28/04/2021 - 12:44

Ross pursues passion for hockey

28/04/2021 - 12:44

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Fabian Ross aims to use his experience transforming businesses to lift the profile of hockey in WA.

Ross pursues passion for hockey
Fabian Ross has strong ties to WA's hockey community. Photo: David Henry

The appointment of Fabian Ross as chief executive of Hockey WA early this year came as a bolt from the blue to many in the state’s business community.

After all, the former WA Super chief executive had only recently steered the fund manager towards a successful multi-billion-dollar merger.

His lack of experience leading sports organisations made the move even more noticeable.

(view a PDF version of this special report)

Generally speaking, sporting organisations and clubs tend to recruit across codes. For example, Michael Roberts joined the West Australian Football Commission from Tennis West in December and was recently replaced [at Tennis West] by commentator and Tennis Australia board member Brett Patten.

Mr Ross told Business News his passion for hockey was a major factor in his decision and that he aimed to leverage his strong corporate background to lift the sport’s profile in WA.

Having played hockey from a young age and being a member of the Whitford Hockey Club (where his sons play), Mr Ross said he was fortunate to run a business that reflected his passion.

“I could’ve gone into another role in financial services or into another corporate environment, but … I’m at a stage in my career where I can make choices,” Mr Ross told Business News.

“The choice I wanted to make was, ‘How do I give back to the community and give back by adding value to something I’m really passionate about?’

“When you can get to a point in your career when you can help administer a business that is a passion of yours, you’re in a pretty fortunate position.”

Before joining Hockey WA, Mr Ross spent four years as chief executive of WA Super (now Aware Super), during which time he helped grow the fund manager’s assets from about $2.8 billion to more than $4 billion.

And despite a strong financial services background, including executive roles at BT Financial Group and GESB, Mr Ross believes the skills he has learned are transferable.

“I think a lot of the business disciplines are similar … such as building a positive culture or adopting a change mindset,” he said.

“The world is moving so rapidly; you can’t just set and forget strategy.”

One of the most important business strategies, Mr Ross said, was developing member-client focus, which he believed would be vital for Hockey WA.

The association generated $4.3 million in revenue in the past financial year, making it WA’s eighth-largest sporting and recreational association, according to Business News’ Data & Insights.

Mr Ross said Hockey WA’s job was to ensure people knew the role the sport played in the community, as well as providing a platform for players to make it to elite-level competitions.

Despite a crowded sporting environment, hockey had not yet sold itself as a unique and differentiated sport, he said.

“You can play hockey whether you’re a young person all the way through to your 70s and 80s,” Mr Ross said.

“But what it’s always traditionally been able to do is, whether you’re a female or a male, you’ve been able to play the game in an equal way.

“All the rules are the same, the game time is the same.

“We’ve always had this equality, but we’ve never really sold it in a way in which it is a clear differentiator.” Still, he said the sport’s growth was in an upswing.

Mr Ross said Hockey WA had experienced a spike in engagement across all its social media channels, as well as garnered more corporate interest, including from Maddington business All Flags Signs and Banners, which is sponsoring the state’s premier league.

Other major partners include government-run Healthway, Lotterywest, and Curtin University.

“There are a lot of great ideas that we have, and you can’t do all those things without sponsorship dollars,” he said, noting Hockey WA’s interest in doing more with its school and regional programs.

“It’s around community involvement, it’s around wellbeing, it’s around that family time.

“This is about lifting the profile of hockey, and for people to realise what hockey can deliver.”

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