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Coaching and officiating Louise Sauvage OAM

This is a Sport Australia podcast production.

Cam Tradell [00:00:08] Hello and welcome to our coaching and officiating podcast series. My name is Cam Tradell, and I am the Project Lead for Coaching Officiating at Sport Australia. Over this series, we will look at what it takes to modernise Australia's coaching and officiating system. Each podcast, we will be joined by a special guest who will share experiences and practical tips on their topics. And we're fortunate enough to have Louise Sauvage join us today in the studio. Louise is recognised not just for the extraordinarily successful career as a wheelchair racer, but for her pioneering efforts in raising the profile and perception of Paralympic sport and athletes in Australia and all around the world. Welcome Louise, thanks for joining us.

Louise Sauvage [00:00:51] Thank you for having me.

Cam Tradell [00:00:54] Louise, you've got a vast experience and a long history in sport as an athlete, but also as a coach and developing athletes coming through the system. Given that you're working with professional athletes at the top end, but also developing athletes and people entering into sport, how do you go about setting acceptable challenges if you've got multiple athletes in the same group or environment?

Louise Sauvage [00:01:19] Yeah, it can be a bit tough unfortunately. In our sport, there's not a lot of coaches and not a lot of people involved in our sport. So it's a very small community. So we have to be a kind of a jack of all trades to a certain extent. Having my group on a Saturday morning, which is it doesn't hold the really elite guys, it probably has a gamut of, as you said, beginners right up to some athletes that, you know, are knocking on the door, so to speak. And you're training them all together. I think more than anything, we set different goals and different sessions for them, but then we try and work them all together. You have people chase each other, have different goals, set them time goals, set them off, handicap them and that kind of thing on the track and trying to make it fun as well as them getting a lot of a lot out of it and achieving their goals and acquiring the skills. So it can be interesting, but it does give you the full, I suppose, range of your abilities is stretched as a coach to know that you have to deal with every single level.

Cam Tradell [00:02:24] I'm guessing that your experience over time to put a little bit in your in your kit bag with regards to how you service that, knowing that you've got different talent coming through and different abilities coming through. How do you get that mix between people who are really aspirational and wanting to go as far as they can go in the sport? How do you set those goals for those people with regards to achievable milestones, considering that you've got others in there that that are never, ever going to really make that the top level, but are really keen to sort of be there, be part of the community and compete?

Louise Sauvage [00:02:59] Yeah for the guys that obviously show a lot of talent and want to get to the next level, and they're motivated to do that obviously, we have different competitions in different times. Obviously, my sport is worked on on times for different events. So we do set goals within the year and also different competitions that they can go to. You know, that's been a bit hard in the last year or so. But, you know, a lot of my guys compete regularly during the season, so they have goals to compete for, especially when they come to Canberra and go on a nice track. So they really love coming here and they get PB's and it just spurs on when they get home and get back on a slow track. So it's really good. But within the group that I have on a on a Saturday, there are the guys that, you know, possibly won't make that level, but they're definitely there to enjoy the sport and they all mix really well. It's a great community, actually. And, you know, maybe they do or they don't know how far they want to go in the sport. But it doesn't matter even if they decide, you know, a couple of years down the track that ‘I actually do want to have a crack’ well, then, you know, they still there and I'm still there for them to try and help them achieve whatever goals they want to. And not everyone will get to a Paralympic level, but they could get to national level. They could increase their 10K, you know, decrease the sorry, the 10k time. That could be their goal. So it's all relevant for the different athletes. And we try and see that they're individuals that way. You know, just getting around the track for some of the athletes and staying in their lanes is a goal. And some of my guys still struggle to do that. And so it's just it's all relevant to the to the person and the age they're at. And when they started racing.

Cam Tradell [00:04:36] It's incredible the way that you work with that vast range of people. And over time we're talking about, you know, what's in your kit bag. I'd be really interested to know the different ways that you communicate or that you personally as a coach that you've learnt over time to get different messages across.

Louise Sauvage [00:04:53] Obviously, with the elite guys, we do a lot of video analysis, photos, we do a lot of different things to show them what they're doing and how they're doing it and analyse their races and then that kind of thing to try and get them to say also technique physically actually being there with them and showing them. And you talk about the communication styles. It's funny, when I work with the national team and those guys, I seem to have a different level of communication just because they know that I've been there and done that. And they kind of know that. They know that how I know how they're feeling at a crucial moment and what they potentially might need. And they don't have to explain themselves. And it's kind of nice, I think sometimes that you don't have to do that and you get to learn the your athletes as well. And you've got that trust between you as well. So it all comes down to how you communicate, I think, and how you get along with that person. But when with my younger crew, it's just treating them like regular people and asking them questions and a lot of the time. And I can only speak from my experience a lot of time when athletes with disabilities don't always, or people with disabilities sometimes don't get talked to sometimes. Especially the younger kids, their parents are always there or someone's there and they get spoken to in that respect. When I talk to them and I'm asking them about their disability, what they can and can't do, what they can feel to a certain extent and what they can't, they kind of look at me as if to say, ‘oh, no one really asks me’. And it's kind of cool. And I'm not kind of, I don't know. I don't care what your mum's got to say, I want to know what you say and I want to know what you [feel]. And so it's kind of different to be able to talk to them that in that respect, I don't mind if they're six years old. You know, I always say I'm going to change my language, but you know, they're 13 and they're giving me a hard time because I don't know who the Avengers are. So there's lots of things like that. There's different communication levels in that respect. But it's good. It's a good little community. And, you know, it doesn't matter if they know who I am or my history. It's just the way I can relate to all of them. And we have something in common with most of us who will have a disability.

Cam Tradell [00:07:03] That's incredible in the fact that you just sort of brought together a philosophy of coaching, I think that's pretty much across anyone that you've got in front of you is you said that you find out what they can do. And I guess any coach that's standing in front of any group realistically is looking at what can they do, what can they do and what do they need to do and how you co-create a session that's suitable for the people in front of you. I think that's an art in itself. But it sounds like it's really exacerbated here, or highlighted here, because you've got people with the different abilities that it sort of makes you really coach and really innovate. Would you say that's a fair sort of [summation]

Louise Sauvage [00:07:41] Yeah, I think it makes you a better coach. Nothing's stock standard, when you're coaching someone with a disability, you're always finding ways to think outside the square, how to adapt, how to make it work to what it should look like or how it could look like. And even if a child or an adult or teenager says to me, what, I don't think I can do that, well, let's have a crack, you know, let's see what you can do. And, you know, I'll be here, and if it hurts or, you know, you don't think you can do it, then we'll stop. But let's try this. And, you know, and lead by example as well. You know, I often use the other the other kids in the group or adults to use as an example. This is how I get in and out of my chair. This is how I push. These are the gloves I use that you and I have got those or you know, this is where you trying to contact on the rim. You know, I will use my 13-year-old to help my six-year-old. You know, I go around the track and fix their steering, so it's all about, them all teaching the new people and, passing it on like I suppose I do to a certain extent. So it's good. It's really good. You know, how you can communicate between them as well and everyone's equal. It doesn't matter. I mean, I don't care. You come down on a Saturday morning, you're in a race chair, you can have a crack. I don't mind what your disability is and what level you're at.

Cam Tradell [00:08:58] It sounds like your communities of practise, which is an extremely well researched and understood area. So where we're trying to get to with nationalising, coaching and officiating, especially with regards to people having self-awareness, having someone there as a mentor to sort of help them along for people to understand their gaps or where they need help. It sounds like that's really alive and well in your space. I mean, hearing that a 13-year-old's helping out a six year old in something, one that sounds fantastic, just basically building those aspirational mentors and knowing that your aspirations are just there. It's actually the 13-year-old. It's not necessarily someone that you're seeing on TV. I think that's really interesting.

Louise Sauvage [00:09:39] Yeah, I think it's great. I mean, they say the guys, the national guys on TV, I seen them in the Paralympics and things like that. And that is the ultimate, obviously. You know, a lot of my guys come to these able-bodied meets and they see people that they've seen on TV do it and they get excited as well, which is kind of cool. They probably relate to them, but not in the same way. But, you know, we're such a small community. I think it's important that we all share our knowledge and pass it forward and are involved. And I think it's really important for them to feel like they belong as well. It's probably one of the most important things. I mean, most kids in Australia go to their Saturday morning sport or, you know, weekend sport at some stage. And, you know, they can join their local soccer club. They can go and participate. For a lot of kids with disabilities, it's not that simple. It's not that easy. They need specialised equipment or they don't fit in. They can't join in with their brothers and sisters. So for them to come along to their Saturday morning sport is you know, it's important for them to be feel part of that group and know that this is where they belong. They feel comfortable and they can all have a laugh and have new friends and, you know, be comfortable and still have a good time and enjoy their sport and be active and fit and healthy. So it's the same purpose. Yeah, it's a little bit harder sometimes.

Cam Tradell [00:10:52] I think belonging is a great word in that we all want to feel like we belong no matter what the environment is. You said before that coaching is very, very similar. Do people ever come to you for advice or someone who doesn’t have a disability?

Louise Sauvage [00:11:08] To coach someone without a disability? Oh, I don't know how to run. Oh, yeah, but no, I think on a broader spectrum, like I said, coaching is coaching. So where I work, you know, obviously I'm surrounded by another a lot of coaches from different sports and we all learn from each other. And regardless of our sports, regardless of whether it's an able-bodied sport or a sport for athletes with disabilities, it doesn't matter. Coaching is coaching. So I learn lots of things from those coaches and that's how I learn. It doesn't matter whether you're an able-bodied or not, I think that's really relevant. And I've probably learnt a lot from those people and the environment where I where I work more than anything. So, yeah, I think we learn together, you know, from each other. It's great.

Cam Tradell [00:11:55] Do you see that there's that opportunity for people and would there be that opportunity for people to actually come in and coach people with disabilities to improve themselves?

Louise Sauvage [00:12:05] Yeah, absolutely. I think it make you a better coach, like more rounded having to think outside the square, like I said, adaptability. You just learning perhaps you're involved in athletics, but like, it's throwing something, a curveball, which could be, you know, an athlete with a prosthetic leg or an arm. And then you go to coaching a sprinter, but with a difference. And so it does make it I think it's way more interesting and it opens your mind up. And there's not a lot of history that can go back onto a lot of our sports. So you can't go to a book necessarily and look up things. So it makes you think and, you know, some great resources around this country to be able to rely on to help you progress in that way as well. I encourage anyone to come along and experience and get involved and, you know, see what we do and different things. It makes you a better coach. Definitely.

Cam Tradell [00:12:59] I think that's part of the some of the issues that might be here is the barriers to people actually not understanding that and just being fearful of making a mistake. Or what if they slip up? What if they say the wrong thing?

Louise Sauvage [00:13:10] I think people think that a lot. Me personally, I can't speak for all people with disabilities, but I'm definitely of the thing of the you know, I just ask me, you know, no no question is a stupid question. And if it is don't worry I'll probably tell you. But I'm in a nice way. But I think you just ask questions and become involved. You know, you see all the characters that we have, you know, and and how they interact and you know who will welcome you with open arms and yeah. Just come in, ask questions and get involved. Yeah, it's it's a it's a great way to get started and then experience something different.

Cam Tradell [00:13:48] Absolutely. And I think that there's a great opportunity with regards to as you say, it's it can be part of a development phase for people to make them think differently, to help them in whatever path they end up going in their coaching or even in the officiating space where having empathy, understanding setting the environment and then, you know, creating an optimal experience for the people in front of them has to be the ultimate goal for any coach, regardless of who they are coaching or officiating with. Louise, this has been fantastic. A lot to think about, a lot to unpack. And I really appreciate your time with us today.

Louise Sauvage [00:14:24] No worries thank you for having me.

Cam Tradell [00:14:29] Thank you for joining me today, if you'd like to find out more about Coaching and Officiating or have any feedback or questions, please email us at workforce@sportaus.gov.au. My name is Cam Tradell and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the coaching and officiating series.

Coaching and officiating Rob Dalton

This is a Sport Australia podcast production.

Cam Tradell [00:00:08] Hello and welcome to our coaching and officiating podcast series. My name is Cam Tradell and I am the Project Lead for Coaching Officiating at Sport Australia. Over this series, we will look at what it takes to modernise Australia's coaching and officiating system. Each podcast, we will be joined by a special guest who will share experiences and practical tips on their topics. In this episode, we'll be speaking to Rob Dalton, acting CEO of Sport Australia. He is with us to introduce the series and more importantly, the need for a modernised system that supports a connected sports sector. Good afternoon, Rob. How are you going?

Rob Dalton [00:00:46] Thanks, Cam. It's great to be here and thanks for having me. I'm really, really excited about the work that you and your team have done to build this modernised and connected coaching program across the sports sector. And, you know, I'm really passionate about coaching. I spent my life coaching and I think this is just something that we can all leave as a legacy and, you know, really make sport prosper in our country, which is what we really want to do.

Cam Tradell [00:01:16] Now, you've had multiple jobs and experiences through sport. You've got a lot of lenses and a lot of experience. Looking back, why do you see the need for some change?

