Operation 100: the end or a new beginning?

Followers of this blog will likely know about my project over the last 6 months to decrease my weight to 100kgs. I have been charting the course of my weight loss journey at my other blog Operation100.com and posted the “final” post of this 6 month adventure there just now (http://operation100.com/2013/06/30/day-181-the-end-or-a-new-beginning/).


Today brings with it two things: a continuation of the goals of Operation 100 (given that I still have 6.1kgs to go) and a new challenge (training for a half marathon). If you are interested in how I go with this keep an eye on the Operation100.com website which I will be continuing to update with all things dietary and training.

Kurtley Beale: can I have his employment contract? Or that of any “sportstar” for that matter?

I have watched with a mix of astonishment and bemusement at the latest round of drama that seems to follow Australian Rugby Union player Kurtley Beale wherever he goes. For those who missed the drama of the week was Beale and is oft partner in crime, James O’Connor, being caught at a hamburger restaurant at 4am in the aftermath of the Melbourne Rebels’ defeat by the British and Irish Lions on Tuesday night. There was, apparently, no alcohol involved but they were still out eating a hamburger at 4am four days before they were due to play in a test match.

Kurtley Beales other indiscretions have been well documented but are worth rementioning: an assault charge that was settled at mediation, punching two of his (now former) teammates whilst on tour with his (also now former) Super Rugby franchise and then a breach of strict alcohol rules are the known behavioural issues that have faced Beale in the last 18 months. I am all for people being given second chances and now that Beale is seemingly on his fifth chance with the ARU I have had a moment of pause to consider this question: if Beale was employed by anyone other than the Australian Rugby Union would he still be employed?

I have already written in an earlier blog about the special treatment received (having both positive and negative impacts on them) in the context of poor behaviour. I have also written about the presumption of innocence and how important it is to remember that presumption in the context of the regular imbroglios sports stars seem to find themselves presently.

All that said, I think it is pretty obvious that the answer to the question posed in the preceding is a resounding “NO”. Let’s put Beale’s conduct in the context of someone who works in a professional context. I am happy to use myself as the guinea pig here: I work for a large firm in the city. My working hours are malleable but are generally between 7:45am and 6:30pm with a couple of days of work on weekends a month the norm. I have a team of 11 people that work for me and sit in a broader team of about 70 people. I am bound by a contract of employment with my employer that regulates my conduct during work hours and also, as is standard, requires me to follow the lawful directions of my employer.

Starting then with the obvious, I can never recall any occasion during my 15 year career in the work force where I have had moment to be out until 4am and then stop to grab a burger on a work night? Perhaps on the way to work before a large mediation or if I have a heap of work on maybe but not because I felt like going out and meeting up with some mates. How could any professional function in their job after, obviously, no sleep the night before.

The assault charge is a difficult one: I am fairly sure that my employer, or any employer in the professional work force, would be extremely displeased with an employee being charged with assault. I am unsure as to whether such a scenario would be grounds for immediate dismissal but I am pretty sure the said employee would be at least given a formal warning.

Then we turn to the combination of punching a fellow team mate and then ignoring a direction not to drink: can anyone think of any context in which an employee in a professional context would survive with his or her job intact after having a drunken brawl with two of his / her colleagues? I am pretty sure if I punched one of my fellow directors and one of the partners (given that G Delve was captain of the team at the time) on a boozy night out I would not be receiving just a warning: my employment would be terminated. If, however, I did survive and receive a warning on the condition that my employment would continue on the proviso that I not break the team rules again then surely breaking said rules would mean that I would be terminated and have to find a new job wouldn’t it? I have no doubt it would.

Sportstars are regularly crying that we (being the fans and the media) do not “understand how much pressure they are under”. Forgive me for not giving any sympathy: after all said sportstars are paid to play sport. The other regular refrain from sportstars and their apologists are that they are held to a higher standard because of the “celebrity” and that is unfair. With all due respect to those who push that argument: how can you say that when, in fact, it would appear based the available evidence that sportstars are held to a lower standard by their employers than anyone else who had a professional job in this country?

My gripe here is not with Kurtley Beale and his mate O’Connor: I am not surprised that they were caught out (again). My gripe is with the spinelessness of their employers. Actually, it is worth noting that my gripe is not just with the ARU at this juncture because afterall we have, in recent times also had the displeasure of seeing the following conduct rewarded with continued employment (by the governing body of the game):

1. Semi-regular abuse of opposing players, abuse of journalists doing their job and punching an opposing player (David Warner); and
2. Complete and open disregard for the authority of one’s employer, failing to follow a direction not to drink alcohol before training and sending a photographic message to one’s coach of your contempt for him (Josh Dugan).

