At the startline — Peggy O’Neal AO, Club President
Richmond Football Club
Peggy O’Neal AO, Club President Richmond Football Club
"A board is the chance to be the ultimate role model."
Advice to sport board member aspirants.
Self-reflect on why you want to join and what is your interest in that board. What are the skills that you can bring or contribute. Get a thorough induction on how that board operates. Find a board that will allow you to contribute to your best.
What is good governance?
Governance is about accountability and in each person understanding the role they are there to play and executing that role well. It is a system of checks and balances that ultimately improves decision making.
Governance and culture go hand in hand. Both are examples of the way things are done at an organisation. Boards are there to define a course of action and management are there to get things done.
Boards set up the rules of the game and how an organisation will operate. You want a board to understand its job which is why understanding governance principles is important. Getting each member to stay in their lane is the understanding of what this topic of the Start Line is all about.
A common misconception for Board Directors. Do they pick the teams?
Board members need to get used to the idea that Directors are not there to ‘do’ to pick teams. This is the management team’s role. The organisation has hired the best talent in management to make qualified expert decisions and not through a Board member. We all have a role to play and that is good governance.
How important is the relationship between the Board and CEO?
The Board guides the management team through the CEO and this is one of the most important governance relationships in any organisation. A close working relationship built on trust and mutual respect has led to the success of the Richmond Football Club, both on and off the field. Peggy believes in the need to have a clear delineation between the role of the Board and the role of Management and documented delegations of authority to ensure that they don’t step on each other’s toes.
How important is unity in Board decision making and operations?
A board only operates as a committee. A director’s job is to reach unity on a decision made by the committee. It is imperative to present to stakeholders a unified decision made by the collective of the board. An individual director may not have voted for a decision but they have to be able to support that decision. If a director cannot support a decision then it maybe the time to resign from that board as otherwise they are undermining the board. Unity comes from trust amongst directors of a board and trust for your management team.
Boards build and role model a positive culture
Board members need to model the values of the organisation. If board members don’t then it becomes permissible for no-one in the organisation to behave that way. The board is very important in setting the tone and telling management whether they believe in the organisation’s purpose or not.
Sport governance principles podcast - The Startline
The Spirit of the Game — Petria Thomas, OAM, Commonwealth Games Australia
Commonwealth Games Australia
Petria Thomas, OAM, Chef de Mission – Birmingham 2022 Australian Commonwealth Games Team
The Spirit of the Game
"If there is a positive culture… you get the best out of yourself."
How would you define or describe culture?
Culture is an organisation’s shared values and beliefs. Values are intangible guides to how an individual is expected to behave. A shared set of values, and the resulting culture, outlines what behaviours are and are not acceptable. Describing and measuring an organisation’s culture can be difficult because of its abstract nature. Culture is not the ticking of boxes; it is lived and breathed, and influences all aspects of an organisation.
Why is a positive culture important?
If there is a positive culture, then people are more likely to feel safe and have an enjoyable experience. Environments with a positive culture are more conducive to participants getting the best out of themselves, no matter whether you they are an athlete, a staff member or in another role. People need to feel that they can speak up without fear of retribution if they see something that is not acceptable.
Have you had to call out poor behaviour?
I have grown to understand acceptable and unacceptable behaviour both as an athlete and during my professional career. Though often difficult, it's really important when you see things that don’t sit right, to call them out. I have had to do this a few times. It was hard in the moment, but afterwards I felt that I done the right thing and influenced the likelihood of the behaviour happening again.
Is the process of defining and consulting widely on values important?
It is critical that an organisation has a strong and sound set of values as this forms the culture within the organisation both for its staff and its members. The process of establishing values is really important as you only get ‘buy-in’ throughout an organisation when you’ve had wide consultation. Members and staff will come with diverse perspectives and it’s important to capture these to help establish a strong culture.
What is the role of the board in terms of values and organisational culture?
The Board is the peak of the organisation. They’re the ones making decisions about the strategic direction of the organisation. The Board should be role-modelling the values and behaviours that they would like members and staff are to portray. Visibility of the board in this respect is vital.
How are you establishing the values for the Australian team, taking part in the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022?
