In the second of a two-part series looking at the best and brightest Jews in sport, The AJN picks five of the most influential sporting administrators leading the way for their clubs or codes.
Frank Lowy (Australia)
Besides surviving the Nazis, fighting for Israel during the Independence War, amassing a $7 billion fortune from his Westfield shopping centre empire, the 83-year-old is widely credited with revitalising football in Australia. As the chairman of Football Federation Australia (FFA), Lowy was key in the reinvention of the national competition, the A-League, which is about to celebrate its 10th anniversary and experienced record crowds and TV numbers last year. Australia’s membership in the Asian Football Confederation is also thanks to Lowy, who stepped aside as FFA chairman in 2011, after leading an unsuccessful bid for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which was controversially given to Qatar amid bribery allegations.
Roman Abramovich (Russia)
One of the more visible owners in world football, the Russian billionaire took over English Premier League giant Chelsea FC in 2003. After making his money in the murky aftermath of the Soviet Union collapse, Abramovich purchased Chelsea and embarked on an ambitious overhaul. Unlike many owners, he is known for his passion for the sport, and directly influencing players and management. Abramovich’s lavish spending on players, including sanctioning the 2007 transfer of Andriy Shevshenko for a then British record of $55 million, changed the transfer market in Europe. Since the takeover, Chelsea has won two Premier League titles, the FA Cup four times, as well as the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League.
Bud Selig (USA)
Set to retire at the end of this season, the Major League Baseball (MLB) commissioner steps down from a role he has held since 1992. The 80-year-old has spearheaded America’s pastime into the modern era and is credited for the financial turnaround of baseball with a 400 per cent increase in MLB revenue and record-breaking attendance numbers. Selig also endured the league’s steroid debacle, which took place from 2005 to 2007, and despite being widely criticised for not taking stronger action earlier, he pledged to rid baseball of performance-enhancing drugs and his wish to stay in office was supported by owners. Other notable changes Selig oversaw abolish separate American and National leagues and joining them into a single entity with two conferences.
David Blatt (Israel)
After steering Maccabi Tel Aviv Electra to one of the most unlikely and inspiring Euroleague titles in May 2014, the 55-year-old American, who is now a naturalised Israeli citizen, became the first coach to make a direct leap from Europe to an NBA head coaching job. On top of this unprecedented promotion, Blatt’s new role at the Cleveland Cavaliers sees him helm a squad headlined by one of the world’s greatest players, LeBron James. Along with perennial Cavalier all-stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, Blatt has a realistic chance to add an NBA title in his rookie coaching season to five Israeli League championships, one Italian League title, and a 2014 Euroleague coach of the year.
Adam Silver (USA)
Jews like to keep things in the family, so naturally, in February 2014, after 30 years as NBA commissioner David Stern was replaced at the helm of the world’s premier basketball league by the 51-year-old Silver. A lifelong New York Knicks fan, Silver had begun working for the NBA in 1992. In 2014, just two months after he assumed the role of commissioner, the NBA was embroiled in a racism scandal, which saw Silver swiftly ban Jewish Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling from the league for life and fine him $2.5 million for making bigoted comments. If the previous tenure is any indication, Silver is in for a (very) long and fruitful role as commissioner, with his well-known love for basketball certain to take the game to even greater heights.