Zilla Efrat speaks to John Buchanan about the importance of good governance in sports.

 

For players and spectators alike the results on the sporting pitch are what get the most attention. We often credit (or blame) those results solely on the preparation of the athletes and the strategies of the coaches. Less visible — but just as important — is the work behind the scenes, of board members, lower-level employees (in professional sport) and volunteers.

I’ve seen the inside of a lot of different governance structures — from national peak sporting bodies to grassroots sporting clubs — and the best of them share a few characteristics.

 

  1. Today’s leaders are fostering tomorrow’s leaders

The board is actively aware that turnover is natural in any organisation — they are keen to bring in new people and help them grow into leadership positions. A strong governance structure guides volunteers and provides a pathway to higher-level positions

I recently visited a small regional cricket club, where the club president, who has been in the role for over 20 years (since his children were first involved) told me he wants to step down. However, he cannot find any younger people keen to take on smaller roles and tasks within the club — so that they could, in a few years, be part of a succession plan.

This is a challenge, in part, of volunteerism. Volunteers are the life-blood of Australian sport; obviously, there would be no clubs without them. Structured leadership helps volunteers move into higher levels within a club. With sports administration changing rapidly, volunteers who understand proper practice, current legislation and regulation, leadership and good governance as best practice are well positioned for success.

 

  1. Checks and balances kerb white-line fever

Some people who come to the boards of our various sports organisations are attracted by a love of the game and the desire to improve the sport. However, once they get involved with the club, they seem to leave the business acumen they’ve gained in their professional lives at the door. The emotion and passion for the sport interferes with their ability to make consistently good objective decisions.

While passion is crucial in sport, it sometimes gets the better of our decision-making. A well-constructed governance system will help guide a board to good decisions even when white-line fever hits.

 

  1. Everyone’s time is respected

As time has become a more precious commodity those involved with sport have less time to spend doing their jobs and preparing for the complexity of the role. Having a sound governance foundation makes a world of difference in the efficiency of board and club functions.

Good governance aids in running meetings smoothly, with decisions being made once, and clear lines of authority over financial and legal matters drawn — all of which contribute to a lesser demand on the time of board members and volunteers and help reduce the risks of poor decision making.

 

Want to improve your governance knowledge and better support your club?

If you are interested in gaining more proficiency in sports governance, I encourage you to check out Governance Institute of Australia and etrainu’s Working in sports essentials, an on-line training program supporting anyone who needs to understand sports governance, from the grassroots to the boardroom.

 

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