Parramatta Leagues incoming CEO interview with Parramatta Times editor

PARRAMATTA Leagues Club Interim CEO Chris Dimou has won the coveted role of permanent CEO after a rigorous search by the PLC Board. His appointment followed an extensive six-month appraisal of candidates by the seven-member board led by PLC President Greg Monaghan. Mr Monaghan announced the appointment to members in August. Parramatta Times editor, Mike Walls, sat down with Chris to ask him some questions. Read on –

Chris – You’ve taken over a key role in the Parramatta and broader Western Sydney community. Congratulations. How does it feel? And can you give our readers a sense of your professional background leading up this appointment?

  • Thank you, it’s a great honour to be appointed CEO of this iconic club. I have over 20 years’ experience in the Hospitality and Club industry and have worked in senior roles at two of the biggest Western Sydney Club. In my more recent roles at Parramatta COO and Acting CEO has given me a strong understanding of what is important in leading an iconic Parramatta organisation. I am looking forward to working with our strong skills-based board which is a major strength for our Club as we look to grow over the next few years.
  • What do you see as your priorities for Parramatta Leagues, short and longer term? Expansion, consolidation plans?
    • Our immediate focus is re-opening the club safely after lockdown and ensuring our staff are all vaccinated, and Members can return safely. Strategically our focus will be on executing our strategic plan and growing our engagement with members and the local community. We are also continuing to work on the club’s masterplan vision which include gaining approval for our hotel and our Eels Lane Development. This vision is about trying to build on the clubs geographic position next to Bankwest Stadium, the growing Parramatta CBD and the future Parramatta North precinct.
  • What have been the effects of Bankwest Stadium on the overall success of the club?
    • The Leagues Club has a natural and long-term relationship with the stadium precinct that has been forged over many decades – Eels members and fans consider the Leagues Club to be part of their natural overall gameday experience and this has now expanded beyond just Eels games – the Elton John and Cold Chisel concerts were some of the biggest event days at the Leagues Club. We want to build on that link even more but importantly we also want the entire precinct to be a destination in its own right – one that provides dining, entertainment and events for our members and customers
  • The club’s a key business in the Parramatta CBD. What are your views on the development and progress of the CBD?
    • We are very supportive of the work being done by the council and the State Government in enhancing the Parramatta CBD – the Parramatta CBD framework approved by the council, the focus on the Night-time Economy, the new Powerhouse Museum and Parramatta Square are all major steps forward which will enhance the ability for the CBD to become a major destination. But in addition to the focus around jobs and residential we need to have a complimentary vision of creating hubs for dining, entertainment and experiences so that people in Western Sydney can work, live and enjoy life within their own area.
  • Can you describe your vision for club members in the sense of adding value to their membership? Plans, initiatives.
    • We launched our strategic plan recently and there were a few key areas that will be central to our organisation. The first is that we want to be an organisation that brings our community together and supports local sport, charities and of course the Parramatta Eels – these things are important to our members and the more successful we are as business then the more support we can provide. We also want to increase the experience of our members and customers through the enhancement of facilities and making sure there are options for everyone – for instance Eels Lane is our new alfresco development which we think will be a great addition to our dining options. At a group level we also want to develop a network of premium hospitality, entertainment, sporting, complementary businesses across Western Sydney – even with the current challenges of COVID we are in a good financial position, and we think its time to grow our business to ensure that we can offer more for our members and customers.
  • COVID has affected all businesses. How has PLC handled it?
    • Like all businesses COVID has been challenging however our major focus has been on our staff, our members and supporting our community. We have been offering takeaway and online bingo for Members and guests and making calls to Members to just check in and see how they are going. In addition, we have sent care packages to our members especially in the LGA’s of concern.  We have also been using our kitchen to prepare and package meals for our community partners including Ronald McDonald House, Parramatta Mission and PCYC – this goes to our role as a community asset and something we believe is a core function to who we are. From a club view we look forward to working with Government on a safe reopening plan – we have had good discussions with Government and other Western Sydney stakeholders, and we think that through this dialogue we can have a strong plan to not only reopen safely but drive a strong recovery for Parramatta. It’s important that we work collaboratively to ensure all businesses can regain confidence over the next few months.
  • You work closely with the Eels. Can you give our readers a sense of how this relationship works?
    • The relationship between the Leagues Club and the Eels is very strong. Both the Eels and the Leagues Club have benefited from the governance reforms put in place that mean we now have strong stability at the Board and management level. The strong financial performance of the Eels is helping the Leagues Club by providing more opportunities to invest back in our business. However, we are always there to support the Eels – it’s in our DNA and I am sure we will be working even closer together going forward
  • Your leadership style. How would you describe it? And your team, how many etc.
    • We have a high performing leadership team of eight, which look after over 200 employees over both venues at Parra Leagues club site and Vikings Sports Club in Dundas.  The most important asset in any organisation should be its people, and I believe this is true at Parra Leagues. My leadership style is collaborative, and I encourage everybody to have a voice and share ideas so that we can work together towards our key goals. I also believe that as a leader my role to ensure we maintain a strong focus on our strategic future and managing the change that is needed to make us a better organisation.
    • Thanks so much Chris.

Images: Artist impressions of Eels Lane.


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