Rob Dalton [00:01:26] Thanks, Cam. I'll take that. That you're calling me old because I've been around for a while. Look, I think, you know, sport has such a great thing in this country. And I think, you know, if I look at my experiences in sport where we really have just relied on the talent of the individual coach and there's been no there's been no consistency in the content. I know that a lot of sports have tried to do that, but there really is a great need for modernisation and actually get some consistency, which also enables a bespoke program for different sports and different cultures in different states because they are all different. And I think, you know, the real if we can get an outcome where sports are really developing their their coaches, then we're going to get a better experience. We get a better experience. We can impact the churn rate. You know, at the moment we've got 30 percent and 30 percent of our people are playing a game are leaving the game every year. And so that is largely because of the experience and by getting everybody trained in a methodology that can be applied, you know, from a bespoke perspective within each sport, we're going to get a better outcome. We're going to keep more people playing, which is what we're about.

Cam Tradell [00:02:43] How do you think we can best at Sport Australia, provide that consistency that you're talking about to get better outcomes for the broader Australian population?

Rob Dalton [00:02:52] Yeah, I think by working individually with sports, we'll find out the nuances between different sports. I think we've got to have a really effective medium to be able to do that. I think you're well on the way of being able to to make that happen. So having an effective medium where people are going to use it, I think, you know, using the manual approach where you run a roadshow or a workshop and those sorts of things, you can only get so many people to those events. So what we are trying to do is we're trying to make people, you know, those coaches who pass on their their talent and their ideas and their, their techniques to to young participants and hopefully its a chain letter, you know, hopefully they then go and pass it on as well. And we've got a cycle of coaches who want

to become coaches and then, you know, the participants that they coach and goes on and on and on. And I think that that's the lifeblood of sport. That's what we want our community clubs to be doing. And we really rich in it. And there are a lot of barriers at the moment, a lot of challenges for our for our coaches and our participants. They're being dragged away. They don't necessarily see the the value of coaching and coaching and volunteering have such an impact on their lives that they don't know. You know, it's so I think we've got a real opportunity to get some consistency, to give people the idea of what a great coaching session is. And so when our participants, who've got so many different options to go to, you know, whether it be through sport, arts, culture, whatever it is, you know, the emergence of E-sports, you know, we're giving them a great experience, which is teaching them lessons in life, and they want to keep coming back.

Cam Tradell [00:04:33] And again, you talk about that scale, which is so important, and the new learning centre at Sport Australia becoming available and underpinning everything that we're sort of trying to achieve. The getting that consistency of messaging, it's a really important factor is that we've got multiple ways that we can really scale this up.

Rob Dalton [00:04:53] Look, that's really exciting coming from a state sporting background and having coached it at all levels, you know, including including rep level. I think the the really exciting thing is that we can access more people. We've got the technology. I know you know, you and I are currently working on trying to introduce even more technology through virtual reality coaching and being able to use the superstars of our games, you know, of our sports and bringing them to communities and regions. So, you know, we've got to use technology. We've got to get that reach because there are so many other things for people to be able to participate in and we've got to make sport that one that actually has so many positives. So, yeah, the technology and I'm really excited about the learning system, learning management system. I think it is going to enable us to do not only from a coaching in sport, but also from an administration of sport, you know, the officiating of sport. You know, we can get consistency in the way that everything is delivered. And I know I'm and the board and management are really excited about that.

Cam Tradell [00:06:01] What do you see as being the major benefits to the NSOs with regards to what we're doing here at Sport Australia?

Rob Dalton [00:06:08] Yeah, I think the really critical part is that we're engaging with NSOs who then need to engage with our state sporting organisations and enhance our clubs. So this brings a sport closer together. This is critical. This is if we don't get this right, we are going to be overtaken by other things that are that are better experiential for our for our participants. And we're not going to exist. So this does require us all to work together and working with our NSOs to understand, how we can do a better and the nuances of each of the sports. It's going to help us, really deliver quality content. So I'm really looking forward to that. You know, that, you know, we talked a lot about our model within sport being a federated model and the separation. But, you know, we if the the one thing that sport has is that everybody's on the same page and that they want sport to prosper. So this brings us together. We might have some disagreements about what the content is, but then that becomes the bespoke aspect to it. Right. So we can tailor things to get different sports, you know, for participants and for officials

Cam Tradell [00:07:17] Getting down to that coalface delivery and having the hunter is good enough to give up their time to create these really positive experiences. How do you see them benefiting from a more connected sector and more aligned with with us the NSOs, etc?

Rob Dalton [00:07:32] I think there's always an element of doubt when you're coaching. You know, I'm sure you found it as well. You know, you wonder what else someone else is doing. You're always looking over your shoulder and I used to to coach the kids, and I used to think, well, what else can I come up with? You know, the preparation of a game plan or preparation of a of a skills session or whatever it might be. And that puts a lot of onus on on the individual. At least now we've got I can review the the system and and I can look at what other people are doing. And I know that I'm getting best practice. I know that I'm hearing about the best way to run a session. And so that gives me a lot more confidence. And I'm on the right path. And you know, that that validation that that I'm teaching these kids, you know, their future in sport. And let's face it, you know, there's going to be at least one in every team that's going to go on to perhaps play rep. That's a big obligation, you know, to be teaching the wrong thing. So, you know, just having that consistency and bringing the best of the best to the local sport. And I can just focus on, you know, community at a certain age group, and I can just become a real specialist out of that. And that's really exciting.

Cam Tradell [00:08:39] The podcast series coming out. We're really excited about who's on what excites you about what's coming. And I know that you've had a sneaky peek at the at who's on.

Rob Dalton [00:08:47] I have had a sneak peek and I'm sworn to secrecy that I can't actually tell who's on the list. But but wow, you've done a terrific job to get to get these people. And what and what I'm so impressed with is that, you know, the diversity of the sports we've got, you know, they're all amazing individuals and they're all going to bring unique aspects to their success, you know, in both their learning and in their execution. And I think that's a really important thing, being able to get everyone learns differently. You know, I'm a very visual person, so, you know, the theory for me, I'm going to fall asleep and I think everyone's going to bring the different ways that they learn better than than others. So, you know, for me, when I was playing sport, I would go and watch and I would learn from the watching. And, in fact, you know, very quickly I could execute and different people learn in different ways. So, you know, I see them and I see the topics that they've got. And it's terrific because we're going to get a real breadth of aspects of learning and execution. And I'm, you know, well done to you for doing that.

Cam Tradell [00:09:57] Well, thanks very much for joining us this afternoon, Rob. It's been fantastic to have you in here. And as I say, not just from the perspective of your current role, but your roles that you've played in sport and your experiences in sport.

Rob Dalton [00:10:09] Thanks, Cam. And can I congratulate you and your team once again. But can I also say how excited I am about the outcomes of this, and can I also say to everybody, this is a call to arms to to get back to your clubs, you know, to be participants, get back officials, volunteers. We need you. Some great stuff is coming. That's going to help. You even be better. You're going to have a lot of fun and it's really going to help you in your lives. You know, there's some such great benefits out of being volunteers and being in sport. You know, I really encourage everybody to to find out what those benefits are because, you know, certainly in my life, I wouldn't be sitting here now if it wasn't for sport. Thank you.

Cam Tradell [00:10:53] Thank you for joining me today, if you'd like to find out more about Coaching and officiating or have any feedback or questions, please email us at workforce@sportaus.gov.au. My name is Cam Tradell and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the coaching and officiating series.

2020 SportAUS Media Awards – Lifetime Achievement Award

This is a Sport Australia podcast production.

Mick Earsman It's an absolute pleasure to be sitting alongside one of the great Australian sports broadcasters. To many, his voice is the soundtrack of Australia's greatest triumphs and failures on cricket grounds here and all over the world. In almost half a century of broadcasting with the ABC, he is synonymous with the Australian summer, and now he is the 19th recipient of the Sport Australia Lifetime Achievement Award for Sports Journalism. We're here, we've been welcomed into his lovely home here in Sydney's eastern suburbs, along with his budgies, his pet budgies. Jim Maxwell, congratulations.

Jim Maxwell I'm very sort of surprised, overwhelmed and all of the things that happen when something like this occurs. So, it's Marjorie and Albert, by the way, over there, making the noise in the background. That might add something to the conversation as we go, but, well, thank you very much for the honour and the recognition. And there's a wonderful list of sporting people involved in this over the last 19, 20 years. So, yeah, it's a great honour to be told of this award. Thank you.

Mick Earsman It isn't your first award, clearly, Jim, and it won't be your last. How were you told? How did it come about, this news?

Jim Maxwell Yes, it was a phone call from Steve Moneghetti and we had a very pleasant chat about everything under the sun and then he told me that I was the recipient of this prestigious award.

Mick Earsman Ok, 48 years behind the microphone Jim. Over 300 test matches not out. Did the young Jim Maxwell ever dream that all of this was possible?

Jim Maxwell He had a dream. Maybe it was a fantasy in those days. When I was at school, I had an idea, an inkling that being involved somehow in the game of cricket, other than playing because I wasn't good enough to be playing at that top level, was perhaps achievable. I was writing a cricket magazine in school and I had quizzes and crosswords. I was also a bookmaker, but that's another career that I didn't embark on. And from there, even before I left school, I was applying for a job in the ABC as a trainee and funnily enough, the person who got that job was also at my school and had done his degree at University, a very good all-around sportsman and a lovely fellow who taught me a lot about broadcasting, Peter Meares. So that was the first crack I had at it and it went on from there at various intervals in the next few years before eventually I got in the front door.

Mick Earsman Yeah, you first started as a cadet in 1973 at the ABC but it wasn't all smooth sailing early on, was it? You got rejected a couple of times, was that right?

Jim Maxwell Well 1967, that was an optimistic shot in the dark. I hadn't even done the higher school certificate, but I thought it was worth having a crack. And then I went to uni and I had another go in 1969. And then I worked in life insurance for a while in the brand-new superannuation business that was all about and then I decided, because Tom Spencer, who was working in the same place, played first grade for Manly said “Why don't you come on the Old Collegians tour to England in 1972?” And I did. And it was through that experience and coming back home that my mother had advised me when I returned penniless at the end of spending all my dough there that “I got this cutting out of the paper, that job you were looking for in the ABC has come up again” and that was in September 1972. So the process started again and six months later, after auditions and whatever, I ended up with the job.

Mick Earsman And what was it that actually inspired you in the first place to pursue a career in broadcasting?

Jim Maxwell Cricket commentary. Listening to Alan McGilvray when I was young, particularly those Ashes series, ’61 a bit more, 1964. I used to listen to the cricket because by then I developed a keen interest in playing the game and following it. I used to have stuff stuck all over the bedroom wall. It was a combination of all the newspapers that I could find where I get some photos and scorecards. Cricket and motor racing. I had a lot of motor racing stuff on the wall. I probably had a few other things, but we won’t worry about that. But certainly, a lot of cricket and McGilvray’s voice was unique. There was only one McGilvray and the thing I loved about listening to him talk about the game was that he told you what was happening. All the other guys were colourful, they were lyrical and poetic and whatever, but they didn't give you the nitty gritty and McGilvray always did that. And that was the formative early influence in, as it turned out, my broadcasting career was listening to McGilvray’s silvery voice, confidential style and it had a lasting impact.

I had no idea when I was 14, 15 that I'd be sitting alongside him and sitting behind and listening to him. That was how I learnt more about cricket broadcasting than with anyone else.

Mick Earsman Was it him that shaped the way that you, your approach to cricket commentary?

Jim Maxwell No doubt about it. He didn't give advice very easily, very freely but every now and then he did offer you a crumb and one of them was ‘copy technique, make your own style’. So that's why I used to sit there and watch the game through his eyes and follow the way that he described the action, because cricket, unlike a lot of other more fast-moving sports, gives you pause for reflection. When you've got these rapid fast identification sports, you've got to be on the hammer. Cricket, you can just sit back and relax in between and talk to your kindred spirit next door or mull on what was going on in the crowd or somewhere else. So, it gives you a lot of opportunity to use language and to talk about things other than cricket the more it goes. It wasn't that in the early days you had to concentrate and be disciplined and that was drummed into you that you give the score, describe the field, very formal. And that was the McGilvray style and it was very, very effective. And he had a lot of people listening. As he used to say, a lot of people told me that they love listening to the cricket even though they don't know a damn thing about the game because it's just a friend on the radio, which is the delightful intimacy of radio.

Mick Earsman So, it has been a career in which has spanned the World Series cricket split, the coming of professionalism for cricket. There's been rebel tours, T20 cricket’s come along. You've seen the complete transformation of the game in your time in watching it and covering it. How have you seen the evolution of commentary over that same period?