It is really challenging bringing 700+ people together from different sports with different cultures and subcultures and expect them to gel and feel part of a larger Australian team. The approach I’ve taken in the past is to treat people the way you would like to be treated. I think this sort of basic approach is what I'd like to see our Australian team members enact. I’m confident that Commonwealth Games Australia’s existing organisational values of Inclusiveness, Integrity, Respect and Excellence will also sit well with team members.
What was the culture like at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast?
We had some really positive feedback from our survey after the Games in 2018. People felt valued and had a good experience. This indicates that there was a positive culture established by and within the team. There were two primary goals we had for the Gold Coast. The first was for team members to perform at their best because of the environment we created. The second, and no less important, was that team members had a good experience and felt that they were part of something that is bigger.. On the whole I think we achieved these goals.
Is culture a different way to bring Governance to life?
People create culture and bring the policies and structures of governance to life. While policies and structures are an important part of governance, they are only meaningful if they are implemented and monitored by people within the organisation and embraced by members. Education is also a critical.
Sport Governance Principles podcast - The Spirit of the Game
The Team — Ben Houston, Chief Executive, Australian Sailing
Ben Houston, Chief Executive, Australian Sailing
"It's essential that everyone in the organisation and across the sport understands, both the strategy and the vision."
How has collaborative Governance strengthened sailing?
In 2016, Australian Sailing and the state and territory associations agreed to a new national operating model, which we refer to as ‘One Sailing’.
It is a shared commitment based on 3 principles:
- A strong national governance mechanism
- More efficient management of resources
- Taking a more consistent and efficient approach to delivering services to our clubs, developing and delivering programs, as well as providing and delivering national policies for our clubs
It allowed Sailing to reduce the inefficiencies and costs associated with managing multiple organisations by centralising staff under the one organisation. We now have the capability and the capacity in the organisation to meet our strategic priorities.
What are the tools and techniques you use to build and maintain relationships with boards?
Through the One Sailing model, Implementation Agreements were put in place with each state associations. These agreements regulate the roles and responsibilities of Australian Sailing and the associations, and are underpinned by our constitution. The agreements are reviewed to ensure that they continue to be ‘fit for purpose’. So, Australian Sailing engage with the associations as a way of building and maintaining relationships with the boards and state advisory committees.
In short, the key ‘technique’ is building trust through communication.
The Australian Sailing Board president, Daniel Belcher, meets regularly with each of the state presidents, providing a forum in terms of transparency on the decisions made by the Australian Sailing Board, while also allowing discussion on matters affecting the sport.
These meetings also provide an opportunity to discuss the changes or decisions that require the approval of state presidents and boards; this has been particularly important for navigating decisions during the COVID crisis.
Together, this group collaborates on the development and implementation of the sport’s strategy. The state presidents and their boards are key stakeholders in developing the whole of sport strategy and the ongoing implementation of strategic priorities.
How important is strategy and having a cohesive vision?
It is critical to have an aligned whole of sport vision. This vision impacts the national strategy along with the regional execution of that strategy. The Australian Sailing board has been very conscious of developing the national strategy in conjunction with the state associations and our Club members.
All staff, regardless of where they are located around the country, need to know that what they are doing is helping to achieve the strategic priorities for the organisation.
How does Sailing address differing priorities across the country?
Australian Sailing’s board comprise a number of state association past presidents, giving a regional perspective to national strategic priorities. This provides an opportunity to shape broader delivery plans around the country.
It also means that we have a ‘whole of sport’ perspective and are very clear on our efforts being ‘member-centric’ in our strategic plans.
Adopting the One Sailing model means that Australian Sailing takes a leadership role as the national body and the state associations have a critical role in strategy and national plan development within each state and territory.
Sport Governance Principles podcast - The Team
The Gameplan — Rob Scott, Chair Rowing Australia
Rob Scott, Chair, Rowing Australia
"Make sure you have a strategy that unites all aspects of the sport."
How important is a national sporting organisation’s vision?
I think it's really important. The reality is that for Rowing to be successful in the high-performance area, we need to have a really strong base. We need to be strong and relevant at a grass roots level. We need to engage all areas of the sport to be successful.
The team was based in Canberra, predominantly focused on the high-performance aspects of the sport. In the past, some in our sport referred to Rowing Australia as "Fortress Canberra". So we've tried to make a real effort in recent years to engage more deeply across the states, across the country, to really tap into a lot of the fantastic and passionate people that we have in the sport of rowing. This has helped us get aligned around a shared vision of success.