The governing bodies of the sports we love are doing themselves and those that they employ who do the right thing a disservice by not handling these matters like any other employer would. How will players who behave badly or, indeed, just stupidly ever learn their lesson if they are not punished as someone in everyday life would be? A semi-regular refrain from those in sport is that they just want to be treated like regular every day people but they can not have their metaphorical cake and eat it to; viz., if they want to be treated like everyone else they also must be treated like everyone else when it comes to their employment and NOT with the special treatment they seem to presently receive.

I am not talking about forcing people out of sport because they make a mistake here and I am a massive believer of second chances in life. Getting a second chance though comes with it learning from ones mistakes and I question how someone receiving the special treatment when it comes to appointment that sportstars do will ever learn from their mistakes? Getting caught out at 4am 4 days before a test match indicates that Kurtley Beale has not learned his lesson.

All that said: how good would it be to be on the same sort of contract that Beale and others must be on which entitles them to, seemingly, do whatever they want whenever they want without thought to the consequences? I wonder where I can get one of them?

Life Lessons from Denis Wright

Many of you will be wondering: Who is Denis Wright? I was forwarded an article writen about him on news.com.au (http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/relationships/life-lessons-from-terminal-cancer-patient-denis-wright/story-fnet09p2-1226671303372) earlier today and have spent a lot of my time since reading his blog (http://deniswright.blogspot.com.au/). What an inspirational bloke: I am not goint to say much about his story save that I implore you to have a read of the blog.

What really resonated with me, as I have been struck in recent days by a darker than usual shade of my black dog, were the life lessons he provided for the article published earlier today. I reproduce them (without any agreement or approval from anyone) here:

1. Don’t spend your life in a job you hate. Life is too short to live it only in the evening and at weekends.

2. If there’s something bad happening in your life you genuinely have no control over, learn all you can about it and how to live with it. Beating your head against a brick wall is unproductive.

3. If you think you can change it, then go all out to do so. Try to understand its nature and work with it where you can.

4. There are no ‘good’ and ‘bad’ decisions. If you made what you think might have been a poor choice in life, learn from it, and you might make a better one next time. You don’t know what’s going to turn out good or bad in the long run, so regrets are a waste of time.

5. Don’t agonise about the past, in the sense that you can’t change it. Live in the slice of time that’s the now. You can’t live in the moment; it’s too short. The slice is richer. It contains a little of past, present and future.

6. Apologise as soon as you can when you think you’ve hurt someone. Don’t try to pretend you’re perfect. Accept responsibility where it’s due.

7. Keep your options open for as long as possible. Don’t close them unnecessarily.

8. Try to keep your sense of humour if you can, though it’s not always possible.

9.Carpe Diem … Or, for a change, seize the day!

10. Do not be afraid of death. “If you’re not more afraid of your own death than you need to be, then you need have little fear for anything life can hand out.”

Some of these are pretty obvious but the one that reasonated with me most was number 2. It is time to stop bashing my head against the brick wall!

Mickey Arthur: just the tip of the iceberg?

Well the inevitable has finally happened: Mickey Arthur has been sacked as the Australian cricket coach. The only surprise, from my perspective, is that Cricket Australia has chosen to take this step some 16 days before the start of the Ashes series. Given the performances of the team of late, it strikes me that the writing was on the wall much earlier than this week.


Coach Arthur was appointed to coach the Australian cricket team after the much vaunted Argus Review into Australian cricket, the report of which was handed down on 19 August 2011. During Arthur's time at the helm Australia won 10 of their 19 test matches but coming into the present series in England had been on a streak of four losses. Further, there have been some significant, and obvious, signs that the culture within the Australian team has taken a backward step under Arthur's reign and, indeed, since the implementation of the Argus Review's recommendations.


Given what has happened in Australian cricket since the implementation of Argus, is it only Mickey Arthur who should be worried about his job? In my view, the removal of Mickey Arthur is only the start of what might be the largest shake up, not only since Argus, but in the history of the administration of the game in this country.


For a start, the manager of the team on tour, and on the tour of India that preceded it, Gavin Dovey, must be struggling to hold his position with team. He, along with Arthur, has presided over the management of incidents such as “homework gate” and Warner's punch, and some would say, as much as the coach, the manager of the team must take some responsibility for the lowering of the standards, culturally and behaviourally, of the team. Based on the only measure that really counts when it comes to judging the work of the manager of the team, the behaviour of the players, it could only be said that Dovey has not succeeded in his task.