Jim Maxwell Well, you always like to think things improve and I think for the listeners, I think what they're hearing now is a lot more enjoyable than my memory of it back in those years when it was pretty much inside the church, you know. It was strictly on the game as it was happening. And that's how we were taught. I think perhaps in keeping with the way we lead our lives and enjoy our social discourse, it's loosened up a lot, it's become more conversational. And hopefully we haven't got too far away from the essentials of giving the score on the scoreboard and I don't think as a rule we have on the radio. So, I think it's changed for the best, the games changed too. The players are more athletic and prepared than they were, the games generally more entertaining. And not just the T20 stuff, the frolics, but Test cricket is more combative and challenging and good to watch than perhaps it was in my young days when people were reluctant to take a risk and sat back a bit and waited for something to occur. So, I think the style of commentary has moved with the reshaping of the game. The game has evolved, and let's face it, there are very few sports that are as diverse, as varied, as cricket. When you look through Test match cricket, one-day cricket, T20, T10s around there, are there all sorts of different styles and looks and moods to the game of cricket that very few other sports can replicate. So that's another reason I think cricket is so good.

Mick Earsman There is a lot of variety, but are there rules that you've sort of stuck to throughout your career and that you would sort of preach to any, I guess, young broadcaster coming through the ranks at the moment?

Jim Maxwell Around the essential element of enjoying yourself because if you're enjoying yourself and you're involved in the game that will come across, hopefully in such a positive way for the listeners that they'll want to keep listening to you.

I think you need to have some sense of anticipation of events to keep people interested in what's going on when it gets a bit quiet as cricket can, because it has all these moods. But I think essentially, you know, the respect for the game, for the people who are playing. But the big thing to remember it is, it is a game. So, whenever things get a little bit serious on a particular topic, you always have to come back to that. And that's the good thing about talking to someone who goes off on a tangent on an issue in the game alongside you. The next ball will bring you back and you just keep moving on so that's how you sort of control, do your little bit of editorial in terms of the game.

That's part of recognising the fact that there is an audience out there. Now who’s listening? They're listening in England, yes, in Australia. Where's the audience? So talk to your audience. And remember, there are a lot of people out there who are coming and going. So don't forget the most essential thing, the score! Please don't forget on radio, to give the score! It's the one thing that really gets up my goat when I'm listening to other people and when I'm in the car or somewhere else that every now and then, they lapse into a discussion about this or that and get away from what's going on in the middle and don't give the score. So, yeah, that's my sort of reflection without going too hard on it for all cricket commentators.

Mick Earsman You have also written a stack of cricket books, but only one of those could really be considered the Bible of the Australian summer and that is the ABC Cricket Magazine. Was that your biggest passion project outside of the commentary?

Jim Maxwell Well, I used to buy it, of course, when I was young, two and six, whatever it cost back in those days and Alan McGilvray was the editor after John Moyes. And you also need to remember that this is a magazine that started in the 1930s around the synthetic broadcast as a guide to the broadcast, so it developed, evolved from that into what it's become. And it's probably the longest running cricket publication in Australia so it's got some history and tradition and there are a lot of collectors out there. So, I was doing bits and pieces for McGilvray when I first joined the ABC and then eventually, he passed the baton on and I was lucky enough to pick it up, back in the 80s. And the idea really from there on has been to try and introduce a bit more quality writing in the publication but stick to the basics of having enough statistics in there and pen portraits, the field. That's the one permanent thing the field placing, that's been there forever, we've stuck with that. So, you know, the quality of the production of the magazine it just keeps improving. And I'm very grateful to the ABC and those that have come on board from various organisations outside the ABC to edit and publish it and that it's survived because it's pretty hard as a lot of people out there would know for a magazine like that to survive in a in a market where everyone's online.

Mick Earsman Well, Jim, you've also had the pleasure of working alongside many great cricketers and commentators all over the world. Is there anyone that you've particularly enjoyed working with?

Jim Maxwell Well, Peter, the late Peter Roebuck, I enjoyed his company enormously. I was involved with a few other colleagues and getting him on the ABC many years ago. And he brought some dimension and knowledge, intellect, to cricket broadcasting that we hadn't had before. And the combination at that time of Peter Roebuck and Kerry O'Keeffe's quick wit, observational humour, I think made it one of the most enjoyable periods for me, if not for those who were listening, that the ABC has put out on the radio. So those two would stand out. And on the other side, I've got to say, although he does polarise the audience, Geoffrey Boycott’s been a lot of fun to broadcast with and with Michael Vaughan and then Vic Marks, Mike Silvy going back. We had a lot of fun in that Test match special box with those expert commentators around, obviously, Jonathan Agnew, Henry Blofeld, Chris Martin-Jenkins, a lot of very, very good broadcasters. And I probably I probably learnt more about how to relax as a cricket commentator by working with them, going back to Brian Johnston in the 80s than with it with anyone else.

Mick Earsman You have witnessed all of the highs and lows of Australian cricket over those years. Has it got to the point now where it's impossible for you to pick your most memorable moment in the box?

Jim Maxwell It's interesting, you think back on what Australia has achieved and its achieved an awful lot. And it's one I mean, very successful most of the time through all forms of the game. But funnily enough, it's the close games they've lost that seem to stick in the memory. Games like Edgbaston in 2005 when but for a whisker and a glove down the leg side and the rest of it with Michael Kasprowicz which they probably would have won that game. But as it turned out, it was a very important, significant trigger moment in the history of the Ashes, because with England winning and then winning the Ashes, it put some new life back into the Ashes series with Australia having been so dominant for so long. So that game stands out and there are a number of other very good games of cricket like, as a further example, because Brian Lara is probably the greatest batsman that I've seen, when he got the winning runs in that game in Barbados back in 1999. And they won by one wicket, another game Australia could have won and lost.

Yes, there's been a lot of those over the years, including a couple of ties that were memorable as well. But just watching the quality, the style of Australian cricket through that period out of the 90s into the 2000s, that was the time to be enjoying Australia's success and the quality of Test match cricket as we've not seen before, because of the superb bowling to a large extent of Warne and McGrath no matter what Australia did with the bat and most of the time they did enough with the bat.

Mick Earsman I think you've done very well to pull out those test matches from everything that you've seen. But you have also commentated on some other sports, rugby union, rugby league, golf, hockey. What would be your second choice behind cricket if you were to start your career again today?

Jim Maxwell It's very tough. I can tell you one of the most enjoyable matches, performances I've ever seen and been part of was Australia winning the gold medal in 1996, the Australian Hockeyroos, the women's team and Alyson Annan's performance with the hockey team and that was a stunning effort, that gold medal. So that that sticks in the mind as much as seeing Australia recover from a huge deficit in a rugby union test out of the football stadium against the All Blacks when Jonah Lomu was playing.

Nothing sticks quite as strongly in the mind, though, as calling club rugby on television, particularly down the road here with the eastern suburbs, with the home team, as it were. And probably the only time that I've been able to get a plug in for a sponsor without being in front of the Senate Estimates Committee. Yalumba with the sponsor for eastern suburbs, the late Greg Pullen, lovely fellow, he used to put a bottle of signature or something on the table for us to enjoy during the match. And they were very cold afternoons, you needed some medicine so that was important to have. And I thought to myself on one of these occasions, how on earth do I get a plug in for Yalumba without making it bleeding obvious that it's a commercial? So, we had this play down the right hand side or whatever it was and I said, the ball's gone out on the far side and Bartrop he’s out there and he's taken the pass and he's going to Yalumba in for a try. No one said a thing and Greg Pullen was very happy and Yalumba’s support for eastern suburbs was reinforced.

Mick Earsman You mention the Olympic Games and you have called at three Olympic Games, actually called three Olympic Games. But the most recent one that you called was Rio in 2016. And that's where life took a dramatic turn for you, didn't it, Jim?

Jim Maxwell Well, it did, yes. Luckily, I'm here today and chatting away, well it could have been different, but it was quite strange. We were working very strange hours in order to be on top of the time difference with Rio, we're doing it from most of it from Redfern, although we did have a couple of broadcasters in Rio, Alastair Nicholson and Quentin Hull were over there.

And I was introducing this yachting segment with my friend Peter Shipway who is a very famous Australian yachtsman and as I was about to introduce him, my voice just went. I lost it completely and Tim Gavel, who was in the studio, immediately recognised, even though he wasn't a doctor, that I'd had a stroke and called it, he called the stroke as I had it. And so, yeah, that that wasn't a great moment and the paramedics whipped me off to hospital and I have to say from that moment on, I really wouldn't have made the recovery to where I am now without the support of my wife Jen who has been outstanding. She's been with me on a lot of trips, work and pleasure and just the way she has looked after me and shown that sort of love you have in the relationship has been outstanding. I've been so fortunate so that's been a big part of it all. And remembering if we go back a few years to when we were married, it happened at the Sydney Cricket Ground. So, we've kept everything in perspective over these years.

Mick Earsman Did you ever doubt your ability to make a full return to the commentary box?

Jim Maxwell Oh, yes. Yes, well, in the early stages of it, I was struggling a bit with my speech and I've still got the legacy of a bit of a shaky right side. And I can't hit a golf ball properly at the moment so that needs a bit of work. But look, as they say, always, always look on the bright side. It could have been a lot worse, a lot worse. So, I'm very grateful that I haven't lost my voice and that I have been able to recover and do what I've been doing for such a long time. I mean, as Jen says, well, it's a stroke that keeps on giving.

Mick Earsman You’ve now even called a Boxing Day Test match from your lounge room here, probably that seat that you're sitting in but that wasn't due to your health or anything that you did, that was that was due to Covid-19 restrictions preventing you from travelling to Melbourne. Would that be up there with one of the strangest moments of your career?

Jim Maxwell Yes, it was certainly detached and remote. It wasn't as good as being there, nor was perhaps being at Redfern, where we did a remote call of that thrilling Test match that India played and won so well in Brisbane recently. But look, in all these things and perhaps the experience of being in the subcontinent, where to lose patience is to lose the battle, as has been said by a number of other people, so you adjust, you just have to adjust to whatever you confronted with. Just adjust and get on with it.

Mick Earsman That's fantastic advice. What do you feel has been, you know, the secret behind your longevity?

Jim Maxwell The fact that the ABC has stuck with me as much as I've stuck with them, I suppose, over these years, and I've had the opportunity to do what I've enjoyed. And it seems as though other people have enjoyed it, too. And so, yeah, there's something a little tenacious about it all, but a kind of fulfilment, a sense of enjoyment and the fact that 99 per cent, it seems, of those who are listening are enjoying it has sustained me and the more so having had this stroke and I'm recovering from it.

So just the support of so many people, either in a commentary box, the management level of the ABC and the BBC, but essentially at the end of the day, it's the people who are listening. And that's the best feedback you can get is from the bloke who walks across the road in the middle of nowhere and it's happened to me, fortunately, a few times, “I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed listening to the cricket from England”. And it's moments like that that make you realise that what you're doing is significant and to a lot of people, very important. So, I'm lucky to have been that messenger for so long. And now, I suppose as long as I've still got the voice that I've got at the moment, I might be allowed to continue to do it.

Mick Earsman I was going to ask, how long can you keep doing it, Jim?

Jim Maxwell Who knows? How long's a piece of string and all of that? I think it's the one thing about doing cricket that you can endure for a bit more than fast moving sports. I noticed and I haven't done a game of rugby or rugby league, for that matter, for some time, for a few years. But you need sharp identification and a quick brain to do that stuff. I'm not sure whether I could get away with it because all broadcasters who are listening to this will know that there's an element of bluff in what you do. So, yeah, and maybe as McGilvray said I'm not quoting him directly here, but I'll paraphrase him, he said it's amazing the boloney you can get away with on the radio. So, if it's all baloney, well, then a lot of people are listening to it so there must be some sort of substance to the baloney, I guess. And you just got to keep sticking your neck at all. As I said to my friends, you know that you are in control of what you are doing if you can put your foot in your mouth and then realise how to take it out.

Mick Earsman That’s great,that's really good. So, Jim, a few cricket questions to finish off for me without notice.

Jim Maxwell Is this a quiz?

Mick Earsman It's a quiz. Who is the greatest player you've ever seen?

Jim Maxwell Shane Warne. No doubt. Warne has done more to influence the game of cricket than any other Australian cricketer if not world cricketer since Bradman and is extraordinary, the most extraordinary talent I think we've seen in this era with his ability to rip those leggys and have the variety and the personality to command the stage. And he's not only been a great bowler, but great theatre. And I think he has added more to the spectacle of cricket than anyone else in the last 20 or 30 years.

Mick Earsman There havebeen a number of very successful Australian captains, who's the best of them?

Jim Maxwell That's a very tough question, because I remember Richie Benaud from my youth and he was an inspirational force, so is Ian Chappell and Mark Taylor’s probably up there, close to the top. You need the ability to have the confidence of those are around you for them to believe in you. And you need to have the tactical nous. And I think Mark embraced all of that.

Mick Earsman The scariest bowler you've ever seen.

Jim Maxwell Well, when I was at school, it was a kid called Nigel Agonia who came from Papua New Guinea and he frightened the hell out of everyone because there were no helmets in those days and he was bloody fast. That's a personal experience but sitting back in the commentary box and watching, that's a very good question. I'd say a combination if I put two on the table. Froggie, sorry, a combination of I put two on the table, Jeff Thomson, because no one could see where the ball was coming from with his javelin like action and Patrick Patterson at his best was ferocious, ferocious.

