The Politics of Sport Could Learn from the Sport of Politics

If sports people are to be held up as role models, then so too should our politicians and leaders of industry. Equally if our politicians are to be held accountable and expected to be transparent with how they spend tax payers money, and any freebies they may receive as a result of their position, should not sports administrators be expected to live by the same rules? After all they are accountable for monies given by parents, clubs and players of the various sports.

The whole scandal surrounding the Lord Mayor of Perth, Lisa Scaffidi and her travel expenses raises a number of issues that possibly should apply to those administering sport.

It was interesting Wednesday evening listening to Stephen Mayne, the founder of Crikey, talking on the Drive show on the ABC, about ‘ethical disclosure.’

He stated that transparency builds confidence, and most people would agree with that statement. One of the criticisms from people involved in a number of sports is the lack of transparency. From that is spawned mistrust and speculation as to what is going on. Often rumours, true and false, can spread as a result of misinformation and these exacerbate the situation.

Mayne is a member of the Council of the City of Melbourne and chairs the Finance and Governance Committee.

He revealed that the City of Melbourne put on their website audio of Council meetings, as well as the minutes of the meetings. He also went on to say that no organisation today had any excuse for not making the minutes of meetings accessible via their websites.Yet how many sporting organisations have minutes of their meetings available?

If you talk to people involved with clubs in a number of sporting organisations,-and Not The Footy Show has tried in the past,- obtaining minutes of the Board meetings of sporting organisation is nigh on impossible. The question is why? If Government bodies can be open about their dealings, what have sporting bodies got to fear?

It is all about transparency, and surely stakeholders in sport have the right and deserve to know what issues are being discussed and how members of the board are voting.

Equally, although it is unlikely that local spots clubs are going to fly Board members to the Olympic Games, clubs have been known to try and ‘oil the wheels’ by wining an dining board members. The CEO of one sport spent Christmas day with the President of one club. Now that could have been, and probably was, generous hospitality on behalf of the club president, but did the CEO declare such hospitality? Was it on the record, so that there could be no accusations of favours in return down the track?

As we saw in February last year the Board of Healthway was forced to resign over the misuse of VIP tickets. This raised the question again of the appropriateness of board members of state organisations accepting VIP tickets to events. Are they there in an official capacity? In which case they should file a report post event disclosing what was discussed, so that down the track there can be no accusation of favours being done.

In the Healthway case there were questions asked as to whether it was appropriate that the Board members took their children to such events. A similar question could apply. If the children are in attendance does that mean that it is no longer a business perk?

There are two schools of thought. One is to adopt a policy whereby Board members and Committee members do not accept any free invitations. The other is to be like the City of Melbourne and have complete disclosure so that everyone who wishes to know what is happening can find out easily.

As Stephen Mayne said on the show it is all about being ethical in the eyes of those that you represent.

If you have ethical disclosure policies then you will in turn be running a transparent organisation. With transparency comes trust, and suddenly once you have gained that trust you will find it is far easier to achieve your objectives, as there is less opposition, simply as a result of that trust.

They say never mix politics and sport, but sometimes the two do cross over, and with so many sports so reliant on Government funding the two are becoming far closer aligned than many realise.

The Politics of Sport Could Learn from the Sport of Politics
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