Sporting leadership and the new CSR of Corporate Sporting Responsibilities

August 18, 2014

Sepp BlatterSporting participants, coaches and administrators face a set of overlapping challenges which collectively could be described as Corporate Sporting Responsibilities

Take a look at these recent sporting stories.

Drug cheating in sport

Drug cheating continues to plague a range of sports since the monumental fall from grace of Lance Armstrong.

In cycling, of the nine fastest sprinters in history only two , the Jamaicans Usain Bolt and Nesta Carther, have not been found guilty of contravening the sport’s drug regulations.

Corrupt practices

Administrative bodies have been accused of various corrupt practices in the award of major global sporting events.

Qatar’s award by FIFA of the 2022 World Cup has defied rational explanations in failure to take into account the health dangers of extreme temperatures later conceded as requiring serious concerns. Corruption accusations have been backed by commercial sponsors calling for release of results of an internal investigation.

Further accusations have been levelled against FIFA’s President Sepp Blatter. A Government committee in the UK was told that the Football Association would not be ‘wasting its time bidding’ for the World Cup as long as Blatter remains in post.

The Olympic Movement has repeatedly found its idealistic vision at odds with harsh political and financial realities. The recent Winter Olympics at Sochi began with demonstrations against Russia’s recently tightened discriminatory laws. These are said to be contrary to P6, the anti-discrimination proposition in the Olympic Charter.

During the games, accusations of bias were made against a judge whose score elevated a Russian figure-skater to gold medal status.

Corporate sporting responsibilities

Coaching of young athletes has also come under serious criticism.

In researching coaching leadership, I came across an article on a website dedicated to sporting excellence. It suggested widespread coaching abuse of young athletes by bullying coaches obsessed with winning. This chimed which some of my personal observations of amateur coaches including over-zealous touch-line parents.

The article drew my attention to the broader responsibilities of sports coaches and administrators to address the issues and dilemmas outlined in the examples above. The parallels with the emergence of the Corporate Social Responsibilities movement were too tempting to resist.

This sporting life

Any efforts to rescue sport would have to deal with criticisms made by the sociologist Lasch, nearly fifty years ago. Lasch, in The Lonely Crowd, wrote a classic analysis of the development of a culture of narcissism. In a chapter on The degradation of sport he describes how the athlete was increasingly becoming an entertainer, open to being bought and sold in what he describes as in “antagonistic cooperation” to teammates.

Perhaps a movement is required, a new form of CSR, whose principles will be incorporated into sporting charters and declarations. Participants are likely to be leaders in such a movement. Athletes have already stood up in many demonstrations against perceived injustices when administrators have taken a more cautious approach.

More importantly it may, like the original CSR, find expression in the beliefs and actions of a future generation of administrators, coaches, and sports players at all levels of excellence.


Leveson enquiry calls Olympic athletes to testify at court

August 9, 2012

Olympic athletes have been accused by the court of public opinion. We wondered how they might have been cross-examined at the Leveson enquiry

In a sensational extension to its original brief, the Levenson enquiry is calling Olympic athletes to court following reports of match-fixing. The first witness was tiddlywinks competitor Ryan Badboy-Kray, whose statement was examined by Robert Jay.

Robert Jay: Thank you for attending and giving up your valuable time Mr Badboy-Kray. Can we start confirming the personal details provided in your statement? You are Mr Ryan Badboy-Kray of Streatham, London. You state your occupation as professional athlete , and a member of the East Croydon Harriers club where you do your training.

Badboy-Kray: Yes, your honour. That is all correct.

Robert Jay: And you describe your athletic specialism as Tiddlywinks, in which you compete in the super-heavyweight classification.

Badboy-Kray: Correct. Since the age of fifteen when I got too big for the heavyweight class.

Robert Jay: Thank you. And in your career you have won national and international honours including a silver medal at the Commonwealth games in Manchester, and more recently a bronze medal at the Athens Olympic Games. You did not compete at the Beijing Olympics. Why was that?.
Badboy-Kray: I was detained at the pleasure of her Majesty at the time, and could not travel to China, although being based in Wandsworth, I was able to keep up my training.