But there have been plenty of fast bowlers who have frightened the tripe out of batsmen. But I reckon Thommo in his peak for the two years before he got injured would have to be the fastest and most frightening bowler the game has seen.

Mick Earsman You will have witnessed hundreds of thousands of innings by any number of batsmen across the globe, is there one of all that really stands out?

Jim Maxwell The one that sticks in my mind because of its significance in the course of the series was Sachin Tendulkar in Chennai against Shane Warne. And he got out, I think a duck in the first innings, caught at slip by Taylor. In the second innings, he took on Warne and out of the rough there was a bit of rough too, I remember he hit this six over midwicket and he stamped his authority on the game and on Warne from there on in this series. And it was a brilliant, brilliant innings and it made a huge difference to the course of that series. So that stands out but goodness, there have been plenty of others, plenty of hours, and Ricky Ponting’s performance in the final of the World Cup in South Africa in 2003 is another that stands out as a glittering example. Certainly in one day cricket, if not all cricket, of a batsman, so dominating the opposition that it helped chalk up a significant victory for Australia.

Mick Earsman What about your favourite cricket ground?

Jim Maxwell I always come back to the SCG because I've watched and done commentary, I mean, actually even played on the ground, fortunately enough, once or twice. The slightly lower level than the stars, but the thing with the SCG is that unlike any other ground in Australia, you have the members, and the ladies stands and in the members stand, you've got those two dressing rooms. Now, those dressing rooms are hallowed places. You can go in there, not just as an Australian player, but as Joe Blow, if you're able to on a tour or whatever, and take a seat where W.G Grace sat at one end of the pavilion or Don Bradman at the other. There's no other cricket ground in Australia that has that special historical significance that the SCG has, so that's why to me it is the number one ground in Australia, probably the world, but Lords is certainly special too. But the SCG, that's the home of cricket.

Mick Earsman This is probably going to be the hardest one to answer for you, but who is the best cricket commentator?

Jim Maxwell Alive or dead is the riposte to that goes. Well McGilvray was the best on radio and Richie Benaud was the best on television. I mean after that, there are a lot of very good commentators, my colleague from England, Jonathan Agnew, and we're very fortunate in the ABC to have a number of excellent commentators. And, yeah, I think it's a bit hard to define.

And the person whose company I've enjoyed enormously when we've had the chance to work together is Harsha Bhogle from India as an all-rounder and is that without peer, whether he's talking about the game or the influence of the game on our society, Harsha is number one. And you know, in the same breath I talked about Roebuck and O’Keeffe, my old pal Mike Coward, a wonderful person to have talking about the game of cricket with his passion and knowledge of the game. So it's a strong list and at the same time, as I say that, I think without doubt the best all round sports commentator, who was excellent on the radio and is just as good on TV is my old pal from Melbourne Tim Lane.

Mick Earsman Last question for you Jim. Why is cricket better on the radio than it is on television?

Jim Maxwell Because it's kind of seamless on radio, right, and you don't have to be concentrating on a screen to follow it and you can enjoy the lyricism of the commentator’s diction, description of the game. And that's more and more the case in this country, it seems, with people in the middle of summer who were out and about in a car, on a harvester, in a truck, on the beach. They need the radio and it's very soothing, gratifying and quite intimate, too, to have this person talking to you about the unfolding drama of an unscripted drama that's taking place. So it's just so much more fun than TV, which is Brian Johnston said years ago, television commentary, there's a bus coming down the road. What am I going to say? Oh, there's a bus coming down the road. So that's why radio is so good. It takes you to a place that you're not at, so to speak.

Mick Earsman Well Jim Maxwell, congratulations on being the latest recipient of the Sport Australia Lifetime Achievement Award in Sports Journalism and thanks for welcoming us today in your lovely home. It's been a real honour.

Jim Maxwell Well, thank you for listening. And I say that to you, Michael, and to everyone. And I hope that you enjoy the continuation of listening to cricket on the radio and one of the unique sounds in the world.

Sport Governance Principles - The Game Is Changing

This is a Sport Australia podcast production.

Kate Corkery Hello and welcome to the Sport Governance Podcast series. My name is Kate Corkery and I am am the Director of Sport Governance and Strategy at Sport Australia. Over this series, we will take a deep dibve into the sport governance principles and how they come to life in practice. Each podcast will focus on an individual principle with a special guest joining me to share their experiences and practical advice with respect to that principle.

Kate Corkery In today's episode, we are focusing on the final section of the sport governance principles - The Game is Changing, contemporary and stable governance structures. This section highlights that structure is an enabler for supporting the way national and state sporting organisations collaborate. How they share strategies, streamline administration, achieve consistent constitutions governing structures and behaviours which in turn decrease complexity and increase agility. Sports can achieve their purpose and deliver timely responses to market needs. Joining me today is James Sutherland, current CEO of Golf Australia. James has a long and distinguished career in the sport industry, having previously been the CEO of Cricket Australia from 2001 to 2018. He currently sits on the board of cricket's T20 World Cup 2022. The AFL's Geelong Football Club. The Advisory Council to Sport Integrity Australia and is a member of the Champions of Change Coalition. Welcome, James, and thank you for joining me.

James Sutherland Pleasure. Good to join you, Kate.

Kate Corkery Well, this is certainly a topic full of opportunity and challenge and I'm really looking forward to getting a sense of your experience over this podcast. But I did want to start with some context. There is increasing evidence that the historical structural model for sport lacks agility. It doesn't meet the needs of our changing community and the the expectation of participants, spectators, partners and other consumers. As a result, the position of traditional sport in Australian culture is being challenged, particularly by recreational activities but also the rise of the Internet and on-demand consumerism. More than ever, Australians are choosing non sport options for their physical activity. In that context what is your experience in terms of modern Australia's expectations of sport and how those expectations changing?

James Sutherland Well, I think for a start, the expectations are high and they're only getting higher. I think from that perspective, I meant to drill down on that a little bit there's an increasing focus on the belief that sport should be providing opportunities. Opportunities for the broader community and serving the broader community and issues around fairness and equality, for example, are things that are pervading and expected perhaps far more than more than they were. I think there's also an element that comes with that. With that opportunity, opportunities to play, opportunities to succeed - as in to get better and be supported by coaching, but then opportunities to thrive as well at a performance level. So going into that high performance. Those expectations are there and they're getting higher all the time. And with it I think, comes an expectation around the administration of the game that the public just expects sport to get that right. Don't bother us with all of that detail about the administration. You just have got to get your stuff sorted and get it done. And to some extent, that's an unreasonable expectation because not all sports are resourced as well as the big ones that generate revenue from media rights and what have you. But it still comes back to that core challenge and something that pervades and, as I say, come back to the question - there's an expectation that is only getting higher.

Kate Corkery So we end up talking about modern and contemporary governance structures, and that means changing. In your experience, why is it so challenging to achieve these structural changes?

James Sutherland Well, first, whenever I've faced challenges with change, I've always resorted to a quote that I like that is attributed to Robert Kennedy, who was a US senator and obviously part of the Kennedy clan. He said "progress is a nice word, but change is its motivator and change has its enemies". And I think that you can get caught up in the word "change". But really what he highlights there is that it's actually about progress. It's actually about getting better. And we all sort of like to think that we've all got our eyes on continuous improvement and how our sport can get better. But it does involve change and for various reasons, lots of reasons which you were alluding to in the question. There are obstacles to change that are obstacles to progress. And I think it's a really important and fundamental starting point when you consider how you try to progress and the great dreams that you may have for your sport to think about the involvement of change and how you can bring people along with you. And perhaps we can take this conversation a little bit further into those reasons why there might be obstacles.

Kate Corkery I guess one of those obstacles is the traditional federated system of governing sport in Australia, which has not changed or using your language has not progressed significantly in over 100 years - is embedded within our Australian sporting organisations. So that takes us to our current sport leaders and our future sport leaders and I mean at all levels of sport - clubs, state, national, what do we need to continue to progress?

James Sutherland You know, I mean, we've seen, you know, the way that we're governed, not just in sport, but, you know, in political life and what have you. We've seen that every day. We're still very much operating within a federal structure. And there's been a great in the last 12 months, you know, with the pandemic, a great illustration of we've resorted back to federation and the power of states. And it's never been more apparent in the last 12 months than any time in the last decade or so how that all works. And some of that sort of rises to the surface in sport, as we know on a pretty regular basis. There is a lot of history and people in Australian sport have a great awareness, you know, people who are playing roles as servants of the sport, either as volunteers or as paid employees they have a line of sight and never really lose sight of where they've come from and who their constituents are. And that in itself can be a significant barrier to progress and change. But nonetheless, we bring ourselves together for the sake of the sport and we try to bring that forward. And I think the other thing with that is, you know, the bigger picture being a part of the bigger picture and growth of the sport and the performances at international level and the way in which the sport appeals to spectators and fans and what have you is something that can galvanise people and people can get behind.

Kate Corkery One of the things about structural change is it is about people. It's led by people. It's championed by people. It's sort of to a certain extent, stopped by people. It's not easy and it's not quick. And we've experienced in sport that it shouldn't just be any one party in isolation that is in charge of or responsible for accountable for the change. It requires the commitment of national sporting organisations and state sporting organisations to achieve that common purpose of strengthening, as you say, the whole sport. What lessons have you learnt through being involved in structural change processes?

James Sutherland I think I mean, my feeling around this is it's really important for a sport to have a clear vision and purpose as to why it exists and to get the stakeholders to agree on that common ground. I remember in cricket, we had a vision statement, which everyone sort of had a line of sight to, which was 'Australia's favourite sport and a sport for all Australians'. And so whatever you did in the sport, wherever you were in the hierarchy or the structure and wherever you were geographically, you still had a line of sight back to that. And in golf today, we you know, we talk all the time about more Australians playing more golf. If that happens and we're all responsible for growing the game and those opportunities everyone in the industry is a beneficiary of that. And I think that goes to the point of common ground and finding that, you know, realising that we have a lot more things in common about the success and how the sport thrives than we do in opposition as we work through change. And I remember when we were working in cricket, we had Pippa Grange, who you may know Kate is, I think, a behavioural psychologist and a bit of an expert in sports culture. But she was doing a workshop, I remember, with our management team, Cricket Australia management team and state CEOs one day and she just said off the cuff, we all love cricket, don't we? And we all want it to be great. So let's talk about that. And I think these sort of conversations perhaps aren't had enough or not, at least at the front end of difficult transformational projects and change. Let's talk about why we want our sport to be great and talk about what its potential is and then get into the detail of what the obstacles are. Think about what does success look like and then work through a process of how we get there.

Kate Corkery Quite often I'm asked and I'm sure you're probably asked, Is there a single right governance structure?

James Sutherland Many may think there is, but my personal view is no. And I also think with that comes the comment and qualification Kate that I think it's a journey. I mean, this whole thing about governance and the administration of sport and how we improve is a journey. There's no end point in this. And there's a constant, you know, oscillation to try to find an equilibrium that works for all of the stakeholders because our whole community is changing all the time. The environment is changing. Our competitor relationships are changing. And and so to that end, we need to continue to adapt and we need to continue to keep a line of sight to, this is where these vision statements and purpose statements come in, to continue to I guess look at that light on the hill and keep finding that sort of sometimes windy road to success so that the sport can thrive.

Kate Corkery And you keep coming back to that common purpose and vision, once you've got that line of sight and you've got that lighthouse on the top of the hill, having the ability to prepare a national picture on a range of functions for sport is really considered to be at the forefront as an outcome of good governance and reflective of a strong, united sport. Have you experienced this done well?

James Sutherland Well, I'd like to think that in cricket we went through some significant transformational change in cricket. I think one of my learnings from that was you go through that process and you think that when you get to the constitutional reform and everyone votes at a general meeting to change the way that we're governed, that you're there and you've arrived and there's a new almost a new dawn. But it doesn't work like that at all. What happens in that process is that - golf is going through that at the moment where we are bringing our states together under a One Golf banner. People take when they when they do subscribe to constitutional reform, members take a leap of faith. They are believing in something that has been put forward largely in concept. And to that end, it still needs to be proven and it needs to be proven every day. You need to build confidence. You need systems of reporting lines and communication. That is really important. I think back to my time in cricket. One of the things I inherited was a trial integration with Women's Cricket Australia and what was then the Australian Cricket Board. So that's only 20 years ago. But women's cricket in Australia was separately run, had its own board, completely separate company and Australian Cricket Board, which was largely the male side of the game, was the same. And one of the things with that I learnt was that this trial integration, which was a two year period which women's cricket was actually chaired by former Governor General Dame Quentin Bryce. But her leadership in that process was incredible. And so her confidence and belief but also she brought the stakeholders on the women's side along who were quite, I guess in some ways sceptical about it. But they believed in the integration, the trial integration proved the leap of faith. And I'd say reflecting on what's happened in the 18 years since, you know, the women's game in Australia has significantly thrived under that since that merger took place.

