Top European sailing website, ValenciaSailing.com continues a series of interviews with the people in charge of shaping the 34th America's Cup in line with the vision of the current Defender, its owner Larry Ellison and its CEO Russell Coutts. We spoke with Craig Thompson, CEO of the America's Cup Event Authority, the body in charge of everything related to the pinnacle event of the sport, except for the racing itself.
Valencia Sailing: Can you briefly take us through your background and how you ended up becoming CEO of the America's Cup Event Authority ?
Craig Thompson: Most recently I was with TEAM Marketing in Switzerland and we were the agency that UEFA chose to set up the European Champions League. Myself and a number of colleagues started the Champions League, together with UEFA, back in 1992. We created the marketing platform and the concept for the Championship League, which we then implemented. I was with the Champions League from 1992 until 2003 when I left to take a break. After that I was involved with the set up of the Champions Hockey League in Europe, a European hockey league similar in style to the Champions League in football, then in several other projects and I finally joined the America's Cup just recently as CEO of the America's Cup Event Authority.
Valencia Sailing: From what I see you have no sailing background or at least you haven't been involved with any major sailing event prior to joining the America's Cup. Is that correct?
Craig Thompson: I had some experience with the 32nd America's Cup in Valencia when I did some consulting work both for America's Cup Management (ACM) and Alinghi. So, I do have a little bit of sailing experience but I wouldn't say I have any extensive experience in that sport.
Valencia Sailing: Do you think this factor could be a problem or at least a disadvantage?
Craig Thompson: To the contrary, I think it's an advantage, assuming that I'm surrounded by top sailing people that have extensive knowledge of the sport like Russell Coutts, Tom Ehman or Iain Murray. As long as there is people like that in the team it's an advantage havifng someone like myself or Richard Worth, Chairman of ACEA, that don't have an insider, intimate knowledge of the sport because we can look at it from a more objective viewpoint as sports marketers. We can look at the sport in terms of what needs to be done to make it friendlier for fans, television and the sponsors and that was exactly the role I had in the Champions League in football. Being an American myself, I came to Europe knowing very little about football (soccer) and I was managing the Champions League project for many years. I actually think there is an advantage to be not so familiar with the sport as long as you are surrounded by people that are very familiar with it.
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