One of the massive changes made to the structure of the management of cricket in Australia post Argus was the introduction of the role of General Manager: Team Performance to oversee the team, coaching, selection and Centre of Excellence. That post has been filled by Pat Howard since its inception. Given the breadth of the role and my understanding of the basis of Arthur's sacking as coach (a mix of results and management of player behaviour leading to a loss of confidence from James Sutherland), surely based on the same measures Pat Howard's tenure must also be questionable to say the least. Simply put: the structure that Pat Howard has put in place has NOT lead to either acceptable results or a positive team environment. Why then should he stay in the job whilst Mickey Arthur goes?


Overarching all of this is a conundrum that has been floating around in my head for some time: why, in the context of waning performance and internal scandal, is the stewardship of the business of Cricket Australia by its CEO, James Sutherland, not under question as well? The success of a CEO of any business, including any sporting business, is, indeed must, be measured based on that business' results. There can be no denying that there a number things that James Sutherland has done well; afterall, he has just renegotiated the largest contract for the broadcast of cricket in Australia in the game's history. However, the commercial success of the business that is Cricket Australia only tells part of the story. The success of the team over which the CEO of any sporting team must also be measured is that of its success on the field.


It is here that I am of the view that it must be time for the board of Cricket Australia to closely look at a change in the very top of the leadership structure of the game because, no matter which way you look at it, the success of the Australian cricket team has waned under the watch of the present CEO. Many of you will be saying: we know this, but he doesn't have the players and the results were only bad for the last season and you can't sack him because of that. On both counts I respectfully disagree and here is why:


  1. Players of the calibre of G McGrath, S Warne and R Ponting do not come along every day. That said, it is the CEO of any business' remit to be responsible of succession planning within said business. Where the talent to handle the succession from a superstar is not readily available it is the CEO's responsibility to either search for ways to develop talent or import talent to fill the void. Importation, Fawad Ahmed aside, is not an option in this context which begs the question: what has Cricket Australia and its CEO done from a succession planning perspective to fill the void left by those who have departed the scene? I would answer that question by simply saying that the current state of the team would suggest not much. Indeed, as a fan, the impression one has is that the retirement of Warne and others has been met with a simple focus on finding the next Warne without a “Plan B”.
  2. The hallmark of a successful business not in the world of sport is its share price and its profit. A waning share price and a contracting profit are indicative of a business struggling to perform and quite often it is the CEO in that context that departs the scene as a result. To extend the analogy to the world of cricket, the benchmark for success for any central cricket management body must be focused, from an on the field perspective, on that team's wins percentage. An examination of the win percentage of the Australian cricket team in test cricket during the tenure of James Sutherland show san alarming downward trend. From the halcyon days of 2006 and 2007 when Australia was not defeated in any test match (100% win percentage over 14 tests), the winning percentage of the Australian cricket team since 2008 has been reduced to 46.88% (30 wins from 64 games). Worse still the winning percentage of Australia team in test cricket has shown a continuous downward trend since 2009 when Australia won 53.85% of games to this year when Australia has won only 20% of its games.

In face of these waning results alone, any CEO of a business in the same context would be under monumental pressure. When was the last time a CEO of a listed company survived an 80% reduction in the share price over a 5 year period? I would hazard a guess that there would be few who would survive in that context. That is before the obvious other factors in play here. Sutherland has been at the helm during the obvious diminishing of the culture within the team noted above and is one of the core architects of the current structure of management in the game which, on any fair examination, is not serving it or the game well.


In my view, if Sutherland was CEO of anything other than a sporting organisation he would be out of a job: the shareholders of the business would have demanded his exit in the face of such a reduction in results and standards. Why shouldn't the stakeholders of cricket in Australia, the fans, also not see a change in the position that makes the major decisions that effect the game in this country in the face a sharply waning results?


In my opinion, the departure of Mickey Arthur is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the fallout from Australian cricket's current problems. The board of Cricket Australia though will do themselves and the games stakeholders a massive disservice if they do not look past Arthur, Dovey and Howard and consider closely the role of James Sutherland in all of this. I, for one, think it is time for a change at the top of the game because the ideas of the past of the CEO and his implementation of the review he demanded are failing to conjure the results needed for him to stay.


The next move by Cricket Australia will be a critical one: if they get it wrong a further reduction in the winning percentage noted above will be least of their problems.