Kate Corkery Oh, look, it certainly certainly has. And I mean, I was present at the final of the Women's T20 World Cup in Melbourne in March of last year of 2020. And being in that environment, it's very obvious that when you look at the stewardship and the leadership and those leaps of faith, as you describe them, just how extraordinary they can be in terms of impact. And I guess that sort of leads me to a question around opportunity. I mean, you've given us a live opportunity there of what can happen when sport adopts contemporary governance structures and has that leadership, which is really infinite in its vision. What are the other opportunities you've seen arise out of contemporary governance structures?

James Sutherland One of the things that I've always felt is that under a more contemporary governance structure, you end up fishing in a much deeper pond or a deeper sea. There has been a tendency, I guess, in the past for sports to give roles and important roles in the governance of the game to people that have served for a long time. And people and it's almost a tour of duty and at the end of that, there's the reward of being on the national board or something like that. But if that's, you know, that's the sole qualification or criterion by which people get there, then clearly the talent is going to be somewhat limited. Now, that's not to say you don't want people that have vast experience in the game on your board. Absolutely you do. But at the same time, you need a balance of skills and a different sort of demographic. And that's where I think one of the benefits in these modern governance principles, we see sports now being able to choose from a much broader and diverse sectors of the population. And, you know, one of the things I say is that you don't even need to be passionate about the individual sport, because I think that diversity of opinion and view can be quite significant in helping the sport to progress. Because I think one of the real keys for sport today, amongst the various challenges of competition, not just from traditional sports, but as you pointed out in your intro Kate, from all sorts of other leisure pursuits. How do we make ourselves relevant, continue to be relevant in modern day society? And I think that's the big challenge for Australian sports. And if all we're doing is having a conversation amongst people that are rusted on passionate fans of that particular sport, then the conversation is going to go round and round. We're not really going to bring some new thoughts to the table.

Kate Corkery I think we'll leave it and challenge those who are listening to this podcast series to ask their boards and their colleagues and their committee's that exact question. How is it that we remain relevant in modern Australian sport? James, thank you so much for your insights on this challenging and important topic and appreciate your time.

James Sutherland Pleasure, Kate. No problem at all.

Kate Corkery If you'd like to access a copy of the sport governance principles, you'll find them at the SportAUS website - sportaus.gov.au/governance. If you have any feedback of questions, please email us at sportgovernance@ausport.gov.au My name is Kate Corkery and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the Sport Governance series.

Sport Governance Principles - The Scorecard

This is a Sport Australia podcast production.

Kate Corkery: Hello and welcome to the Sport Governance Podcast series. My name is Kate Corkery and I am the Director of Sport Governance and Strategy at Sport Australia. Over this series, we will take a deep dive into the sport governance principles and how they come to life in practice. Each podcast will focus on an individual principle with a special guest joining me to share their experiences and practical advice with respect to that principle.

In today’s episode we are focusing on Principle 4 – The Players. A diverse board to enable considered decision making. Principle 4 highlights that a board should be a diverse group of people who collectively provide different perspectives and experience to facilitate more considered decision making.

We are privileged to be joined by Pippa Downes to discuss this critical principle. Pippa has over 25 years experience in global financial services in Australia, Asia and the US. Pippa was a managing director of Goldman Sachs in Australia for over six years. Pippa is a commissioner of the Australian Sports Commission and is a director of Australian Technology Innovators ZIP Co., ALE Property Group and Ingenia Communities Ltd. Pippa is a former director of Swimming Australia and Sydney Olympic Park. Pippa is also a dual international athlete, having swum for Australia and represented Hong Kong in the rugby sevens. Hello, Pippa and thank you for joining me to discuss this significantly important principle that underpins good governance.

Pippa Downes: Thanks, Kate. I'm delighted to be with you today.

Kate Corkery:  So let's start with benefits. What are the benefits of diversity to a board?

Pippa Downes: Well, look, I think the research is very clear that when you have a diverse board, better decisions are made and you're less likely to miss things. So, you know, then if you have a group of like minded individuals and the role of the board is so critical in setting the strategy and for an organisation that you really can't afford to have a sub-optimal board. So a diverse group of people is really the only way to go.

Kate Corkery: And when we talk about sport, quite often matters relating to conflict of interests come up in terms of diversity. How is that played out for you?

Pippa Downes: It's very interesting, right? I mean, when you're on a board, you have a duty to the organisation to do the right thing. And I think what I've sort of encountered through some of my dealings with sports governance is people come onto the board and they come with their little patch that they feel like they're representing. But when you come onto a board, you need to leave that at the door because you're trying to represent the sport as a whole. And I think sometimes people miss that they have a fiduciary duty to the whole sport and the whole organisation, and they're not in there batting for their little patch. So everybody has to be doing what is in the collective best interests of the sport, not what perhaps they're, you know, where they came from. So if they're a coach, for example, if they're a high performance athlete, you've got to look at the big picture when you're on a board. And I think sometimes people don't quite understand that. And I think, you know, there are conflicts that arise. I've seen it myself. And sometimes that comes because people don't understand the duties of a director. To act in the best interests of the whole organisation. But I think that comes through education. And I think, you know, I think increasingly people do understand what a conflict is. And if it sort of smells like it, something might not be right, there's probably a pretty good chance there's a conflict going on.

Kate Corkery: We have conversations about the importance of elected directors and the importance of appointed directors. How does this inter-relate with a principle around diversity?

Pippa Downes: I think one of the lessons that I certainly learnt when I was on the board of Swimming Australia, one of the problems we had with the Federated Models is that the elected directors, like any politician frankly, I think there's a reason why elected politicians generally are continually rate quite low in the public's perception of them, rightly or wrongly. Because they are seen to be making short term decisions for the electoral cycle. I think, you know what I certainly witnessed in the swimming world when I was on the board many years ago, is that some of the directors were scared to make some of the the right decisions because they were worried about being elected. And that's the beauty of the independent directors who can come in. Often times they may or may not like obviously I was very involved in swimming but I hadn't been around the sport for 20 years. So I was able to come in with a very fresh perspective. I hadn't been involved, so I didn't have sort of a preconceived notion about what the right ideas were for the sport. I think what you can find, the people that been involved in the sport for so, so long, they sometimes may lose the perspective. I mean, the world's rapidly changing and sports also need to adapt. Like companies have to adapt. If you don't adapt, you die and you end up out of business. And unfortunately, sports are in the same way. I mean, we've seen it this year with COVID just how quickly we've seen the professional sports having to lay off people and adapt their operating models. So you need to be able to do that. You need to have a fresh perspective. Independent directors have that ability because they don't have to face the members, I guess, for a certain period, which gives it a little bit of flexibility to be able to sort of make those long term decisions that may not be popular but, you know, as we know, sometimes you do need to make decisions that might not be popular in the short term but there are obviously the best interests of the sport in the long term. I think a lot of sports are learning, just in the last nine months with COVID, that sometimes you've got to make some tough decisions to keep the sport liquid. You know, when when sport stopped and membership fees didn't come in. You know, it's been a very tough time for sports. Volunteers haven't been engaged and that forces, you know, decisions and strategic decisions that the board have to make. That sometimes, perhaps some parts of the sport may not be happy with but ultimately, the board has to make the best long term decisions that are in the long term interests of the sport.

Kate Corkery: Indeed, and I've certainly had many discussions with directors over the last six or nine months about the fact that they came on to a sport board because they wanted to see it thrive. They never expected that they would be in conversations about it collapsing. And that's certainly been a bit of a reality check for a lot of our directors on sport boards over last six months. What attributes create diversity on a board?

Pippa Downes: Diversity comes in many different forms but ultimately, I think you need people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives for a start. I think you need people with diverse experiences, a life experience and sport experience. So, for example I don't think it's valuable to necessarily have, for example on a rugby board have 10 guys that used to play rugby because, you know, let's face it, they're going to have a quite similar perspective. So I think, you know, having very different perspectives is valuable. I think having diverse backgrounds is very valuable. So, for example, you know, if I think of say some about the sport of cricket, you know, it's a very popular sport in some of the southern Asian parts for the Australian community. And, you know, if you're thinking about participation, you know, it would be wise to want to have the viewpoint of some of the people from that community, I would think. And you obviously need diverse skill sets both educationally and what you bring to the table, because, as you know, different boards at different times need different skills. But you need the greatest amount of perspective to make sure you don't miss anything. And that's the beauty of a diverse board. And you can have robust discussions with everybody asking different things. And, you know, sometimes it's great to have people that have a completely different perspective, because I think what happens if you've got people, too many people that have got the same perspective, sometimes the big questions don't get asked the sort of 'elephant in the room' type questions or the dumb question, which somebody who's not as close to it might say, well no actually, why are we even doing that, which might be for people that have been too close to it, perhaps for many, many years and are very entrenched in their views, might not be able to see. And that's why it really helps to have a whole lot of different people attacking a problem from different angles.

Kate Corkery: So if you're looking for these different people, you're out there, you've got a board, you recognise you need to diversify the directors either for age or gender or cultural and linguistic background, how do you go about doing that?

Pippa Downes: Well, look I think for all boards to be effective, they need to really understand at any given point what their big challenges are and what the sort of basic skills that they need to be a high performing board. And so, you know, I think it's a given that you probably need people that are financially literate particularly sports are in some challenging times financially. So financial expertise is almost a given. But 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, as I said, 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 looking for a sponsor and trying to raise its profile, because at the end of the day, it's a dog eat dog world out there in the sports world trying to compete for dollars. So maybe you might want to get some marketing people with some of that skill to sort of assist the management teams to do that. So the board isn't there to do the job of management but it's certainly able to counsel and advise. You might have, you know if you're going through tough times, you've got to look at how the organisation needs to change in a tough environment, having people that are management consultants or people with HR backgrounds might be able to assist. Technology is obviously a very big one. So I think increasingly sports need to compete and connect with their members and technology is the enabler in that space so having somebody with that background. But I think really you need to have a skills matrix set up to make sure you know what you've got. Look at the you know, look at the people you've got on the board or work out where your holes are and that's absolutely critical to make sure, again, that you don't miss stuff because a diverse board needs to be able to cover all its bases, or at least if they don't have it, know that they don't have it may be able to bring somebody in from the outside to assist on some of the more tricky issues that they're facing.

Kate Corkery: Absolutely. And you have the board skills matrix to identify all those gaps in terms of skill and personal qualities on the board. You then find yourself in a position where you've got a nominations committee to oversee the election and appointment of directors. Talk to me about the change in the sophistication impact of nominations committees in sport over the past couple of years.

Pippa Downes: Yeah, look, I think there's been some really good work that's been done in sports like tennis that have really tried to sort of, I guess have that lens about what the board really needs. What the sport really needs. And in a sort of almost a dispassionate way to say listen right now we need skills A, B and C. And so really, if we're filling some spots on the board, this is our immediate need in the next one to two to three years that we really need to beef up our skills in that area. And that way they can look at the candidates that are coming through and sort of almost sort of vet them to say look these people can add that value to the board because we're always trying to enhance the quality of the board by beefing up the skills. I mean, that's how I mean, it's like an athlete and if an athlete wants to be successful, they've got to train hard. They've got to cover all their bases. If they've got a weakness, they've got to work on it. And that's how you excel. And that's how our athletes are high performance athletes. That's how our coaches learn. And boards have to do the same thing to understand where they're a little bit weak, how they can fill the gaps to, you know, be able to assist the greater sport moving forward.

Kate Corkery: And is it important that the voting members understand the value and the importance of the nominations committee process in terms of ensuring ultimately as the people with the power of the vote, the candidates who are not suitable for the needs of the diversity of the board at any time?

Pippa Downes: Well, look, I think it's absolutely important to connect with your members. I mean, you know, sports are run for the members. And there has to be absolute transparency but for the boards and the members to understand the process and why the boards are doing what they're doing. And I think the minute you know boards are not clear about what they're doing or the boards are not listening to their members or even, you know, there's a lot of governance reform going on now where the members you know frankly, sometimes they don't even have a say. And I think that's problematic. So ultimately the boards are there to help the sports and its members, not the other way around. So it's critical that the members understand the process, why it's happening, be absolutely transparent about the skills that they're looking for at the time so they can understand the appointments or they can understand the type of candidates that have been put forward to them to vote for. And ultimately 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.

Kate Corkery: You've just mentioned the chair and the chair is another position on the board which modern good governance has sort of adapted in terms of its appointment over recent years. And one of the key good governance concepts now is around the board appointing or electing the chair from amongst the directors. Why is that so important?

Pippa Downes: That's absolutely critical. I mean, the chair is apart from the CEO of the organisation, the chair is the most important person. You know, they are ultimately the conduit between the board and the management team and the CEO and they are the ones that run the meetings and optimise the discussion and the strategy coming out of that board. And it's a skill. I mean, 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. And that's, you know, when you have a diverse board, which is what we need to be successful, a good chair is very skilled at doing that. Now, I have experience absolutely the opposite and sometimes I know when I was on the board of swimming there was a member elected chair. Now, sometimes that just doesn't work. I mean, you really know the directors and know who is the person that probably is best placed to have that integrity to run the board meetings and to optimise the work of the board and I think it's absolutely critical that the directors are the ones that nominate that because the members they don't have that, if the members elect their directors, they need to have that trust that the directors can choose who it is appropriate to run that and do that optimally.