How significant is it to ensure that all parts of the sport have aligned strategic plans?
There are various reasons why it's important. First of all we have limited resources, if we are aligned and leveraging capabilities, then we can reduce costs. There's a lot of administrative aspects that we're all subject to that through better streamlining and alignment, we can just simply save money, save cost and then invest that money into more value adding things. Being aligned is also critical if you are to generate new commercial revenue streams. No sponsor or commercial organisation wants to support a sport that is misaligned.
The other reason why it's so important to be aligned is that a lot of sports rely very heavily on volunteers, very heavily on the discretionary effort of many people including the board of directors given that we're not in paid roles. So the more that we can have alignment, then the more we can be working together and mobilising and inspiring that discretionary effort of volunteers.
Another really important thing to remember is that there's a lot of passion and a lot of emotion in sport. We want to engage our alumni and community that is a key resource we can tap into for the future.
How can a sport develop a strategic plan that does engage – volunteers, states and the NSO?
You need to recognise the very distinct roles and responsibilities of the national body, state bodies and in different sports – the club entities. Most national sports organisations simply don't have the capacity, nor are they well equipped to really manage a lot of the 'on the ground' issues at a state level. When you go about setting your strategic plan as a sport, acknowledge those differences because although alignment, and in some cases centralisation, can be positives for sport, they can also be distinct negatives for a sport if you disempower those you rely upon for delivery.
You need to be really clear about what roles and responsibilities are across the sport and then step back and think about how as a national body, can we provide the governance, the tools, the support, the facilities to help our states and our clubs be successful? How can we give our states and clubs a sense of empowerment, of accountability to make things happen on the ground?
What's the role of the Board in embedding and communicating the organisation's vision and strategy?
The role of the Board is very much to set the strategy and then monitor the implementation of that strategy. You need to be realistic as to how much of a role you can have in communicating and embedding the strategy. Boards rely on management to embed and communicate strategy and with that reliance then, the number one priority is to have the right management team in place. There is still the role of a board to be connected and visible in communicating the strategy.
Really important ways to do this is to move board meetings around the country and after board meetings, have organised sessions where people from the state or the regions spend time with the board so you can hear directly from them. Ultimately, we rely very heavily on management and that means we need to have good processes in place to monitor how management are going with this task.
Where does one start with creating a sport strategy?
There are lots of different approaches to strategy development. Make a start by trying to be clear about what you're trying to achieve as a sport. One we have found really powerful in our organisation is to remind yourself of your ‘reason for being’ which is for the participants in your sport. Not just at an elite level but all people that row. The sport of rowing and success of rowing is not about administrators or the board – we are there to serve. It is about the success of all the people out there rowing. So be really clear about who your stakeholders are and who you're there to serve.
Make sure you have a strategy that unites all aspects of the sport. Often sports think about strategy in terms of trade-offs — either we're going to focus on the high performance area or we're going to focus on the community and participation area. I think that these things are inextricably linked. We know in the sport of rowing we want to win a lot of medals at the Olympic Games and over the long term, we'll be even more successful at delivering on that if we have a very vibrant rowing community across Australia. If we're deeply engaged and connected, if we're leveraging the phenomenal capability and ingenuity of our alumni and volunteers. These are the things that boards should be reflecting on in the context of strategy development and building your Game Plan.
Sport Governance Principles podcast - The Game Plan
The Players — Pippa Downes, Commissioner, Australian Sports Commission
Australian Sports Commission
Pippa Downes, Commissioner, Australian Sports Commission
"The research is very clear that when you have a diverse board, better decisions are made."
What are the benefits of diversity to a board?
The role of the board is so critical in setting the strategy and for an organisation. If you only have a group of like-minded individuals then you’re likely to have a sub-optimal board. A diverse group of people is really the only way to go.
How do you go about diversifying your board directors?
For all boards to be effective, they need to really understand at any given point what their big challenges are and what basic skills that they need to be a high performing board. Depending on where the sport is in its lifecycle, the particular challenges they're facing, you may want to beef up your skill sets in particular areas. So, if there's financial difficulties, having some accountants or experts helping you navigate that or beefing up in that area might be wise. If a sport is desperate for a sponsor and trying to raise its profile, maybe you might want to get some marketing people with some of that skill to assist the management teams to achieve that.
