THE SPIRIT OF THE GAME

The dictionary definition of a "stakeholder" is "One who has a share or an interest in an enterprise" and whilst this column is normally reluctant to descend into Business School gobbledygook, it is quite a useful concept when we look at sport.

By Paddy Briggs

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Published: Wed 7 Apr 2004, 2:24 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 12:31 AM

A key role of sports administrators is to try and reach an equitable balance when reconciling the (sometimes conflicting) interests of all the sport's stakeholders.

These stakeholders include the players; the spectators (at the event and watching on television); the coaches and managers; the media (especially live television); the sponsors and advertisers and all those responsible for the long-term health of the sport itself.

In professional sport, at the club or team level, there are also often the team owners or franchise holders to be taken into consideration. When seen in this way it is not surprising that these administrators are so often in the firing line (including from this column!) and why trying to run a sport can be such a thankless task. Nevertheless modern sport could not take place if there was not effective management at national and international level and it is vital that this management has clearly defined priorities and objectives.

Historically those in positions of power have often sought to help resolve the dilemma of how to choose between competing interests or priorities by creating a constitution, which binds them for the future. Thus the founding fathers of the United States of America drafted the American Constitution, which "held these truths to be self-evident". Subsequently, whenever a political issue was encountered, those seeking to resolve the problem could refer to the constitution and if one course of action was "non constitutional" then it could not be allowed. In the modern world some businesses seek to follow this example by creating "Business Principles" to which they seek to abide. And sporting administrators do the same - here, for example, is the International Cricket Council's "Mission Statement":

"As the international governing body for cricket, the International Cricket Council will lead by promoting the game as a global sport, protecting the spirit of cricket and optimising commercial opportunities for the benefit of the game". They go on to say that "This statement highlights the ICC's four key responsibilities; leadership, promoting the globalisation of cricket, maintaining and enhancing the traditional spirit of the game, and ensuring the commercial prosperity of cricket".

It is instructive to dissect this "Mission Statement" in the context of an analysis of cricket's stakeholders. Where are the players and the spectators for example? The financial stakeholders get a pretty good mention 'though don't they? "Promoting the game" and "Optimising Commercial opportunities" and "ensuring the commercial prosperity of cricket" feature rather strongly!

The ICC's statement does include mentions of the "sprit of cricket" and the "traditional spirit of the game" but what do these self-important phrases mean? They are certainly not defined anywhere. And the reality, of course, is that the weasel words mean nothing for the ICC has no values or principles. If they adhered to anything other than the pursuit of commercial opportunities not only would they say so but their actions would provide evidence that this was the case. You will not find the words, and you will not find the actions no matter how hard you look.

"The International Cricket Council is the governing body for cricket worldwide and as such its primary task is to ensure that players, spectators, officials and all others who support the game at the international level have a sport that is valued, respected and admired.

The ICC will seek to maintain a commercial basis to the sport which is healthy, but which does not compromise a commitment to operate in a manner, which respects the rights of all of its stakeholders. In promoting, developing and governing cricket the ICC will at all times adhere to the sprit and values of the United Nations charter and will never bring cricket into disrepute by taking actions which contradict with this charter."

Wishful thinking? Maybe. But how refreshing it would be if an international sport set an example in this way and overtly recognised that it operates not in some reality of its own making - but in the real world.



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