Kate Corkery: One of the key issues that we faced in good governance, not just in a sports sector but across the corporate sector, the not for profit sector, is women on boards and they are obviously a fundamental input into good decision making in terms of diversity. In 2015, Sport Australia applied a target of women NSO boards and that target was 40 per cent representation and despite that target being in place now for five years, we're still not hitting it. And in fact, worse than that for the 68 funded national sporting organisations, the gender balance is actually only 34 per cent and has declined by one per cent over the past four years and only 18 of our chairs are female which is 26 per cent. Why do you think that is?

Pippa Downes: Well look I think historically, you can't get away from the fact that sport and most businesses have been run by men. But things have changed radically in the last few years, particularly in sport, with the participation of women. So it's obviously critical you're not going to have a diverse board making good decisions if half the population are missing from the seat at the table. So I think, I don't know but there's still a lot of work to be done. Unfortunately I think some people are involved in boards, you know some people love their sports, everybody loves their sports. You'd hope that they're involved for the right reasons. But sometimes people want to be with people that they're comfortable and familiar with. Perhaps they don't know the women some of these boards are very political, as we know, unfortunately and sometimes people lose sight of why they're there and the purpose of the board and whose interests they should be looking out for which of course is the best interests of the sport as a whole. And maybe some women get a bit sick of it or they're not as interested in the politics because they want to work more collaboratively and, you know, sometimes people end up being a bit too close to the sport. And I've seen that. I've got firsthand experience of people who I'm sure anybody on a sporting board knows where people are in it, potentially not for the good of the sport, but for power or whatever reason, or they're just you know, they're so they're so close to it sometimes that they lose sight of why they're there and perhaps people sort of who are there for the good of the sport, you know, get disheartened and I know I certainly know that was sort of my experience a few years ago at Swimming Australia and others but it's so critical for the sports that we get as many people involved from as diverse range from the volunteers, to the coaches, to the participants. I think re-engaging with the alumni of the sport and ex athletes once they've, you know, been a successful athlete, often go on to have a different career and then they come back to the sport or maybe their kids start playing the sport. And I think having those people that have the love of the sport at their heart, maybe they're not as attached because they haven't been involved in sort of the day to day politics for the last sort of like 10 or 20 years. And, you know, sometimes people don't appreciate sometimes it's time to walk away. You know, you've got to let other people have a go. People can, all of us get very attached to our views and that's human nature. So sometimes I think it's important that people step away from the sports to give other people go, to get fresh perspectives on how the sport should be run. And you shouldn't have entrenched people running sports forever and a day because I think unfortunately sometimes they sort of lose sight of why they're there and moving forward and that's why you always have to have diverse, fresh thinking to make sure you're always looking forward about how to adapt into the new world.

Kate Corkery: So you've highlighted there the ways we can promote vacancies to actively seek diversity of directors. You've spoken about re-engaging with alumni of the sport, using networks, not being afraid to reach into professional community organisations and businesses. The other opportunity that there is and highlighting this for our listeners is Sport Australia actually has a national Director Register. You can register your interest to be on sport boards in Australia and when sport board positions are advertised, we push that out to those who fit the criteria on our register and that's a really great opportunity for us to identify and communicate with people who are interested in being on sport boards and feel like they've got a particular skill set or capability to offer.

Pippa Downes: Absolutely you think about how many participants in sport, who loves sports, who go off and, you know, enter into whatever career they choose, who have got a lot of knowledge, a lot of passion, who want to funnel that into the sport just because they love it, like me swimming gave me a great opportunity to travel to get a college education in the US so I want to give back to the sport and there's you know, hundreds of thousands of other athletes similar to me or perhaps their kids are playing a sport and they want to make sure that that sport is well-run. They can see things that probably need to change from their perspective. And they may have a very different perspective from a participation perspective watching their kids than sort of an elite high performance lens and, you know for sport to be firing on all cylinders, you've got to get the pathways right, you've got to get the participation right, you've got to get the elite and that's why having a diverse perspective and lots of different people who are looking at the sport from different angles is the way you make sure you don't miss anything and it's thriving.

Kate Corkery: Pippa, thank you so much for joining me on our SportAUS podcast, exploring Principle 4 -The Players.

Pippa Downes: My pleasure. Kate.

Kate Corkery: If you'd like to access a copy of the Sport Governance Principles, you'll find them at the SportAUS website sportaus.gov.au/governance. If you have any feedback or questions, please email us at sportsgovernance@ausport.gov.au. My name is Kate Corkery and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the Sport Governance Series.

Sport Governance Principles - The Best and Fairest

This is a Sport Australia podcast production.

Kate Corkery Hello and welcome to Sport Governance podcast series. My name is Kate Corkery and I am the Director of Sport Governance and Strategy at Sport Australia. Over this series we will take a deep dive into the Sport Governance Principles and how they come to life in practice.  Each podcast will focus on an individual Principle with a special guest joining me to share their experiences and practical advice with respect to that Principle.

Kate Corkery In today's episode, we're focusing on principle three - The Game Plan, a clear vision that informs strategy. Principle three highlights that the board is responsible for overseeing the organisation's vision and strategy, as well as determining what success looks like. To discuss the Game Plan, we are privileged to be joined by Rob Scott, Chair of Rowing Australia and Managing Director and Chief Executive of Wesfarmers. Rob holds a master of applied finance degree from Macquarie University and a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the Australian National University. He has a graduate diploma in Applied Finance and Investments and is a qualified Chartered Accountant. He is a dual Olympian in rowing and a silver medallist from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, as well as Chair of Rowing Australia, he is a member of the University of Western Australia's Business School Advisory Board. Rob is a past President and Director of the Insurance Council of Australia. Rob, thank you for joining me to discuss the Game Plan.

Rob Scott Thanks, Kate.

Kate Corkery This Principle starts with vision and purpose and then sharpens focus on the role of strategy in connecting the object's purpose and vision of an organisation. How important is a national sporting organisations vision in so far as its capacity to unite all sections of a sport beyond the NSO itself?

Rob Scott Well, look, I think it's really important. The reality is that the health and sustainability of a sport is dependent on vibrancy in all areas. And I guess if you think about a lot of NSOs often the focus might have been very much at the high performance level. Certainly a sport like rowing historically has been like that. But the reality is that for us 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. And I think that's increasingly important as sports continue to promote their relevance in the Olympic Games, for example. You need to show that your participation rates, your engagement is relevant so for us, this has been really important. One of the lessons for us as a sport, if I go back about five or six years ago, there was this sense that we were a very Canberra centric organisation. The team was based in Canberra, predominantly focused on the high performance aspects of the sport. 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.

Kate Corkery Indeed and the vision itself has that discussion and has that hard look at "Fortress Canberra", and the perception within the sport that it was very centralised to Canbera, by having a hard look at that reflection and that perception, were you able to harness and sharpen the vision to be more broadly focused on rowing nationally?

Rob Scott Well, it's interesting. We spent a bit of time really reflecting on what is it that binds us all together? What is the common vision or purpose? And if you think about the different participants in our sport, you've got people in the national team, you've got veteran rowers, masters rowers, you've got school rowers, you've got volunteers, you've got people involved in community rowing. So what is it that binds us all together? We were really fortunate that one of our alumni just happens to be the CEO of an international advertising and brand agency. So we tapped into Marty O'Halloran's expertise from DDB Worldwide and he came up with this phenomenal piece of work following really detailed stakeholder interviews. It really kind of came back to this sense of what brings us all together in the sport of rowing is this common theme around excellence, always striving to be better at what we do, no matter whether we are a school rower, a veteran rower or an Olympic rower, and really bringing together some of the imagery and the aspects of our sport that bring us all together and make us all very passionate about it. So that was a really powerful way for us to, I guess, unify the purpose and bring people together in the sport of rowing.

Kate Corkery So spring boarding off that concept of excellence within an environment such as sport, which has really limited resources. How significant is it to ensure that all parts of the sport have aligned strategic plans?

Rob Scott Well, yeah, look very important. I think there's various reasons why it's important, I'd say first of all given that we have limited resources, if we are aligned and leveraging capabilities, then we can reduce costs. So 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. 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, I guess, 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. So that's really important. Look, I think another another really important thing to remember is that there's a lot of passion and a lot of emotion in sport. That can be a really powerful part of the success of sport if you can tap into that passion and emotion. But sometimes that passion and emotion can not be constructive, particularly if it is around individuals trying to preserve vested interests or personal perspectives. So that's why it's really important as a sport that we really face into what are we trying to achieve as a sport and then put in place the settings to ensure that we're giving people the tools they need to be successful but we're all ultimately working together for a common goal.

Kate Corkery Indeed. And you've really highlighted there the incredible efforts of volunteers at all levels of sport and the opportunity we've got across national and state levels in sport to bring to life the vision. How can a sport develop a strategic plan that does engage those volunteers, that does engage and leverage the states and the NSO to ensure that they are aligned to the organisation's strategy?

Rob Scott Well, I think you touch on an important point and that's within all sports it's really important that we recognise the very distinct roles and responsibilities of the national body, state bodies and in different sports club, club entities. The reality is that 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. So if I take a sport like rowing, we rely very heavily on our state associations to do things such as manage local rowing regattas. To do that effectively, they need to engage with local councils and authorities. They need to mobilise the volunteer base at a local level. So I think what's really important when you go about setting your strategy, setting your strategic plan as a sport is to acknowledge those differences because although alignment and in some cases centralisation can be positives for sport, they can also be distinct negatives. Sometimes sports try and centralise too much power in the central unit and then lose sight of the fact that the people that bring the sport to life on the ground are actually located out in the regions. So I think being really clear about what roles and responsibilities are and then stepping back and thinking about as a national body, how 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, that they have a sense of accountability to make things happen on the ground? And that is just so critically important, because I think to really engage and mobilise volunteers, you need to make sure that you're doing that in local areas where you can be very connected and hands on with those groups of people.

Kate Corkery And what's the role of the Board in embedding and communicating the organisation's vision and strategy across the sport and down to that grassroots level? And do you have any examples of where you've seen this done really well?

Rob Scott Well, I guess when I think about strategy and vision, I'd say the role of the Board is very much to help set the strategy and then monitor the implementation of strategy. I think you need to be realistic as a board of directors in terms of how much of a role can you have in communicating and embedding strategy? So in many ways, the boards rely on management to to embed strategy and communicate strategy. So that means that boards need to make sure they, number 1  have the right management team in place. So the decisions they make about the leadership of the sport are critically important. But then make sure they have the right monitoring systems in place to monitor how how well things are going. I guess at a board level, there is still a still the role of a board to be connected and visible. And that does go to communicating and embedding strategy. One area that we're focussed on is to try and make sure that our board is representative of the different areas of our sport, the different regions of our sport, so that we have a board that is by definition more connected with the sport. We've also tried to make sure that this was pre covered. We're looking forward to bringing it back, that getting our board out into the regions, out into the states, so that we move around the board meetings and after board meetings, organised sessions where we bring people in from the from the state or the regions to spend time with the board so we can hear directly with them. So those things, I think, are really important ways for the board to communicate and embed strategy. But ultimately, we rely very heavily on management and that means we need to have good processes in place to monitor how management are going so that the question of monitoring is a really interesting one and I guess one that boards to do struggle with it.

Kate Corkery So you go through the post process of consulting and developing the strategy and within it the sort of objectives. How do you set up the performance measures that the board is clear about what it's going to be measuring and who's accountable for that?

Rob Scott Yes, it looks another very good question. And I'd say I think in rowing, we're still on the journey to try and get that set up the right way. You know, we're working through a strategic planning process at the moment. And this year, we've agreed as a board and with the management team that we're going to pay far more attention to once we set the whole sport of plan we want the management team to come back to us with a very clear plan around how the organisational structure, the leadership roles are set up to deliver on that plan and also face into the realities of resourcing. We have limited resourcing. We want to do a lot of things. So being realistic about whether we have a resourcing plan to support the strategy that we want to deliver. So I'd say it's very much a work in progress within our sport. I guess the other observation I've taken from business is sometimes if you let consultants take over your planning process, you end up with about 50 KPIs that you're really focused on in terms of managing the effectiveness of the delivery of your plan. Sometimes I think you can go overboard with the granularity that you measure those outcomes. I think it's really important as a board to step back and ask yourself what are the handful of outcomes? What are the what are the small number of things that we really need to pay close attention to that are really going to drive or determine the success of our plan? And I guess in that regard, I'd say there's the 'what' and the 'how'. The 'what' might be well, what do we want to achieve? We want to win gold medals at the Olympics. We want to increase the participation levels in our sport. We want to increase non-government funding sources. Like those are pretty easy things to measure but the things that we're spending more time thinking about is the 'how'. And that is how we're going about building up a more sustainable future for our sport. So it's all very well to win medals at the Olympic Games but how are we going with developing out the pipeline to future champions? What are we doing to ensure that we're building a high performance system that is long term and sustainable? So are we are we focusing enough effort on the other parts of our athletes lives that are going to be critical if we are going to keep them engaged in the sport for longer? So I think we still have some work to do on measuring the how. And I guess these are, I think, the lead indicators that are all about long term sustainable success in the sport rather than some of the short term measures, such as medals at the Olympics, commercial funding of participation, which are easier to measure.

