The Quarterly Interview #33: Veronika Muehlhofer

The Austrian Veronika Muehlhofer is one of the leading figures in the sport of rugby today. She is the CEO of the Swiss Rugby Union, the national federation for the sports of Rugby in Switzerland, she sits in the Board of Rugby Europe, the continental federation, as well as on the Council for World Rugby, the international governing body for the sport. Additionally, she runs her own events consultancy company, Millionsports, which provides services to local organising committees of major events such as the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Veronika, a graduate from 4th edition of the FIFA Master (2003-04), started her career in sport quite early on, still when she was at Stanford University, in California, where she worked at their sports department, organising sports events. After graduating from the FIFA Master, Veronika joined the Organising Committee of the Torino 2006 Winter Olympic Games, as the Deputy Competition Manager for Ice Hockey. After the Games, she was recruited as Event Manager by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), where she stayed for approximately five years. After that, it was time for a bigger challenge. “In 2011 I decided to start my own company: Millionsports. I left the IIHF with excellent relations and they were actually my first client. I then applied to become a sub-contractor for London 2012, and those two first project really helped me to get my consultancy business off the ground”, Veronika recalls. Here is more of the talk with Veronika Muehlhofer:

FMA Quarterly: How has the current pandemic affected your work?

Veronika Muehlhofer: With the pandemic, all my events I had lined up in what is normally the busiest time of the year, between March and August, were cancelled within the space of just 3 days. As I was already used to a “Work from Anywhere” type of rhythm, long before the pandemic, my working style did not change much through the lock-down. However, while I normally travelled a lot to events and to meetings and conferences, that has certainly changed, with all meetings now held on Zoom or Teams or Skype.

During the pandemic, despite all sports and all events being cancelled, my work was very busy. I was working a lot for Swiss Rugby, and international rugby, in putting in place the lock-down measures in the first instance, and then the Return-to-Play measures and concepts in the second one. At the same time, I tried to make sure the 7 employees of the Swiss Rugby Union keep getting their salaries paid, and the organization stay alive and in business through the crisis, when it had to completely shut down all its activities. I was also invited to participate in various working groups dealing with the pandemic and its aftermath, both on the sport-technical side, as well as an organizational side and in media operations.

FMAQ: What will sport look like when this crisis is past? Will it go back to what it was?

VM: I think sport as it is played at the grassroots level will go back to the way it was before. Professional sports and events, however, will not go back to being exactly as before, and in part I think that’s a good thing. This type of disruption also provides an opportunity to rethink certain practices, and to improve the things which seemed to be rigidly stuck in their ways before. I think the biggest lesson is that every challenge also brings enormous opportunities, and that we need to be organizationally, culturally, mentally, and psychologically prepared to seize them.

FMAQ: What was your biggest achievement so far?

VM: There are a number of things I am proud of: delivering the men’s and women’s Olympic Ice Hockey tournaments in Torino 2006 under challenging circumstances, to the highest standard of quality and organization; being voted to the council of World Rugby; helping to found the Swiss Women’s national team and coaching it to its first European Championship qualification, and to a silver medal at the European Championship are some of them.

FMAQ: How important was the FIFA Master for your career?

VM: The FIFA Master has been instrumental for my career. It prepared me for a career in sports management and I would absolutely recommend it to anyone wishing to start a career in sports management.



Veronika Muehlhofer, Austrian

Founder and CEO at Millionsports, CEO at Swiss Rugby, Council Member at World Rugby

FIFA Master Class: 2004 

Favourite sport: Rugby, Skiing, Ice Hockey, Football

Favourite team: Swiss Rugby Team :-)

Favourite sport’s personality: Roger Federer

Favourite sport’s moment: Miracle on Ice.