You may look at how the organisation needs to change in a tough environment and having people that are management consultants or people with HR backgrounds might be able to assist. Technology is obviously another very big one so increasingly sports need to compete and connect with their members and technology is the enabler in that space so having somebody with that background is important.
You really need to have a skills matrix set up to make sure you know what you've got on your board. Work out where your holes because a diverse board needs to be able to cover all its bases and may be able to bring somebody in from the outside to assist on some of the more tricky issues that they're facing.
Should voting members recognise the importance of the nominations committee process?
It's absolutely important to connect with your members. Sports are run for the members. There has to be an absolute transparency for both the board and the members to understand the process and why the boards are doing what they're doing. Ultimately the boards are there to help the sports and its members, not the other way around.
Members need to understand the process about what the skills are that the board is looking for so that members can understand the appointments or they can understand the type of candidates that have been put forward to them to vote for. It's the responsibility of the chair and the board to make sure that is transparent to their members so there's no backlash through that process.
Why is it important for boards to appoint or elect the Chair from amongst the directors?
The Chair is - apart from the CEO - the most important person of the organisation. The role is the conduit between the board and the management team and the CEO and the Chair is the one that runs the meetings and optimises the discussion and the strategy coming out of that board. Being a good Chair is a skill and a good Chair will ensure that everybody around the table gets heard, that they don't impose their own views on the room and that they're listening to everybody.
When I was on the board of swimming there was a member elected Chair. Now, sometimes that just doesn't work. I think it's absolutely critical that the directors are the ones that nominate that person because the members don’t know who is the person that probably is best placed to have the integrity to run the board meetings and to optimise the work of the board. If the members elect their directors, they need to trust that the directors can choose who it is most appropriate for the Chair role.
Why is there not an increased number of women on sports boards?
Historically, you can't get away from the fact that sport and most businesses have been run by men. Things have changed radically in the last few years, particularly in sport, with the participation of women. You're not going to have a diverse board making good decisions if half the population are missing from the seat at the table.
Sometimes people want to be with people that they're comfortable and familiar with. Perhaps some women don't know that some boards are very political. Maybe some women get a bit sick of or they're not as interested in the politics because they want to work more collaboratively and sometimes people end up being a bit too close to the sport. Sometimes they lose sight of why they're there and perhaps people who are there for the good of the sport, get disheartened by this.
That was my experience a few years ago at Swimming Australia. It's so critical for sports that we get as many people involved from as diverse a range from the volunteers, to the coaches, to the participants, to re-engaging with the alumni of the sport and ex athletes.
I think it's important that people step away from the sport to give other people a go, to get fresh perspectives on how the sport should be run. And you shouldn't have entrenched people running a sport forever and a day because I think unfortunately sometimes they lose sight of why they're there and that's why you should have diverse, fresh thinking to make sure you're always looking forward about how to adapt into the new world.
Sport Governance Principles podcast - The Players
The Rulebook — Vince Del Prete, Chief Executive Officer, Athletics West
Vince Del Prete, Chief Executive Officer, Athletics West
The Rule Book
"It is a fantastic resource in terms of what it provides in really understanding the principles of governance."
Why is this principle so important?
It sets the foundation for accountability as an organisation and as a sport. Ultimately it leads the decision making as an organisation and sets the framework for the rest of the people within the organisation.
What were the key drivers for the merger for Athletics WA and Little Athletics WA?
The consolidation of the governance of the sport providing a ‘complete sport’ to current and future members and investors. It also enabled the development of clear pathways for all our coaches, officials, athletes and volunteers.
The sport had been fragmented by having two different organisations, two sets of values, two sets of ideas on how the sport should be run. Our members were strong on having a very clearly defined body that manages and governs the sport in W.A. It also meant that we've been able to streamline our processes and the financial position of the sport in W.A. with the two businesses combining into one.
So what process did you undertake to build the Athletics West constitution?
A bit of scene setting to understand the context first. Going back to 2017, the sport as a whole decided that we needed to embrace a “whole of sport” strategic plan with buy-in from across the membership.
Members understood that they owned the sport and in many ways were the gatekeeper of it. This led to a joint organisation review that was undertaken in 2018, which identified 16 key recommendations with two of the major ones being, one to merge the sport and two, the establishment of a new constitution under the Corporations Act.
