Beyond Radio : Keith Thomas
Keith Thomas was the Group Sales Director for DMG Radio, and the architect of the '2 ads in a row' strategy.
He was interviewed in Adelaide's Sunday Mail this weekend about his new role 'beyond radio' as Chief Executive of the Port Adelaide AFL club. After a horror 2011 season, Thomas has rebuilt the club and they began their season on Sunday by defeating St Kilda in the opening round.
Given "KT's" long and influential career in radio we have reprinted the article in full from the Sunday Mail. The original, by Jesper Fjeldstad, can be read here.
IT TAKES a few minutes to categorise Keith Thomas, Port Adelaide's new chief executive who has done a mountain of work over summer to turn the club around.
At 50, he's another former footballer, one quick with a line and a laugh, but also a seasoned member of corporate management who knows how to hit the right lines when needed.
Port needs rebuilding because it has been bleeding about $3 million a year and the grants from SANFL and the AFL may not last forever.
Thomas, a former Norwood champion, is beginning to form a strategy and get his head around it all. In a wide-ranging interview with the Sunday Mail, he outlined his key planks for the turnaround.
COMMUNITY involvement, to both be an important part of society and receive corporate support from like-minded organisations
RESOURCING the players as they return from a horror 2011 with the club intent of providing a new spirit around Alberton
CHANGING the way the club does business piece by piece, rather than searching for a landmark change that will turn everything around, and
REINFORCING the heritage of Port Adelaide rather than selling the club as a new entity, the new franchise that came into the AFL competition in 1997.
Thomas is not one to dodge a question, and a few hostile ones were fired at him last week in his office overlooking Alberton Oval.
"I'm not really good at the bullshit," he said. "I'll tell you what I think. I believe in football clubs. We operate in an elite environment … but I don't think that should be at the expense of good club values.
"There are very few clubs who have that depth of history that hold them up. Even though we're going to be very forward-thinking in our approach to football, always be respectful of the heritage.
"That is what this club is about, and (what) it wants to be about.
"We've started with football. In 2011, clearly, the football department was under-resourced and it needed to be bolstered. The players probably became dispirited by the end of the year – it was a tough year for everybody.
"But the first decision we made was that when they come back from their Christmas break, they must feel the difference.
"So we employed the coaches, bolstered our medical team – put it all in place for when the players returned. And the effect was immediate: We could feel there was a new energy.
"That comes with having new people around, more people, and you can just see it."
Thomas quit radio after a change in ownership meant a serious change in direction. He excused himself, saying he could not be a "change agent" if he wasn't certain that he believed in the changes.
Thomas thought about life after radio and realised football had the biggest pull.
But Port Adelaide? The club is on its knees financially, still struggling to draw crowds and corporate support. It didn't worry Thomas.
"That challenge in itself was never something that concerned me," he said. "Because I've been in business and situations before where I've seen the same thing. And I know things can turn.
"A football club with 140 years of history – you don't knock those sort of establishments over easily. So I knew the substance of Port Adelaide. I viewed it very much as a challenge. There are clearly things that have to be addressed, but this can be fixed.
"One of my first addresses to the team was that we need to understand there are no miracle cures, no hail Marys. You can't just bring somebody in and then it's all fixed.
"You have to make better decisions. You've got to create an environment where people can make better calls."