Involvement in professional sport is seductive. Winning seduces, but winning premierships is the ultimate force of seduction. It has, over many years, driven a win-at-all costs culture in sport.
In an era of professional sport systems and governance how is it possible for the Melbourne Storm to blatantly rort the salary cap? Salary cap rorting in professional sport is similar to white collar trangressions, and could be deemed the Melbourne Storm’s global (local) financial crisis. The penalties imposed by the NRL are harsh but necessary. The decision to strip the Storm of the right to earn premiership points in 2010 will place the club on the brink of extinction.
With the seducing forces of winning removed for an entire season, the fans will stop going to games, sponsors will withdraw their support from the club, and ultimately the playing group will disperse, leaving only the ‘shell’ of sporting club. The on field heroics of their players have no meaning without context.
One wonders, how, in times of chanting the mantra of good governance practices in sport, how the monitoring and accountability functions of governance have failed so badly. We are also left to wonder whether sport has really made any significant progress in its quest to rid itself of old cultural baggage, where rorting rules was once considered a sport in of itself. That was in days gone by when money was less significant, and playing for fun, or administering for fun were the motivations for involvement.
Not now, as commercial forces demand strict adherence to the principles of good governance and ethical business practice. More importantly, the adherence to good governance and business practice needs to be evident while the seducing forces of winning are alive and kicking.
Winning and losing is what defines sport. It is a critical success factor. In other words, professionally prepared sport managers need to be aware of the inherent risks of professional sport and learn to recognise when the forces for winning begin to overpower the need for ethical management and governance. Only then will professional sporting leagues and clubs be in a position to avert the global winning crisis that can consume a sport thereby avoiding pitfalls demonstrated by the actions of individual traders in previous corporate meltdowns.