Kate Corkery So if if you're talking about the 'what' and the board is then looking at its decisions, which really create a lot of the 'how', how can a board ensure that its decisions and the operations of the organisation are aligned to that strategy? And what are the risks if the board starts making decisions that aren't aligned to the strategy?

Rob Scott Yeah, well, look, I think it's important as a board to have really good feedback loops in place. The reality is that as a board, despite your best efforts, you don't have real time visibility of everything happening. So you need to make sure that you have an organisational culture that is very open such that and I know the way that we describe it in our company and it's the same as how we talk about it in rowing, that an open culture is one where bad news travels faster than good news. So we want to if there is a problem, if there's a problem lurking around, then we want to hear about it immediately. Once an issue or a problem has been identified, then we can all work on it together rather than these problems lingering and festering and then becoming bigger and bigger problems. So, look, often when you step back and think about the effectiveness of the organisation, your effectiveness at delivering on the strategy, you need to recognise that not everything's going to work all the time. So it's really having good feedback systems in place that you identify when issues are arising and then it lets you diagnose. The problem is, is there a problem because there's misalignment in objectives? Is there a problem because there's a lack of resources? Are there other problems that are arising? And really, you just need to be very open and transparent about that. So having those feedback mechanisms in place are important, having really and it does come back to monitoring strategic plans, and that is the responsibility of the board, it is having really good reporting and good reporting doesn't mean the loss of reporting. It means really clear and coherent reporting that gets to the heart of the issues. So some of the things that we always look at, which I think once again, are lead indicators on how well the organisation's going is some of the personnel cultural measures within the organisation, what's happening with turnover, what's happening with absenteeism, what's happening with safety, what they're always good measures, the financial discipline within the organisation. How we tracking around following up on action items that have been identified through the board meetings? You just need to make sure you keep on top of these issues and if you've got those good reporting mechanisms in place, it lets you identify when things start to go off the rails.

Kate Corkery So you've really touched on there are a lot of issues around the organisational culture, and that's a key theme that modern good governance is anchoring into more than ever before and it comes up quite repetitively in the Sports Governance Principles. What is the impact that a strong strategy or an aligned strategy across a sport can have on the sports culture?

Rob Scott Well, look I think it's absolutely critical and I think at the end of the day, at the end of the day, as a board, as I said earlier, you need to be realistic about what the board's role is with respect to culture. You know, I do believe that boards have a very important role to play. It is very much, I think about setting the expectations of the organisation. It is monitoring progress to ensure that we are delivering the outcomes in a way that are consistent with the culture we want to live. But we need to also recognise who really embeds and brings the culture to life. Well, it's not the board that meets six to eight times a year. It is the management. It is the athletes. It is the broader participants within the sport. So I think that is really important. So then just comes back to, have we have we set a vision for the sport that aligns everyone that, you know. Is that authentic? Is it meaningful? Have we tackled into the issues where there are roadblocks or tension points within the sport? And look, there are always tension points within all organisations that I think the way you face into those are really important around culture. The way that you act when things don't go go right or you go well, I think is really, really important for organisational culture. So, I think what if I kind of reflect back on my time with the Rowing Australia board I'd say one of the key things that we can do as a board is that when issues aren't when something's going wrong, then face into it really quickly and communicate effectively, bring people together. Don't allow the Chinese whispers to occur really just try and bring people together and have a more open discussion about the issues. I think that's one of my learnings within within sport. And I think it's it's certainly equally relevant in most organisations.

Kate Corkery Excellent advice. Thank you for that. So if there's directors listening to our discussion thinking I don't know where to start with strategy where do I begin? Where do I look? Do you have any advice on that?

Rob Scott Well, look, I think there are lots of different approaches to strategy development, and I won't necessarily go through all of those but I think initially just starting often and trying to be clear about what you're trying to achieve as a sport. Something that we have found really powerful in in our organisation is to just keep reminding ourself that our reason for being, as a sport, is for the participants in our sport. So really focusing in on the rower, the athlete. We are not here as a sporting organisation for the benefit of the administrators. Right. The sport of rowing and success of rowing is not about our success as individuals on the board. 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 and we are there to serve rowers across all spectrums of the community, across all ages. So there's an accountability for us to our national team that represent our country at world championships and Olympic Games. We also have a role to play for social and community rowers at a junior level, at a senior level, at a masters level. We have rowers rowing into their 90s. And then there are all those volunteers that we talked about as well that also feel a deep connection to the sport. So being really clear about, well, what are the things that we're doing as a sport to help these people? That's what it's all about and I think where you touched on Kate at the start is, making sure you have a strategy that unites all aspects of the sport. Often I think organised companies or sports, they think about strategy in terms of there's a whole lot of trade-offs either in sport 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 part of the problem is strategy development is organisations get themselves all confused. We are either going to be one or the other and that they're competing against each other? In some ways that's analogous to how some companies think. Some companies think I'm either going to try and deliver a profit and return to shareholders or I'm going to focus on all these things that are good for the community and the environment. Well, that's not the way I think about it at all. The more experience I've had in business in sport, the more I think that these things are inextricably linked. So in a company, at my company Wesfarmers, we are very focused on delivering superior returns for our shareholders. And we know that if we do the right thing by our team members, our customers, the communities in which we operate and the environment in which we operate, then we will ultimately, over the long term, deliver better outcomes for our shareholders. I think the analogy with sport would be ok we know in the sport of rowing we want to win a lot of medals at the Olympic Games and I think 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. So they are the things I think that boards should be reflecting on in the context of strategy development.

Kate Corkery Really interesting observations. And thank you for joining me and your valuable insights into Principle 3. The Game Plan.

Rob Scott Thanks, Kate.

Kate Corkery If you'd like to access a copy of the Sport Governance Principles, you'll find them at the SportAUS website sportaus.gov.au/governance. If you have any feedback or questions, please email us at sportgovernance@ausport.gov.au. My name is Kate Corkery and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the Sport Governance Series

Sport Governance Principles - The Defence

This is a Sport Australia podcast production.

Hello and welcome to the Sport Governance Podcast series. My name is Kate Corkery and I am the director of Sport Governance and Strategy at Sport Australia. Over this series we will take a deep dive into the sport governance principles and how they come to life in practice. Each podcast will focus on an individual principle with a special guest joining me to share their experience and practical advice with respect to that principle.

In today's episode, we are focusing on principle two - the team, aligned sport through collaborative governance. This principle highlights that across a sport, boards benefit from working together to govern collaboratively and create alignment to maximise efficient use of resources and implement whole of sport plans. To talk with me about the Team, I'm joined by Ben Houston. Ben is the Chief Executive of Sailing Australia and President of the Commonwealth Games Association. Ben has also been the President of Triathlon Australia. Ben, welcome to the team. And thank you for joining me today.

Thanks Kate.

Australian Sailing is one of the leading examples of collaborative governance in Australian sports. Can you tell us how collaborative governance has strengthened the sport of sailing in Australia?

Yes, certainly. And I might start by talking about our One Sailing model. So in 2016, Australian Sailing and our state and territory associations agreed to a new national operating model, which we refer to as One Sailing. And this shared commitment was based on three principles. A strong national governance mechanism, a more efficient management of resources - so specifically around centralising the finance function, the people function and our I.T. functions and taking a more consistent and efficient approach to delivering services to our clubs, developing and delivering programs, and also providing and delivering national policies for our clubs. And this has allowed us to reduce the inefficiencies and costs associated with managing multiple organisations and those organisations employing staff and by centralising the staff under one organization, we can ensure that we've got the capability and the capacity in the organisation to meet our strategic priorities.

So in terms of the opportunities through those three key pillars, what aligned and integrated systems, processes and people have you undertaken?

Good question. And look, as part of moving to that One Sailing model, we agreed to implementation agreements with each association. And those documents regulate the roles and responsibilities of Australian sailing and the associations that are then underpinned by our Constitution. But as that name suggests, that's really only been the starting point for One Sailing. And now we're reviewing those agreements to ensure that they are fit for purpose as we move into a more collaborative approach, both with our boards, our state association boards, but also our state advisory committees as we look at deregistering those state bodies. And we engage with the associations in a number of ways, both in terms of the deregistration and what that means, but also as part of a key driver in maintaining relationships and building those relationships with the boards and the state advisory committees.

So you've spoken about the importance of the implementation plan and evolving that implementation plan going forward as the Australian sailing model is more mature and more formal, and its collaborative essence. What are the tools and techniques of Australian sailing used to build and maintain those relationships across all the boards in the country?

I think the key is that we're building trust through communication, engagement and the Australian Sailing Board doing that in a number of ways. Following each Australian sailing board meeting, the President, Daniel Belcher meets with each of the presidents. So has a call with them that provides a forum both in terms of transparency around the decisions that have been made by the Australian Sailing Board, but also allows a discussion on matters affecting the sport or changes that require the approval of those state presidents and their board? And this has been particularly important as we've navigated changes and decisions around the COVID crisis. The other way that the board is doing is doing that, is in ensuring that we're collaborating on the development and implementation of our sport’s strategy. And the presidents and their boards are key stakeholders in working with the Australian Sailing Board to both develop our strategy, but also that group meets annually to discuss the strategy and our ongoing plans to implement the strategic priorities.

So with respect of the issue of strategy and cohesive vision, how important has that been to One Sailing?

It's critical and it's critical to have an aligned whole of sport vision. And that informs both the national strategy, how the national strategy is developed, but also the regional execution of that strategy. And again, the board is very conscious of developing the national strategy in conjunction with the association. And then they charge the executive team to develop the operational plans to allow the staff to execute on that strategy. And therefore, it's essential that everyone in the organisation and across the sport understands, both the strategy and the vision. And that's critically important for the staff. So that not-withstanding where the staff are in offices around the country, they know that what they are doing is helping to achieve the strategic priorities for the organisation.

You just raised the issue of ‘across the country’. So how do you recognise and embrace the diversity of geography and ultimately different priorities in those geographies across the sport?

Again, I think communication is the key and Australian Sailing, we've done that in a number of ways. I think principally the fact that a number of the Australian Sailing Board have been past presidents of state associations provides the board with an opportunity to look at the strategic priorities and the implementation of those strategic priorities through a regional lens. And I think that it also provides us with an opportunity to inform how we're delivering a broader plan across the country. And as I say, having staff that up until 2016 were employed by state associations means that having a whole of sport plan, being very clear about a ‘member centric’ approach to delivery of our strategic priorities, is critical to ensure that we’re both recognising and embracing the diversity that we have across our sport and across the country. The other thing I'd probably flag is in moving to a One Sailing model, we've got to recognise that, you know, we are a national body that takes a leadership role in terms of the sport but the state associations still play a critical role in informing, both the strategy and how that national plan is developed and employed within each state and territory.

Yes, certainly states continue to play critical roles, no matter the structure set up in the sport at any one time.

What benefits has Australian sailing realised since One Sailing been complete or through its transition?

And we are still very much through that transition process Kate. I think, look, there's a couple of things. In terms of the benefits we have one voice for our sport. We can take a ‘top to bottom’ approach to pursuing the vision for our sport. Our strategic plan is stronger through engagement with the state and territory boards. And we have alignment and we have a more efficient model for our staff, structures and processes.

And have there been financial benefits associated with the transition?

Yeah, absolutely, because apart from anything else, we've reduced a lot of the duplication associated with delivery. We no longer have additional costs associated with managing multiple staff through multiple organisations. So there is an efficiency gain in terms of ‘one management’, but more than that. It provides alignment in terms of the delivery both the development and delivery of our strategic plan.

So what would you say the key lessons have been throughout the alignment process?

I think for me, the importance of communication with the state and territory presidents and their boards to ensure that we all continue to share the one aligned vision for our sport is critical. And that's certainly a key learning. I think we also need to ensure that we have alignment across our sport to ensure that we continue to take a member-centric approach to delivery of everything that we do in our sport and that we continue to work on engagement with all of our external stakeholders and with our state and territory boards to ensure that they remain aligned with our plan and vision for our sport.

Thank you, Ben, for your time and your insights on the Team and aligning sport through collaborative governance.

You're more than welcome. Thanks, Kate.

Thank you for joining me today. If you'd like to access a copy of the Sport Governance Principles, you'll find them at the SportAUS website. Sportaus.gov.au/governance. If you have any feedback or questions, please email us at sportsgovernance@sportaus.gov.au.

My name is Kate Corkery and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the Sport Governance Series.

Sport Governance Principles - The Playbook

This is a Sport Australia podcast production.

