Why James Kitching was destined to kick goals in business

South Australian Business News
Jake Spain
Tuesday, May 28th 2024

Traditionally, successful athletes and businesspeople are said to possess similar traits like: motivated’, hardworking’ and disciplined’, but for James Kitching, none of his success in the sports business world would be possible without having a genuine passion and love for what he does.

James is the Managing Director of FC Sports — a boutique sports advisory business, which services the international sports industry on governance, regulation, strategy, integrity, and education.

From humble beginnings as the club secretary at his amateur soccer club in Adelaide, to being recruited to be the Director of Football Regulatory at FIFA, James joined the ThirtyNiners podcast to explain why he credits his success to not only his passion for sport, but also, his desire to continue to learn from those he admired.

I knew I always wanted to pursue a career in sport, either from a legal side using that background, or from an administrative side and moving through the administrative ranks. 

After I graduated (law degree), I felt like I needed to develop my skills and a lot of the advice that I got from people in the industry was that you need to develop your soft skills outside of sport first, and then bring them into sport”.

This is where James’ journey of self-development begun as he first moved to Melbourne to broaden his sports business network before he was then given the opportunity to complete a FIFA master’s degree run by a school in Switzerland – an experience that changed his career trajectory forever.

I ended up as part of my degree interviewing a number of key people in the industry to produce my thesis. At the end of it, one of those people just happened to be the current CEO of Football Australia. 

When I interviewed him, he was the director of international relations at the Asian Football Confederation and for whatever reason after our interview he remembered who I was, and when I graduated, he gave me a call and said I have a consulting gig and I need someone to come out to Kuala Lumpur for a month.

One month turned into two months, turned into three, and then I ended up living in Kuala Lumpur and working at the Asian Football Confederation for five and a half years”.

Amidst a successful career at the Asian Football Confederation and then working for the peak footballing body in the world; FIFA, James, his partner, and their new daughter moved back to Australia during the pandemic to be closer to family and establish FC Sports.

It was great to move back and be closer to family and really having that opportunity in the post-COVID world to be able to do the same kind of stuff that I’ve been doing for the last 12 – 15 years from Adelaide.

I think COVID showed the world that you don’t need to be all in the same room in an ivory tower to be able to get stuff done”.

Whilst James had an extensive international business network, he realised he didn’t have the same network in Australia let alone Adelaide, so despite his expertise, he was once again passionate about learning from those he admired. 

Once getting back to Adelaide, I realised I didn’t have a lot of business connections let alone business owners of a similar age who were successful in their own right.

I had done things a certain way in business coming from sport and understood how that world works. But the business world in Australia was still something which was very foreign to me.

So I jumped at the opportunity to connect with people who are in that space, and I have loved being able to learn how they move and work in Adelaide, and that was one of the main motivations for joining ThirtyNiners cohort — as I really want to be around people who are going to make a difference in this State”.

To listen to the full incredibly interesting conversation with James Kitching, listen to the ThirtyNiners Podcast by the South Australian Business Chamber, search for it wherever you hear your podcasts.


Jake Spain

Marketing and Communications Executive
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