The other key thing for us throughout the journey, was the buy-in and involvement of the members. We had a lot of consultation forums, regular meetings, regular updates to keep them across how the Constitution was being developed and the Rule Book played a critical role in that too.
Were there any areas within the Constitution that were more difficult than others to negotiate and determine?
One of the differences was in the definition of ‘membership’, believe it or not, in terms of slight variations in what was meant. Another was the voting process which was critical. In the past, Athletics WA had a weighted vote system where the size of your club determined whether you got three votes, two votes, or one vote. In Little Athletics, it was very much ‘one centre, one vote’ regardless of the size of the organisation.
Our final position became that if you provide the ‘whole service/pathway’ as a club or a centre, you would get two votes to recognise both sides of the sport. If you were only providing a Little Athletics program or a Seniors program, you would only get one vote.
Another difference was the initial transitional clause in terms of how many directors should we have on the new board and what is the ‘right’ number? We used the guidance from the documentation that Sport Australia had on what constituted a good corporation template and settled on a number that both boards were happy with.
A further challenge related to how we dealt with transitioning directors from both boards onto one. Normally under a good governance approach the Chair would be elected by the Directors. In our case through the merger negotiations, we chose to alternate for two year with the current Chair of Little Athletics and then the current Chair of the Seniors. This allowed for inclusion from both sides that they were being heard and that they had an equal buy-in to the process, an equal buy-in to the governance of the Athletics West Board.
For people who want support or a start point, what advice would you give them?
I would refer them to the Sport Australia Sport Governance Principles document. I like the questions asked under each of the Principles. It is really easy to follow and it gives a good heads up in terms of things you need to be thinking about.
The other piece of advice I would share is the Sport Australia website with its fantastic array of templates that certainly will assist any sport to understand the documentation it needs and the support it can get.
Additionally, people shouldn't be scared to get on the phone and ring Sport Australia and ask for help or support. Each state’s Department of Sport & Recreation also are a valuable resource to tap into. Finally you can’t go past the other valuable resource we have which is the many people that are knowledgeable within the sport industry that you could get in touch with, like Athletics WA, that can explain the journey they’ve been on with the governance of their sport and what knowledge they can impart.
Sport Governance Principles podcast - The Rule Book
The Playbook — Carolyn Campbell, former Chief Executive Officer, Netball NSW
Carolyn Campbell, former Chief Executive Officer - Netball NSW
The Play Book
"It really starts at the induction…you need to have a full understanding of what the policies and procedures are and how the board may operate.”
Is a board accountable for both behaviour and policies and systems?
Accountability is the understanding of the board role and the commitment that's required to undertake that role to the necessary levels that it needs to be. It is also ensuring the behaviour and board procedures are functional and work well in terms of setting up decision making and discussions that occur inside that boardroom.
What should directors do to understand and ultimately discharge their duties, powers and responsibilities at law?
It is absolutely essential that all directors ask any questions that they need to, and to seek further information or clarity of information. They are all in it together and they need to make sure that they've got any information or clarity that they require. When you talk about directors responsibility and legal duties, people often don't necessarily have that full understanding when they join a board. It's very important that it is part of the induction process to them that they clearly understand what they have put themselves into and how that might work for them to make sure that they can fulfil that role to the level that they need to.
How important is it to have clear position descriptions for these key roles?
It is imperative because of the way that boards are often formed, you may find yourself in one of those roles and you need to have good clarity around what expectations are. It is something that should be discussed within the board room about how that's going to work and what makes that work. Position descriptions just help people understand what those expectations are and also gives them a very clear understanding of the commitment.
So a chair of a board is an enormous commitment to take on with the need to actually be the liaison with the CEO, to actually conduct the board in a way that everybody has or feels as though they have good interaction and the ability to put their position forward. The chair needs to bring order or put a framework around how decisions are made. Having a great feel for the board and the room is a really important skill. Sometimes it’s not necessarily understood by all as to how onerous a position like that can be.
What policies or practises can a board institute to demonstrate transparent governance?
It really starts at the induction process. If you are a new director, you need to have a full understanding of what the policies and procedures are and how the board may operate. That should be done in conjunction with some members of the board as well, so that you've got a multi-faceted view of that.
Most definitely the procedures around Board Charter’s, codes of conduct even down to expectations of meeting time frames in terms of how often, regularity, how long they will be. Are they conducted in this new world of hybrid / Zoom meetings as opposed to ‘in-person’? I think that all helps and explains to people exactly what their commitment is.
