We’re all familiar with the Lewis Hamiltons, Tiger Woods and Shaquille O’Neals of this world, but who really holds the most clout when it comes to shaping the landscape of competitive games? From billionaires and Fortune 500 CEOs to former athletes and Olympic gold medalists, the men listed below all have one thing in common -- they wield immense power and influence in the world of sports.
So, without further ado, here are the 10 most powerful men in the field:
1. John Skipper: President, ESPN
A native of Lexington, North Carolina, John Skipper became president of media giant ESPN in January 2012. His extensive background in magazine publishing and 14 years with ESPN prior to assuming the head role, have helped him secure the company’s position as a leader in sports programming and push its value to an incredible $50 billion.
2. Roger Goodell: Commissioner, NFL
Having joined the NFL straight out of college, New-Yorker Roger Goodell became the league’s commissioner in September 2006. He is probably best known for his efforts to protect the integrity and safety of the sport, as exemplified by his handling of the Bountygate and Spygate controversies. Under his leadership, interest in the NFL has soared and the sport has seen its largest television audiences in history.
3. Adam Silver: Commissioner, NBA
Also hailing from New York, Adam Silver became the commissioner of the NBA in February 2014 following more than a decade in service to the association. His influence and decisiveness became evident early on when, just three months into the job, he banned LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life after Sterling was recorded making racist comments.
4. Steve Ballmer: Owner, Los Angeles Clippers
Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer tapped into his passion for basketball when he secured ownership of the LA Clippers in August 2014. As if his previous role as head of one of the largest tech companies in the world weren’t enough, he really showed his swagger when he bid $2 billion for the Clippers franchise -- nearly 4 times the previous NBA record set just months earlier when the Milwaukee Bucks went for $550 million.
5. Thomas Bach: President, International Olympic Committee
A 1976 Olympic gold medal winner in fencing for West Germany, Thomas Bach was elected to the role of IOC President in September 2013. Right from the outset, Bach sought to exert his influence by introducing changes to the Olympic bidding process to make it more accessible and less costly for prospective host nations.
6. Bud Selig: Commissioner Emeritus, MLB
Milwaukee native Bud Selig is the first and only Commissioner Emeritus of Baseball. He has spent decades at the helm of MLB, having first assumed the role of acting commissioner in 1992, and has accumulated an extensive list of achievements. During his tenure, Selig has overseen a 400% increase in revenue for the league, annual record-breaking attendance figures, and the introduction of game-changers like the wild card and interleague play, to name but a few.
7. Randy Freer: President and COO, Fox Networks Group
An accomplished media executive and savvy negotiator, New Jersey native Randy Freer became president and chief operating officer of Fox Networks Group in October 2013. In his 18 years with Fox, Freer has overseen some of the network’s most significant rights acquisitions, including the UFC and FIFA World Cup.
8. Mark Lazarus: Chairman, NBC Sports Group
A former president of both CSE and Turner Entertainment Group, Mark Lazarus added to his impressive list of credentials when he became chairman of NBC Sports Group in May 2011. He oversees partnerships with some of the most prestigious sports properties including the PGA Tour, the NFL and the Olympics, and has helped elevate NBC Sports to become one of the main players in sports programming.
9. Michael Jordan: Owner, Charlotte Hornets
Probably the greatest basketball player of all time, His Airness continues to exert formidable influence post-retirement through his portfolio of business ventures. While fans the world over continue to snap up his signature line of sneakers, Jordan became the first ever former player to gain majority ownership of an NBA team when he purchased the Charlotte Hornets (then the Charlotte Bobcats) in March 2010.
10. Phil Knight: Founder, Nike
Combining his passion for both sports and entrepreneurship, Oregon native Phil Knight founded apparel giant Nike way back in January 1964. Making his first sales from the trunk of a green Plymouth Valiant, Knight went on to develop the most recognisable brand in sport and became one of the richest men in the world in the process.
Have we left someone out? Who do you rank as the most powerful and influential men in sports? Let us know in the comments below!