De la Guerre is proud of her tenure at NSA

netball17 March 2023 08:17| © SuperSport
article image
Blanche de la Guerre © Gallo Images

Outgoing Netball South Africa Chief Executive Officer, Blanche de la Guerre is pleased that her tenure at the federation is ending with a bang. After the Vitality Netball World Cup, De la Guerre will bow out of the sport after serving close to two decades in different capacities.

NSA last year opened up applications for the CEO position, however, it was later decided that De la Guerre should continue in the post until after the global tournament which will run from 28 July to 6 August in Cape Town. Helping bring the tournament to Africa for the first time is one of her most cherished moments in serving the country.

De la Guerre says she is thrilled she will be in the front row to experience the World Cup that had evaded Africa for decades.

“I think that was at the right time and like a cherry on the cake because I was part of the initial discussions right from the beginning when World Netball, it was INF at the time, mentioned that we are ready. We had hosted the Quad Series twice and the opinion was we are ready as the country to host such a big event. So when the president (Cecilia Molokwane) mentioned that she would like me to stay on until after the World Cup, I received it with much appreciation although I think it’s the right time for me to leave,” says De la Guerre.

Apart from hosting the global tournament, the former Spar Proteas team manager is proud of how the sport has gained popularity again. Netball SA has also managed to build relationships with different brands that have come on board to sponsor and partner with the federation. Telkom, Twizza, Puma, Discovery SA and long-standing partner Spar have seen the importance of partnering with NSA. She stresses the importance of keeping strong relations with these stakeholders.

“It’s important to give value to our sponsors. People normally think that all the sponsors want the branding and be mentioned all over social media. There are different reasons why companies invest in the sport, specifically netball as a women’s sport. Some do it to create brand love and that to me is so important, that if a company comes to you to invest in the growth of women and to be part of the end success. The day that netball and the Spar Proteas turn fully professional, they feel proud that they could have been part of that. Keeping them informed, bad news, good news, and excellent news, it’s important to get the right people on board. We don’t want people to be there just for a moment, we are really fortunate that our sponsors are there for quite some time and that there are different investments,” she says

De la Guerre has seen the sport grow especially in the last few years which saw several players getting contracts overseas where they are playing professionally. She says this is one of the highlights of her tenure.

“There have been so many highlights but I think the biggest one is when we could start to play our players and now we are at a point that can even pay their medical aid. We’re armatures, we are not professionals. If you don’t understand what players are giving to be a Protea, then you will never understand the pressure they are under. Another highlight was in 2019 when we received all those awards acknowledgments at the SA Sports Awards and when the team did so well in 2019. That was such a happy moment. That was a highlight because of the effort that went in,” she says blissfully.

However, her biggest wish is to see the sport become fully professional in the country, she hopes the next chief executive will be able to achieve this. She reckons the next person to get into the hot seat will have to have passion for the sport but also be great with people which is important when it comes to maintaining relationships with different stakeholders in the sport.

“It’s time for somebody with new ideas and I hope we get somebody right (for the position). The important factor is that you need to love the sport. It must be a passion. You need to know the sport, need to know the dynamics and the people, that is first and foremost. Business experience, running a business, the acumen, the finances, your sponsors, it’s an ongoing process. You never stop. It’s daily communication with your stakeholders and taking care of the members, most of all, the Spar Proteas. You have to take care of their wellbeing but the admin to run a profitable federation with sponsors and limited income is a challenge. You need to understand that. Every day is cash flow projection, how are we doing, what do we need to pay, when are we paying what?

“The next CEO must love people and you need to respect people. That is so important. No one is bigger than anybody else. And please, you have to be able to understand the president and her personality. The president is the leader of the pack and you report to her. You have to be able to advise her correctly,” she explains.