The policies and procedures should be openly available to you if you're putting your hand up to become a director, because it's no point finding out once you've been elected or appointed to a board that it's not going to work for you or you're not able to commit that sort of time. So the transparency, openly available policies and procedures and code of conduct is very important.
How should boards and directors identify and ultimately manage conflicts of interest?
It should be a standing agenda item on the board’s agenda. As a director when you receive your ‘board pack’, anything that you see inside of that board pack that may be perceived or is a material conflict of interest, you can then raise that at the opening of the meeting. This, of course, goes hand in glove with the fact that you would have a disclosure document that's completed when you're initially inducted and brought onto the board. Any of those conflicts as part of your registration and compliance requirements of being a director are already called out in that disclosure document.
There may be additional instances, say from an agenda item, that poses a real conflict of interest for just that particular board meeting. It needs to be called out at the top of the meeting. The board can then decide as a group, as to how do they want to deal with that conflict of interest? And if it is that someone's asked to leave the room for that discussion or that decision, then that should be minuted and noted. Any conflicts of interest need to be contained inside the minutes so that there is that transparency down the track.
How can a board ensure its agenda is structured to maximise the focus and priorities in meetings?
The biggest thing about being a director is owning the strategy of the organisation; having the policies to support that; and clearly the budget to support that as well. These are my three pillars.
Therefore the agenda needs to be set in a way that it is strategically orientated to the board for whatever the decision making or discussions that need to happen. One of the things that I've found is really successful is that we use a ‘block item’ type system at the back of the agenda, because you want to provide a whole lot of reports and information to the board. When the board packs are distributed to the board, they can ask for any of those to come out of the block items and be discussed or further information given. So you providing almost a reference guide with a whole lot of information.
You can then balance the board meeting timeframes around that and make sure that the front end of the meeting is to tackle the bigger items and decision making. Often boards meet into the evening and you want to make sure directors are clear and have good clarity to make decisions.
What tips can you give for communicating progress and achievements to stakeholders?
This is important because you are representing those members and driving the orgranisation’s progress. Things like interactive presentations if you've got a meeting structure that allows that to happen. Talk about some of the organisation initiatives and how the strategic plans are being progressed and what's been done to progress that.
Metrics are really important, particularly to match up with the KPIs that are set around the strategic plan. One of the biggest things you can do is about communicating if there are policy changes as quickly as possible. They may be published on your website, which is where they should be and links are kept current. So all of that communication is a key part to keeping the information systems flowing of what the board is undertaking for the organisation and how the organisation is growing and progressing towards their goals and vision.
Sport Governance Principles podcast - The Play Book
The Defence — Jaquie Scammell, Board member, Sport Inclusion Australia
Sport Inclusion Australia
Jaquie Scammell, Board Member - Sport Inclusion Australia
"risk management is an incredibly important part of doing good business.”
How would you define risk in practice?
In practice, risk is really about weighing up anything that's going to prevent us from meeting our strategic plans or goals but more importantly, our promises to our stakeholders. We're continually keeping an eye on that and looking at weighing up the different measures of risk, the different levels of risk and determining what needs to be our core focus more than other parts of running an organisation or a business.
Is risk always a bad thing?
There needs to be a good balance looking at things like the data and what the evidence is providing us. Also checking emotional filters when we make decisions to make balanced decisions. Risk can bring a balanced, weighted view of how well we're performing as an organisation. In many ways that can be very positive. It encourages us to be open minded. It encourages us to ask questions. The more we do that, the more we're able to eliminate arriving at decisions thinking we know all the answers and actually keeping an open mind about really what is our reality and what is the reality of our key stakeholders. If we do a full circle back to risk and its management, that's a healthy way of leading any organisation. So I see it as really positive.
How does the board know what its key risks are, what its key challenges and emerging issues are?
At Sport Inclusion Australia we are supported by some brilliant external experts like Sport Australia, to create independent reviews and help us understand what our criteria should be. It's important to start there. Know what your criteria are, what forms your risk assessment and its consequences. Understand the scale of each of those key criteria - whether it be your technology, whether it be your governance, whether it be your financial risk and then understand the different levels of consequences that result. So start there and have it really well documented. That's something that I've been extremely impressed with by Sport Inclusion Australia, not only good documentation but maintaining that documentation and keeping it up to date.
