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David Szlezak | Managing director, EHF Marketing

David Szlezak was among the 10 executives whose work in 2018 we believe indicates the direction of the sports business in 2019 and beyond.

When the MP & Silva agency’s crisis reached breaking point in 2018, it could have represented a significant problem for the European Handball Federation, whose deal with its long-standing media-rights partner brought in a guaranteed income of €8m ($9m) annually and had a further two years left to run.

Instead, EHF Marketing (the commercial arm of European handball’s governing body) and its managing director, David Szlezak, grasped the opportunity to secure the future of handball in Europe for the next decade.

The joint venture created between the EHF, sports marketing agency Infront and Perform Group-owned broadcaster DAZN increased the value of the EHF’s global media and marketing rights by an unprecedented 300 per cent in one fell swoop. Worth up to €600m to the federation until 2030, the agreement is by far the biggest in the sport’s history.

Szlezak led the negotiations from the EHF Marketing side, and oversaw the strategy that saw the EHF capitalise on the growing demand for both its national-team and club competitions, bundling the rights for the two together, ensuring that the production costs of every biennial European Championship and annual Champions League events are covered for the period from 2020-2030.

“We realised that there are changes and possibilities on the market, we saw there was big money on the market,” he told SportBusiness Media at the time. “We thought that if we bundled our national competitions with our club competitions then we would get a leverage effect. This 100 per cent came true.”

The deal also represented major vindication for Szlezak’s decision to invite joint bids, something that the EHF had previously been reluctant to do, preferring to deal separately with MP & Silva for its media rights and Infront for its marketing.

“His main achievement surely was the successful media and marketing rights tender (2020-2030) for all EHF club and national-team competitions. He played a crucial role not only during the tender process, but, even more importantly, during the preparation and strategy phase of the tender. He was one of the few – together with the EHF president – who strongly supported the vision to consolidate the club and national-team competitions and look for a long-term partner for European handball. It was a very difficult task for David and his team but the result was the 10-year deal with DAZN/Infront, an extraordinary achievement, boosting handball as a sport to the number two position in Europe after football when it comes to commercial revenues,” said Sascha Kojic, founder & chief executive, SN1 Consulting.

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Our other nine trailblazing executives are:

Adam Silver | Commissioner, NBA

Alfredo Bermejo | Digital strategy director, LaLiga

Barney Francis | Managing director, Sky Sports

Darren Eales | President, Atlanta United

Joanna Adams | Chief executive, England Netball

Kerry Bubolz | President, Vegas Golden Knights

Laura Froelich | Senior director, head of US content partnerships, Twitter

Sean Jefferson | Director of partnerships, Man United

Simon Denyer | Chief executive, DAZN Group

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