HomeInterviewExclusive: Stats Perform’s Sarah Butler On Connecting Within The Sport Industry

Exclusive: Stats Perform’s Sarah Butler On Connecting Within The Sport Industry

Sarah Butler

Exclusive: Stats Perform’s Sarah Butler On Connecting Within The Sport Industry

Stats Perform director of global communications, Sarah Butler, who is also the founder of British sport networking organisation, Sport Business Connected, spoke with Ministry of Sport about her career.

Having joined Stats Perform in 2015, Butler was recently promoted to director of global communications in May.

“We’re involved in every aspect of the sports world,” Butler told Ministry of Sport.

“We work with clubs, leagues, broadcasters, betting companies as well as within the match fixing integrity landscape to help monitor and help clean up sport,” she said.

Founded in 1981, the Chicago based Stats Perform is a global leader in sport technology and AI and are well established in the Australia market.

“We are the biggest data provider in Australia,” Butler said.

“We have everything from deals with the NRL, Australian cricket, the Asian Football Federation, the All-Blacks, all iconic names in the world of sport especially in Australia and APAC regions,” she said.

Within her role, Butler is in charge of press releases for the organisation as well as connecting journalists across the world to spokespeople from Stats Perform.

“I’m taking a Stats Perform spokesperson, maybe a head of AI, and matching them with a journalist who might want to write a story on that,” Butler said.

“I know these two people would blossom and they could talk for hours,” she said.

Butler said in her industry, it’s important to keep up to date with what is being developed and to understand how the technology works.

“If you understand how the process works you get a much better grip on it and it’s much more rewarding as well,” Butler said.

“At times I have to remind my colleagues that not all journalists (and their audiences) are as immersed in their work as they themselves are.

“When you’re talking to me, think of it as an idiot’s guide on AI for example.

“If you can’t explain it to me then I’m not going to be able to explain it to a journalist and that journalist’s audience…

“I went to a University that was very sports oriented and I had grown up with parents and family that loved sports.

“I did English and Sports Science at uni [sic] and I didn’t know what I wanted to do.

“The head of the English department called me in and said ‘you’re not really an academic, you’re a bit of a bull in a china shop, I think you should go into PR’,” she said.

Butler got her professional start with London rugby club, Harlequin Football Club, where she was press and PR manager for five years.

“My CEO at the time said to me, ‘constantly be learning’, take this job like you are doing another degree at University,” Butler told Ministry of Sport.

“I was coming into an industry where they had never had a woman doing the job.

“It was very male dominated.

“Very early into my career I put out a press release where we had five players re-sign contracts but I forgot the hyphen.

“And if you suddenly put out to the global industry that five players have resigned it’s confusing.

“I thought I was going to be fired!

“The lesson learned is to always get someone to double check your work before you send out a global press release to tier one journalists,” she said.

A former rugby player herself, Butler said she couldn’t predict the level of support for women athletes.

“I never thought players would get the spotlight they’re getting now,” Butler said.

“The broadcast deals, the sponsorship deals, and also [athletes] getting paid is lovely to see.

“We used to do it just for the social and competitive side.

“They now have great physio support, they have sponsorship, they have good training conditions, and the media has bought into it,” she said.

While working for Stats Perform and attending an event, she started to form the idea for her organisation, Sports Business Connected, which she has built in her “spare time”.

“There is an event called Sportel in Monaco and the week before one of the events I had lunch with a sports journalist.

“I said to him ‘name me a senior woman working within the industry and it can’t be a presenter or an athlete.’

“And he stopped and paused.

“I said ‘if you can’t name it off the top of your head then we have an issue.’

“I went to Sportel and I was shocked by how few women were representing the industry.

“I was walking around the event and met a few women and I said ‘how do we not know each other?’

“We went out after and I said ‘I’m going to create a lunch where we’ll get to know all six of us here and develop a network.’

“We needed something that brought us together so that when we attended an event like Sportel in the future, we would feel part of a growing and supportive network.

“As it turned out quite a few more people wanted to join,” she said.

Since then the networking organisation has grown hosting up to a hundred women attending events such as the women in sport speaker series that hosted a variety of women within the sport industry.

The objective of Sport Business Connected is to support women in the sport business industry and create a welcoming and engaging platform for women to share their experiences as well as network.

“There’s a lot to still be done especially in the sports business world.

“There’ still a lot of things that women feel are barriers which is why I created Sport Business Connected,” she said.

The events do have sponsors but are ultimately focused on the issues and successes of women within the industry.

“We don’t want it to be a sales pitch,” Butler told Ministry of Sport.

“I’m going to make [the events] what 23-year-old me needed.

“Stats Perform have been a massive support the whole way through.

“I find companies will say on a LinkedIn post that they’re supporting women but don’t always follow through sometimes.

“So many women have offered to volunteer across the world and it’s growing rapidly.

“I love it, it brings in a lot of passions of mine and I get to meet a lot of people.

“It’s not male bashing, it’s not trying to highlight men that are doing wrong because it’s mainly been men throughout the journey that have supported me and I want to highlight that,” she said.

For what the future holds for Butler, she wants to continue to grow in her role at Stats Perform, stay within the industry, as well as to grow Sports Business Connected.

“I think it’s good when you have a job that you enjoy,” Butler said.

“I’ve had times where I haven’t enjoyed a job and there’s been tough times.

“I’ve had good bosses, I’ve had bad bosses.

“I would love Sports Business Connected to grow and maybe could become something full time or have more time devoted to it which would be great.

“I want to become a good mentor and help others and I think Sport Business Connected has done that,” she said.

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