Does the Sport Inclusion Australia board regularly review its risks?
We do and one thing that’s been really important is getting close to our stakeholders. We’ve formed working groups with different stakeholders with each group having their own terms of reference. In essence what we're doing is exactly that. We're continually reviewing the key areas or the key focus areas that we need to focus on as an organisation and staying close to our stakeholders and continually reviewing the relevance, the changing landscape of these risks and getting real time feedback and relevant stories and examples from our stakeholders. Those that are out in the field, playing the sport, working with the athletes, working with the parents in the schools and we're keeping a much closer eye on the dial.
I thoroughly recommend that process and it's been a brilliant way of inadvertently managing risk. It feels like we're managing performance but actually what we're doing is we're also being extremely mindful of the changes that come up with different parts of risk.
What are the key documents within your risk management framework?
We have a risk policy which, given the year we've had in 2020, has been recently updated. It's a comprehensive risk policy document. From our involvement in the INAS Global Games last year that saw us step up and make sure all our documentation was very thorough, which has been of great benefit. A risk policy document is the foundation of our documentation. All of the other regular meetings - governance committee meetings, board meetings, and working group meetings - are all well documented.
The key point here is that it's fluid and it refers back to an overarching framework. It refers back to an overarching SWOT that we did a few years ago and we're continually looking at how we're progressing against these. The documentation is like a progress report to see how well we're performing against those risks that we've identified.
What is the risk of organisations not collaborating and working together either within a sport or across sport organisations?
We've gained a lot from the collaborations in the past 12, 18 months and in particular this year, when everyone had to innovate and think quite differently about the communication models and the way we were getting out to the people, our key stakeholders, those at the front line.
The collaboration has been incredibly beneficial. It's shown us a few things, where we've got strengths and opportunities. When we collaborate, we can actually raise each other and leverage off each other's strengths and raise each other within areas of opportunity. There's a huge risk if we don't collaborate, because we can't always get the key skills and capabilities from people around the table, we need sometimes to look outside of our boardroom.
The other thing that's been extremely effective is the way we bring our different delivery practices to our key stakeholders. The way we deliver sport and lots of different practices that we can do with the minimal resources we have. When we collaborate, we get access to greater resources and access to a greater pond of funding because when we collaborate, we're stronger and have more to offer.
The risk of not collaborating is that you are potentially limiting your delivery model and the way you deliver the sport. You're potentially limiting your access to certain funding and also limiting your strengths and capabilities.
Why is inclusion in sport so important?
The Australian Government reported last year that more than four million Australians have some form of disability, which is around 18 per cent of the population. 22% of that is a mental or behavioural disorder. So we really are talking about a large component of our population who need and benefit from access to sport.
One of our philosophies at Sport Inclusion Australia is that we want to make sure no one is left behind. The impact of the Sport Inclusion Australia work really does impact a large percentage of society: their friends, their family, and their carers. It gives all of these people access to community, to mainstream sport competitions and all of what comes with that.
Sport has the most incredible way of bringing people together and I guess dissolving differences in people. This is what has a huge impact on making people feel connected. And hasn't it been the year where we've really noticed the importance of social connection?
What’s your view of risk management and it being part of business as usual?
It's good practice to bring risk into your day to day vernacular, your day to day awareness. It's part of the conversation. If you bring risk into a conversation that is proactive, that’s putting the person first in the conversation, the needs of the business in the centre of the conversation or the sporting organisation, then it helps people rise above thinking about it as risk and actually seeing it as this is good business, it's good practice, and it's actually going to make us better.
As professionals we're striving towards a common goal or vision, and sometimes it takes a language change to achieve a goal. Sometimes I just say don't talk about the word 'change' if people don't like change and if people find the word 'risk' a little bit off putting, don't use the word risk. Replace it with something else because risk is everywhere and its management is an incredibly important part of doing good business.
Sport Governance Principles podcast - The Defence
The Best and Fairest - David Sharpe APM OAM, CEO, Sport Integrity Australia
Sport Integrity Australia
David Sharpe APM OAM, CEO Sport Integrity Australia
The Best and Fairest
"Our role to make sure sports understand the requirements of policies and to help them implement them effectively to protect sport.”
How would you define the word ‘integrity’?
