Ameet Bains on why 2018 is a happy new year for him
Ameet Bains can’t remember a time in his life without football. The newly appointed Western Bulldogs CEO was an avid player as he grew up in Bendigo. He played, followed the game with passion, and then went on to become the first person of Indian origin to be appointed CEO of any elite sporting club in any major Australian sporting code.
Seven years ago, he swapped Carlton’s blue footy jumper to red and black, when he began working for St Kilda Football Club, and now leads the Bulldogs into 2018.
Having moved to Bendigo in the 1970s, Bains says he was lucky that his father encouraged him to play footy. “I know a lot of Indian migrants find it hard to adapt to the game, but in my case we went to many AFL matches and I played a lot of footy growing up,” he says. Bains in fact, graduated from Melbourne Grammar as the school’s first ever Indian origin School Captain, before turning to studying law. He then worked as a lawyer in town at Minter Ellison a number of years ago before getting back in the footy game.
Bains, who is proud of his Indian background and Punjabi heritage, hopes it will be something that will draw Indians to the game. “With me at Western Bulldogs now, I hope Indians, especially the Punjabis settled in the western corridor of Melbourne will support and play footy,” he says.
“In many ways AFL football is the heartbeat of Melbourne. I hope my involvement can encourage others in Indian community to follow suit,” adds Bains, who has stated that there is a possibility of hosting AFL fixtures in India sometime in the near future, which he believes will be easy because of the “natural affiliation Indians have for all sports”.
Bains speaks to The Indian Sun on the year ahead
What attracted you to this Bulldogs CEO role?
There were a couple of key aspects, I suppose—one was just looking at the club and what it stands for, the club’s values. I thought it was a strong alignment with what I believe in, and then second, in terms of what the club was looking for in its next CEO, I felt I was well positioned to deliver that.
Having had that vast role at St. Kilda with a number of responsibilities, and having contacts within the AFL industry, does that help in this role here at the Bulldogs?
It certainly does. I think for any senior role in the industry, having had that experience, and as you say, that level of relationship with many different stakeholders it’s pretty important and it helps the transition coming into this role and certainly at St.Kilda I was fortunate enough to have a broad portfolio as well which has prepared me in some degree for the CEO’s role.
Obviously you got announced as CEO at the Bulldogs and then had to finish off at the Saints, including draft night, that would have been slightly awkward with the Bulldogs guys sitting across the table?
When I got appointed I obviously stayed at the Saints to help finish off some commercial matters but stepped out of the football department, and it was the first draft that I hadn’t been at the table, so sitting in the audience was awkward. But then keeping an eye on what St. Kilda was doing knowing that the club had planned for that night for the year was one thing, then obviously keeping a close eye on our team, and Simon and the recruiting team and what we were doing was also a big thing.
So you’ve arrived this week. What does the first couple of weeks look like for a new CEO?
A lot of information, a lot of people to meet and get familiar with. It’s obviously quite close to Christmas so there is only so much that can be done this side of returning in January but the primary thing for me is getting to know the people and what makes them tick.
And financially you see that the club is in a pretty strong position, which is pleasing.
It’s fantastic coming into a club that is in a really healthy and stable position. It’s a real testimony to Gary and the leadership team and the whole club really in terms of the performance over 2017, and the Board as well since winning the flag.
Just finally, you must have converted your family into Bulldogs fans already?
They’ve switched pretty quickly. I’ve got a seven-year-old daughter and a five-year-old son and the Club sent them a care package with various Bulldogs paraphernalia a couple of weeks ago. My son has barely taken off his Bulldogs jumper and Bulldogs cap in the last couple of weeks. So it was a lot easier switch than I thought it might be.