Members Q AND A – Maeve Buckley

Sport for Business is all about the people within our community. The people that compete, the people that support, the people that make commercial partnerships work and the people that keep the whole sporting circus on the road.

We want to introduce you to those people, to get to know them and where they come from, what gets them excited and what they enjoy about working in our sector.

Today we meet up with Maeve Buckley, founder of the Leading Sport Agency based in Cork City but focused on the world.

Tell us who you are and what you do in the business of sport?

I am Maeve Buckley, Director of Leading Sport, a sports consultancy that works with Sports Federations and National Governing Bodies, rights holders, businesses involved in sport, Government/, Local Authorities and Third Level institutions on sports projects.

My clients are domestic like Sport Ireland and Cork Institute of Technology; and international including UEFA and FIBA.

I specialise in strategic development, as well as performance, participation and grassroots, governance, commercial and marketing, and public affairs.

I am also a Board Member of the Federation of Irish Sport, and a Director of Line Up Sports.

Give us one or two things you have done in getting to where you are in 2020 that you feel were of importance?

Internationalising my business has been both important and interesting for me – I work with a number of international federations based in Switzerland, such as UEFA, and will travel internationally on their behalf to work with their member associations around the world.

It has given me great professional experience, and helped me understand how well regarded the Irish are internationally in the sporting sector.  It has also helped spread the risk of my business, so I am not just dependent on the domestic market.

What excites you about working in the business of sport?

Sport is almost always positive and is an inspiring sector to work in.  The people within the sector reflect that positivity and are inspirational to be around – physically and mentally fit and challenging to be around, in a good way!

The sector is dynamic and the progression happening on the digital side, on e-sports, on sports tech, is all world class.  Sport has some of the most iconic brands, personalities and events, and can unify the world like little else can.

And what would you find to be an occasional (or regular) frustration?

The sector is still professionalising and has come a huge way over the last generation. However at times (although less and less so) it can be seen as a hobby, rather than a profession.

This is especially the case for coaches and those in the technical end of the game, but it impacts across all the industry as many parts of the industry remain under-resourced.

On the other hand it has been a satisfaction (my dictionary tells me that is the antonym of frustration) to see how far the Women in Sport story has moved .. still some way to go, but it’s no longer an oddity to be a woman in the business, which is great.

What are some of the things you have on your work agenda for the next twelve months?

Covid 19 has thrown us all a huge curveball and sport in particular, but notwithstanding that issue, I expect to be undertaking some international work with federations and back travelling when possible.

I am working on an e-learning project currently, together with a number of others, based on the Business of Sport, which is due to launch this summer.  I work with a number of domestic clients, including National Governing Bodies and institutions such as the RDS and CIT, and will work with them in how best to respond to this crisis.

My board work with the Federation gives me the opportunity to support Irish sport in its totality, and I also chair the Commercial and Communications Committee within the Federation.

The Federation has done great work in supporting members through the Covid crisis and we will make sure the show goes on, such as through the Irish Sport Industry Awards, delivered together with Sport for Business, with Rob Hartnett chairing those awards.

And give us one thing that you would like to achieve in a personal capacity?

Cork City Marathon! I ran Dublin in 2018 and was planning on Cork in 2020 – it has been deferred to September and am hoping it still takes place.

Outside of your own sport give us one event in an Irish and one in an international context that you would like to experience?

In an Irish context, I would like to go to a Munster Hurling final… to my shame I have never been to the MHC final and I need to right that wrong soon!

In an international context, I would love to go to the FIFA World Cup – I have been to the Euros (both men’s and women’s, absolutely class) and the Rugby World Cup (ditto) so World Cup (men’s or women’s) next off the bucket list.

Give us one sporting partnership over recent years that you admire?

It has to be Nike and the FIFA Women’s World Cup activation – Dream Further.  I know they have massive budgets but what they pull off is world class.  Always so aspirational and with really high production values, and most importantly felt genuine.

And one individual that you really respect?

David McHugh – I have known Dave since we were teenagers and we worked together for many years.  He tells it like it is and has a really practical way of finding solutions and getting things done. And he is usually good for a few laughs as well. I value his advice and always appreciate catching up with him.

Tell us something about you that people might not know?

I sailed around a big chunk of Australia in my early 20s.  I was living in Oz and looking for my next adventure – I saw an ad for a catamaran looking for crew in Cairns and jumped on board there and sailed onwards with the boat to Darwin, via Arnhem land and across the Gulf of Carpentaria.  An incredible life experience.

What is the thing about being a member of Sport for Business that you get the most from?

I really value getting the newsletter everyday – it makes me feel connected and on top of things. I always enjoyed the networking at the live events – my short term goal for the next few weeks is to connect in more to the webinar and online events.

I also really value working with Rob Hartnett – we worked recently together on the Cork sports business network – and his advice and opinions.

And our Quickfire round to finish off…

Hurling/Camogie or Football?


Football or Rugby World Cup


Twitter or Instagram?


Night in or a night out?

Night out

Early bird or night owl?

Early bird

Favourite meal?


Favourite Movie in the past twelve months?

Spies in Disguise.  I love the cartoon movies with the kids.

Favourite Song on your playlist?

All I Do by Stevie Wonder

Favourite Book you’ve read in the past year?

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown – the story of the US rowing team that won gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

Sporting Hero?

Rhys McClenaghan (I know he is very young yet to be a hero, but I love the attitude and the potential)

If you are a member of Sport for Business and would like to take part in our Sport for Business Chats, email us today and we will be in touch.

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