I’ve heard the word integrity used in many forms, used in many ways and interpreted in many different ways. We’ve seen the Wood Review that used a definition of integrity but what I say is that integrity, if doesn’t look right, doesn’t sound right, doesn’t smell right, err on the side of caution and raise the issue as an integrity matter.
What is the role of Sport Integrity Australia to support sport boards, their operations and thinking?
As a new agency we have a regulatory role. The approach has not been from a ‘policing’ perspective or a big stick regulation. It has been about helping sports understand their requirements, put in place policies and procedures and be able to meet the requirements of those policies. Our view is that if we don’t help sports understand complicated policies and implement them effectively, we’ve failed, not the sport. At the end of the day, it is our role to make sure sports understand the requirements of certain policies and to help them implement them effectively to protect sport.
What advice would you give a sport in developing an integrity framework?
One of the key bodies of work that we are working to deliver is a national integrity framework which streamlines the approach to sport integrity threats. What it does is it sets out the expectations for behaviours within the sport and how sports might better manage from a reporting, investigating or identifying breaches perspective. We are delivering to sports within the framework is best practice policy templates that are streamlined and consistent across all sports. There are so many policies and requirements of sports, we want to take forward a framework so every sport can learn from each other, work with each other but simplify it in a way that it is understood from grass roots right through to board level.
What would you say to boards who think they don’t have any integrity issues?
There are a lot of things I’d say ‘on the record’ and probably some things I’d say ‘off the record’ that I’d say to a board. I think boards need to have integrity embedded into the agenda of every meeting as a key risk and a key priority to address. It’s like cyber security, anyone or board that tells me that cyber security is not a critical risk for that organisation and protecting athlete information should certainly reassess what role they play because protecting athlete information is one of the most critical things that a board could do and be responsible for and cyber security is a big issue.
It fits under that broader integrity banner as well. No one is immune from the integrity threats that we are seeing around the world. Australia has very much a combined approach through law enforcement, to sporting bodies, to agencies such as ourself (SIA) to protect sport and we do it very well. It would be very naïve for anyone to think that sports aren’t vulnerable, aren’t exposed.
What resources or support can Sport Integrity Australia provide with respect to education?
Education is critical in everything we do. In awareness for athletes, what supplements they are taking and what their behaviours are and very much the same approach to the integrity framework that we will roll out.
My three years previously at ASADA and now with Sport Integrity Australia has made it very clear to me that a number of CEOs and a number of sporting boards aren’t aware of the policies that they are responsible for implementing. They aren’t aware of some of the conditions and rules or requirements of those policies. That is why we are trying to bring all the policies together in a national integrity framework, simplify them, make the streamlined but also when we roll them out, we will help the sports implement them and understand their requirements under those policies.
There will be a very different understanding for an athlete in a sport compared to a board members requirements to understand. The best thing we can do is having everyone understanding them and prepared before a crisis hits, not afterward.
How can sporting organisations promote a culture of an environment being safe for children and vulnerable people?
I don’t like to put it in these terms but if you talk about marketing and brand, the best marketing for your sport is marketing the fact that your sport is ‘safe’. If there is an issue, if something does arise - and it will, something will always come up – not trying to hide from it. From my experience, getting out on the front foot and saying we have identified an issue, we’ve addressed that issue and we are protecting our sport.
What comes with that is confidence of sponsors, confidence of partners to want to be involved in that sport because you are transparent. That is one of the critical issues. If I look at my involvement say with Ten Pin bowling to give you an example, everyone focuses on big sports, but what Ten Pin bowling did was quite incredible in their response, their transparent response to some child protection issues that they have had recently. The way they approached their policies around child protection and the way they pro-actively got on the front foot with their membership around those issues has been transparent. Ten Pin bowling is the model response in that it is open, transparent and sends a message that we will address the issues and we will be transparent about that.
Does Sport Integrity Australia have team members who can share learnings or support boards?
We are going to make a commitment to help sports implement and understand their requirements through education whether it be online or face to face. I think that is probably one of the most important things that we could do.
There are a number of forums where I have been able to present to about 60 odd of the 98 CEOs that have policies. I have spoken personally to each one of them. I’ve learnt a lot from them but there are also a number of forums where those CEOs come together. They are really important because they are the networks that share experiences, share the learnings. It is critical the CEO network, the Integrity networks and all the sports are aligned with us.