After being appointed sporting director of the Vancouver Whitecaps in November, it was clear to those within the organization that Axel Schuster had more to offer than just on the sporting side.
With that in mind, as well as consolidating executive roles, Whitecaps co-owner and executive chair Jeff Mallett announced the decision to add CEO to Schuster's job title on Tuesday, replacing Mark Pannes, who has now departed the club. Despite revenues being down due to the global pandemic, Mallett insists this decision was not made with finances in mind.
“This is the opposite of a dollar decision," Mallett told reporters on a video conference call. "It doesn’t change anything, we continue to be one of the clubs that hasn’t made any reduction to pay or changes. This was about how we can continue to focus and make decisions.”
Instead, Mallett has invested in Schuster by expanding his responsibility.
“This is a decision to be the most effective club," Mallett said. "When you look at it, Axel’s leadership ability went far beyond what we expected. The last 100 days have turned our world upside down. From there it was clear we wanted to go to one voice. Mark did a great job, no question ... it was not an easy decision to make. When we made the decision to go to one clear leader, Axel was the clear choice. He’s a classically trained leader that has inspired all of us, me included, to rally around a common sense of foundation, direction and processes.”
Schuster has no qualms over his list of duties, which was already large as sporting director, particularly because he feels the sporting side of the club is so well set now. He is comfortable and trusts the group around him and says the current roster is not seeking any additions, leaving Schuster ample time to focus on CEO tasks at first.
“I feel very comfortable to take my time and find the right set-up," Schuster said. "I would be concerned if I was in a total different situation on the sporting side. It’s a question of organization, set-up and a leadership team that works with me together. I was always a team player, I don’t only make decisions on my own. I rely on my leadership group everywhere, I have a very good leadership group on the sporting side.”
Schuster will lead the club forward as we get through a global pandemic.
“We have to be super-efficient with every text, every email, every contract," Mallett said. "In the path of losing one billion-plus dollar across the league and looking tough next year, our job is making sure we’re ready to grow. Axel is the one we’re going to rally around.”