Robert Jay: In August this year, you won through to represent Great Britain in the London Olympics. Can we go on now to the competition and the final qualifying round for entry into the finals of the event? The newspaper accounts seem consistent in saying that your performance level dipped remarkably from that of previous rounds. Would you agree? Also that your drop in form was accompanied by heavy betting on your opponent who was already eliminated from the competition.

Badboy-Kray: I don’t know nothing about the betting. But as for my performance, that was sadly the case. I was rubbish.

Robert Jay: Do you also agree that you were booed by the crowd, and the referee warned you for not trying hard enough?

Badboy-Kray: I have never not tried my best, your honour

Lord Leveson: [leaning forward] Can we be quite clear about the use of the double negative? Are you saying you knew nothing about the betting and that you always try hard, in every event you compete in?

Badboy-Kray: Yes M’lord. That is what I meant to say

Robert Jay: The newspapers thought differently. I have one headline which described you as a limp-wristed loser. Do you agree with that description?

Badboy-Kray: Er. I wouldn’t put it like that. No. Not at all

Robert Jay Then how would you put it, Mr Badboy-Kray?

Badboy-Kray: It was Tiddlers Wrist. It afflicts professional Tiddlers. It’s like tennis elbow.

Robert Jay: I see. Thank you. Now, turning to another matter I have been asked to put to you. In your post-match interview after you lost in the next round, you did not seem to indicate remorse for your failure, or gratitude to your coach and to the watching public.

Lord Leveson: [rather smugly] To medal, Mr Key. I believe the current term is to medal
Robert Key: I am most grateful M’lord. [turning again to camera, and to Mr B-K] Could you help us understand what has been described as your lack of remorse or gratitude displayed shortly after you failed to medal?

Badboy-Kray: As I stand before you, Sir, I was well-gutted. But it’s my upbringing. Badboy-Krays don’t cry even when there’s serious pain being inflicted . I am truly sorry I did not medal. For that I apologise most sincerely to my coaches, and the press, and the great British public who cheered me on at every wink. I let you all down. I am sincerely sorry.

Lord Leveson: Thank you very much Mr Badboy-Kray. That seems to clear it up nicely. There will now be a brief recess, before we take evidence from our next witness, Lord Sebastian Coe.


No Clay Pigeon Shooting

August 6, 2012

For many years in brainstorming sessions, Clay Pigeon Shooting was used as a metaphor for negativity towards new ideas. After Peter Wilson’s Olympic success, it’s time for a new metaphor

Clay Pigeon Shooting as a discipline had its day of glory at the London Olympics [August 2nd 2012]. I watched the unfolding of the Double Bore shooting, its formal title, with interest. Team GB celebrated the victory and gold medal earned by dead-eye Peter Wilson.

Clay Pigeons and Creative Ideas

Participants in brainstorming, as well as students passing through programmes for stimulating creativity will maybe remember the injunction “No Clay Pigeon Shooting”. It was used as a metaphor to counteract the widespread tendency for people to shoot down new ideas before they [the ideas] were given a chance to fly.

“Have you ever been in a meeting” the trainer would ask “and the moment a new idea was suggested, everyone else would raise their guns and blast it out of the air?” When everyone agreed (they usually did) the trainer would enlarge a little on the sport of Clay Pigeon Shooting, finishing with the words “So remember, in brainstorming, there’s ‘No Clay Pigeon Shooting’ … give ideas a chance to fly.”

Killer Phrases

The metaphor was offered part of a process of sensitizing participants in team training to the heinous practice of premature evaluation. Lists of killer phrases were compiled:

“that will never work”
“it will cost too much”
“not the sort of idea for our organization”
“too risky”

Yes But

The mother of all killer phrases on our courses was “Yes But”. I am still an advocate for encouraging team members to convert “Yes Buts” into more constructive ways of thinking about an idea. “Yes But that’s too dangerous” is worth reframing as “Yes And if we did this it could reduce the risks substantially without killing the basic idea”.

Don’t be negative about Clay Pigeon Shooting

Yesterday’s triumphant day at the Olympics for Peter Wilson suggests a need for a different metaphor to encourage team creativity. Suggestions welcomed.

Historical footnote

In the Paris Olympics of 1900, real pigeons were realeased. The Olympic family quickly spotted the incenveniences of the contest, not least to the pigeons. After some Yes Anding, the modern version developed. In another enlightned advance, cardboard animals were provided for shooters in the 1908 Olympics.