From Boardroom to Classroom, and Back Again ….

Photo of Martin Jesper

VSI MSc in Sports Directorship student Martin Jesper continues to accumulate a wealth of boardroom experiences in executive roles, however he had no hesitation in returning to the classroom to progress his personal career development and further strengthen his knowledge and awareness in Leading High Performance Sports Organisations.

“I am a huge advocate of the course’s focus on bringing former athletes into the boardroom of elite sporting organisations to add their considerable knowledge, experiences and dedicated mindset into the mix when developing high performance environments.

“However I feel it is equally important that board members coming from more corporate, or business, backgrounds have a far better understanding of the performance related aspects and mindsets too – to ensure fully aligned strategies can be pursued.”

Originally trained as a chartered accountant, Martin spent a number of years supporting underperforming businesses following introductions from leading banks, large accountancy firms, solicitors and investors. As an accredited turnaround professional he has had to deal with extremely challenging situations brought about by weak leadership, lack of finance and inadequate strategic focus – ideal preparation for the world of sport!

”Simply having the wealth, the opportunity and being a fan is no longer enough to create a lasting impact on a club’s development potential and sustainability – today’s executive leaders in sport must be aligning both the playing and non-playing sides of their clubs with the right people in the right places.

“There are plenty of examples across sports at every level showing a thirst for benefactors’ financial support yet results in dominant influence and a recruitment policy of familiar faces (rather than appropriately experienced boardroom executives) leading to uncertainty, fractious relationships and performance related stalemate, or regression. This course provides the ideal platform to allow the best people to take their rightful places in the boardroom of elite sport.”

Martin was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Darlington FC in 2012, following the club’s financial demise which saw 3 administrations in 9 years and an FA imposed down-sizing to Tier 9 of the football pyramid – at a time the club was playing in the infamous 27,000 all-seater Arena close to Darlington centre. The club was then acquired by its supporters and subsequently enjoyed 3 promotions in 4 seasons. “Extremely challenging, but incredibly rewarding” is how Martin reflects on his time at the club, which he left with no debt before moving to the role of Head of Strategic Developments at Heart of Midlothian FC as a member of the club’s Executive Management Team.

“I really enjoyed my time at Hearts”, he explains. “The experience I gained there (which coincided with a brief Europa Cup campaign) was fantastic – and I was fortunate to have a remit that allowed me to become extremely close to all aspects of the playing and non-playing functions within the elite environment – internally and with external stakeholders – against which my own future standards have been firmly set.”

Currently engaged in a short-term, high profile CEO role, the part-time MSc course is providing Martin with the opportunity to share his experiences with successful athletes from a number of sports – including football, rugby union, rugby league, athletics and gymnastics. “It is providing us all with a strong contextual framework of leadership, culture and discipline that will undoubtedly help to align sporting and business success from within the boardroom.”

Martin Jesper

For more information on the VSI MSc in Sporting Directorship contact:
Tel: 0345 459 9765