A hot-desking sports junkie returns to the AFL

Kerry Harris CPA, Chief financial officer, West Australian Football Commission.

Kerry Harris grew up without the internet and played sport every night. Two years ago she returned home and took up a senior role in the AFL.

You have to love sport to work in sports, particularly as an accountant. You’re not a coach, you’re not a sports scientist, but you are part of the support crew.

I grew up in Western Australia [WA] in the Pilbara and there wasn’t a lot to do up there – particularly in the late 1970s, early 1980s, when there was no internet. We didn’t have a home phone. You either drank, played sport or did both. I played sport every night of the week and it was a big part of my life and I have taken that with me.

My career combines two passions. I love being an accountant and I love sport. I love playing it. I love watching it. I love the social cohesion that sport has … I was thinking about being a physical education teacher because I loved sport so much. And then I fell into accounting. After that, I made a choice to make a career in sport as an accountant.

Our offices are corporate boxes and we’ve got to pack them up every week. You could say we are the leaders of hot-desking!

Every day I look out over a stadium at the grass. I get to watch the West Coast Eagles [Perth’s AFL team] train every day. The plus side is that you get natural light into your office, you get to see green grass every day and you get to see movement every day.

"Sport has become a professional industry where you can have a professional career in the field you choose."

When I first started the only professional qualification you could get in sport was a human movement degree. But sport is now big business and many, many people are choosing sports as a professional career. I’ve seen it come from operating around the kitchen table to a multibillion-dollar industry.

Now you can do an MBA in sports administration. The industry has become a professional industry where you can have a professional career in the field you choose – whether it be as an administrator like myself or as a coach or a physiotherapist.

It is often said that people now want something short and sharp that fits into their reduced leisure time and I think sport has adapted to that.

AFL football in WA is the biggest participation sport in the state. We’re exceeding 174,000 participants this year and we’ve got a target of 200,000 by 2017. We’ve had 10 per cent growth in our participation numbers this year. We have got 22,000 women taking part and 15,000 umpires in the system in WA.

Trick of the trade

You have to focus on what’s important, not always what’s urgent. Quite often we make that trade-off, because if we’ve got a game this weekend and absolutely have to have something done, there’s an immovable deadline – the game kicks off at 2.10pm and it absolutely must happen.

This article is from the December 2014 issue of INTHEBLACK