction, at a time when it had been an uncompetitive football team for many years. So significant was this time, the SOS campaign was acknowledged as the club’s Defining Moment at it’s Centennial celebration a few years ago.

“100 Tiger Treasures”

I also experienced this feeling when appointed CEO of the Melbourne Football Club immediately post the failed merger with the Hawthorn Football Club. A merger of these two clubs would create a terrific team, at least on paper. It could even win a Premiership, at a time that such a prospect was very unlikely for either club. But once again, it was personal and the masses were moved and fought vigorously against the proposal. People power prevailed and the clubs went forward as independent entities. Twenty years on, no one would regret this outcome.

A few years ago, when trying to develop a ‘statement of purpose’ for the Melbourne Football Club, I focused on six words:

1. Identity
2. Folklore
3. Heroes
4. Moments
5. Wisdom
6. Silverware

These words transcend sporting clubs. They can be used as a checklist when developing the ‘statement of purpose’ for your organisation.

Your people are likely asked “what they do?” and “who they work for?” several times per week. Your workplace is part of who they are. All businesses, young and old, have their legends, stories and defining moments. They’ve experienced victory, and felt defeat.

When explaining this as part of the work we I do, I use a photo of the moment the final siren sounds in the 1970 VFL Grand Final. All of these words are given meaning in this image.

The celebration of Carlton’s victory, led by coach Ron Barassi. They have just defeated traditional rival Collingwood having being down by 44 points at half-time. With permission by their young coach to play-on at all costs, take risks, and “handball, handball, handball”, the modern game was invented and Barassi given the title of ‘Super Coach’. The unlikely hero was 19th man Ted Hopkins, who came on at half-time, and kicked four goals.

One of my favourite sporting quotes could well be the purpose statement for a sporting club. It is from football legend Sir Bobby Robson, and it reads:

“What is a club in any case.

Not the buildings or the directors or the people who are paid to represent it. It’s not the television contracts, get out clauses, marketing departments or executive boxes.

It’s the noise, the passion, the feeling of belonging, the pride in your city.

It’s a small boy clambering up stadium steps for the very first time, gripping his father’s hand, gawping at the hallowed stretch of turf beneath him, without being able to do a thing about it, falling in love.”

Cameron Schwab
CEO & Founder


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