Hello and welcome to the Sport Governance Podcast series. My name is Kate Corkery and I am the director of Sport Governance and Strategy at Sport Australia.

Over this series, we will take a deep dive into the sport governance principles and how they come to life in practice. Each podcast will focus on an individual principle with a special guest joining me to share their experiences and practical advice with respect to that principle.

In today's episode, we are focusing on Principle One - the spirit of the game — values, driven culture and behaviour.

This principle highlights that an organisation's culture and behaviours should be underpinned by values which are demonstrated by the board and embedded in decisions and actions of the board, its directors, members and the senior executive. Joining me today to talk about the spirit of the game is Petria Thomas, a superstar of the pool during her career, Petria won three Olympic gold medals, three world championships, nine Commonwealth Games gold medals, 13 Australian championships and three Pan-Pacific gold medals. Petria has been appointed as the Commonwealth Games team chef de mission for Birmingham, following three games as athlete services manager and her Gold Coast role as general manager of team services. Petria has also led the Australian team at three editions of the Commonwealth Youth Games. Well-known to issues of culture and behaviour. Thank you for joining me today, Petria.

Thank you. Pleasure to be here.

Culture can be a challenging subject for sporting organisations due to its abstract nature. How would you define or describe culture?

I think culture is really the accepted behaviour and the standards that the organisation has, it is a hard one to define, but generally it is about what people expect. That level of behaviour that I suppose is acceptable to everyone and is acceptable in today's society.

In terms of your career and your time in the pool. Did you have experiences of positive culture or negative culture?

Oh, yeah, definitely. I think, you know, all of us throughout our lives have experienced both positive and negative culture in various circumstances that we've been in. And definitely, you know, as an athlete, I had that experience as well, both positive and negative culture. Thankfully for me, it was more positive during the time I was involved in swimming. You know, all in all, I had a great experience as a member of the Australian swim team.

And in terms of the impact of positive culture, how does that change your engagement in performance as an athlete?

Obviously, if it's a positive culture, people feel comfortable. And I think, you know, when you can feel comfortable in your environment is when you're going to get the best out of yourself, no matter whether you're an athlete or a staff member or whatever it might be. So it is really important as you say, it's quite an abstract idea culture, and it's really hard to define. But I think it is really important that, you know, people feel like they're safe and in an environment where they can speak up if they do see things that are not acceptable.

Yes, speaking up is a challenge as culture becomes negative and arguably at times toxic. Were you able to ever call out behaviour or did you need to call out behaviour?

Not so much when I was an athlete, as I said, there was a fairly positive culture when I was involved in the sport of swimming. But certainly as I've gotten older and as I've grown to understand more of what culture is about and what's acceptable and unacceptable there have been times in my professional working career that I have actually spoken up and it's not easy to speak up, but I think it's really important when you see things that don't sit right with you to call them out. Because, you know, I've often heard of the saying, “the behaviour you walk past is the behaviour you accept”.

And certainly the role of governance and the leaders in the organisation, whether they be the board or the CEO, have a significant role in establishing and role-modelling good values and behaviours. In terms of defining or determining values and behaviours, how important is the process of defining them and consulting values?

I think, yeah, it's really obviously critical that from an organisational perspective, that the organisation has a strong and sound set of values and which leads obviously then to the culture within the organisation, both for its staff and its members. The consultation on that process is really important because, you know, I think when the top down just sort of says, oh, these are our values and this is our culture, you need that ‘buy-in’. And I think you can only get that ’buy-in’ when you've had a strong consultation process. And it is a tough process, I think, because obviously members and staff will come from a diverse perspective. But I think it's important to capture those perspectives as best you can when you get that ‘buy-in’ and I think is when you can really establish a good, strong culture where it is okay to speak up when things aren't necessarily going as they should be.

And in terms of the role of the board in establishing and role modelling values and behaviour in your many roles in sport as athlete, senior administrator, team manager, what is the role of the board in terms of values and organisational culture?

Well, I think obviously the board is the peak of the organisation there. They're the ones making the decisions about the direction of the organisation. And I think it's really critical that, you know, they obviously are role modelling the behaviours that they want the members and the staff to portray. I think I suppose in my experience, it's quite often that you actually don't see the board very often though, except for maybe you know like presentations and special events and things like that. So I think the visibility is something that could be really improved because, you know, you quite often, you know, when you're an athlete or even as a staff member, sometimes the board can be a little bit faceless, to be honest, because you don't see them and you don't hear often about the work that they're doing and things. So I think that visibility could really be improved to show or highlight that they are role modelling those behaviours that they want and the culture that they expect of the organisation.

You have a bit of challenge coming up in 2022 with the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, establishing values in a Commonwealth Games team where you've got athletes and individuals coming from a raft of sports with different values, how do you do that?

It's really tough, actually. I’ve been on a number of multi-sport teams now with the Commonwealth Games, and it's really challenging to bring together 700 plus people from, you know, I think 19 or 20 sports that all have their own subcultures and own standards and things. It's hard to bring all those people together, expect them to gel and feel like they're part of something bigger. It is really challenging, but I think the approach I've taken to it in the past is just to treat people how you like to be treated yourself. And when you pass an Australian person during a games with the same uniform on as yourself, just lift your head and say hello or sit down next to them in the dining hall and share a meal with them and ask them how their day was. So I think they're the sort of basic approaches that that I'd like to see our Australian team members, certainly for Birmingham in 2022 to take. But it is really hard to bring such a broad group of people together and feel like there's something like something bigger going on than just their normal sport.

And your experience at the Gold Coast with the team there? Did the team gel and connect in a really positive culture at a Gold Coast in 2018?

Yeah, we actually had some really positive feedback through our survey process that we did after the games and I think whilst we can always do better, I think we actually did pretty well on the Gold Coast and people were sort of reported feeling valued and had a good experience. And I mean, on a games team, I mean, there are two primary goals for us, for Birmingham, as they were, on the Gold Coast, is for people to be able to come onto the team and we provide them with the environment where they can perform at their best. Both athletes, coaches, administrators, everyone - everyone on the team has to perform to get the result. And then also it's really critically important that they have a good experience and that they feel part of something that's just, that is bigger than what they normally do in that multi-sport environment. So, yeah, so we did quite well on the Gold Coast, but obviously still looking for improvement and hopefully in Birmingham we can have both a great team performance and great team experience for everyone. And that's part of it.

When we talk about governance generally, we tend to talk about policies and processes or systems or we tend to get focused on the box ticking and on the theory of it, this culture based principle, does it give us a way to look at governance in a different way to bring it to life?

I think it's hard. It's a pretty dry sort of topic area, unfortunately. And I in my daily work environment, I deal with processes and policies and athlete agreements and all that sort of stuff. So it is tough. And I think as an athlete, you sort of just, it's almost like they're just things that you have to do. I don't think we probably spend enough time on educating athletes about why all these things have to be in place. And it's both to protect them as participants in the sport and also to protect the organisation as well. But I think it is, it is a pretty dry topic area, but we all know that those things are there for well, the administrators certainly know that those policies and processes, are there for a really important reason, and that's to provide structure and protection for both participants and the organisation itself.

Excellent. Thank you for your very interesting insights on this important topic today and for joining us here on our podcast series. Thank you, my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Thank you for joining me today. If you'd like to access a copy of the sport governance principles, you'll find them at the sports website. SportAUS.gov.au/governance. If you have any feedback or questions, please email us at sportsgovernance@ausport.gov.au. My name is Kate Corkery and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the Sport Governance Series.

Sport Governance Principles - The Rulebook

This is a Sport Australia podcast production. Hello and welcome to the Sport Governance Podcast series. My name is Kate Corkery and I'm the director of Sport Governance and Strategy at Sport Australia.

Over this series, we will take a deep dive into the sport governance principles and how they come to life in practice. Each podcast will focus on an individual principle with a special guest joining me to share their experiences and practical advice with respect to that principle.

Today, we're at the Start line and I'm joined by Peggy O'Neal. Peggy is the first woman in AFL history to serve as club president since 2013, she has been the president of Richmond Football Club, overseeing their premiership wins in 2017 and 2019. The Australian Financial Review has named her in its list of top 100 women of influence. And in 2019 she was awarded an Officer of the Order of Australia for distinguished service to Australian rules football, to superannuation and finance law and the advancement of women in leadership roles. Hello Peggy and welcome to our Sport Governance Podcast series.

Thank you, Kate.

We are at the start line and stepping into the boardroom for the first time can be just as daunting as stepping onto the field or court for the first time. What initial advice would you offer someone who wanted to be on a sport board?

Well, I think the first thing is to understand a bit about the team you're joining is what is your interest in joining that sport board? Is it because you played that sport? You have a keen interest in it. But I think the first item is to understand how it operates, and that's usually finding what its documents are. It's Constitution. Who's on the current board? Who's the chair of that board? Just so you get an idea about how that board operates. I think that you'll also probably need to do a bit of maybe self-reflection on what skills you bring to that board or how you think you might make a contribution. And many boards these days have a skills matrix and they sort of identify the kinds of skills that need around the board table. And you might want to say, well, do I have one of those? So I think it needs, I think anyone should think serious about joining a board because we need a diversity of views, we need a diversity of life experiences. But I think you need to educate yourself and not just jump at a board because you think it would be an interesting exercise. I think that you need to find a board that's going to allow you to contribute to your best. And then once you've found that board and you become a director, I think the next thing is to get a really thorough induction on how that board operates, how the organisation operates. And most organisations are pretty good about those these days. It used to be kind of rare, you were sort of thrown in at the deep end and you get along, ask any questions. And you and I know myself, I was thinking, well, I don't know what questions to ask because I don't know what I don't know. So I think a bit of self-reflection. Give it a go. Educate yourself on what the board is about and then get a thorough induction - Is the beginning part. But it's certainly not the end.

So when we talk about governance, what is good governance?

Well, good governance is what we're trying to achieve. But when you think about what governance is itself, I always think that it's about accountability and about each person understanding the role that they're to play and then executing that role well. It's sort of it's a system of checks and balances that ultimately improves decision making. So I've often thought that governance and culture are often talked about as separate things, but I've often thought of governance and culture really going hand-in-hand. I think both of them are examples of the way things are done around an organisation. And boards are there to keep the organisation on course, to help define a strategy and then management is there to be the day to day arms and legs who get things done. So I think that it's understanding what's my job, ensuring that good decision making happens and is in fact setting up a few rules of the game.

In terms of sport governance, is it different from corporate governance in your experience?

Well, I think that governance, the accountability part really applies across both and the role of what a board plays, and what the CEO plays and what the management team plays is it's sort of identical. I think that sporting organisations perhaps have often a bit more of a problem in understanding that the board is there to oversee and to govern and that management is there to “do” so getting people to sort of ‘stay in their lane’ on sporting boards can be a real well, a constant sort of concern. And because you want the board to understand its job, and that's why it's important in understanding the governance principles, I think, is that the role of the board is different than the role of management. And sporting organisations often have trouble identifying those two roles.

And what happens or what is the impact of directors wanting to run the high performance programme or pick the teams?

Well, that isn't their role as one of the problems. And then it becomes kind of blurry about, well, who is it? Who's in charge of that now?  And I think that boards have to get used to the idea that they are not there to ‘do’ ideally and that you hire — I'm always sort of amazed to hire the best high performance people, you hire your best coach, you have your best CEO, and then someone on the board that has had no experience in any of those things or very little or isn't a professional — decides that they know better. And so I think that if I were in a management team with highly credentialed and someone on the board was trying to tell me how to do my job, I would think that's not the place for me. And I'll go somewhere where I can apply myself and my skills and my expertise in the way that is appropriate, as opposed to being overridden by someone who, for most part doesn't know what they're doing in this particular sphere. I think we all have a role to play in understanding your role as a part of that good governance.

And so that sort of highlights the relationship between the CEO and the chair in your time at Richmond Football Club. How has your relationship with the CEO, Brendan (Gale) changed or developed? And how important is that relationship?

Well, I had been on the board at Richmond for eight years before I became president and I was on the committee in 2009 when Brendan was hired. So I knew the kind of person that he was. And I had seen him in action for three years before I became president. But I see my relationship from being one of a director who saw him on occasion to, when you become the president or the chair of the board, you are in effect, are sort of a liaison between the board and the management team. And the CEO represents a management team. And I represent the board. And you do a lot of work behind the scenes before the board gets papers necessarily on it. And you help sort of guide the management team -through the CEO - on ideas they may be exploring or things sometimes happen between meetings that there's no time to call a meeting. Is this something the whole board has to be involved in?

So it's evolved, I suppose, in that we have to work pretty closely together. We developed a bond of trust, I believe, and that allows us to get on with the job because we do believe that each of us is doing what they're supposed to do. And we have delegations so that we don't step across the line and step on each other's toes. And often in sport, especially in Australian Rules Football that I'm involved in, people mistakenly think that the president runs the club. And you'll say lots of times the president's called on to speak in a way that the chairman of the board of a listed company, even in Australia, wouldn't be. So I always think, but we have a CEO and a management team that does that. And they're there every day. And I'm not and they're professionals on this and I'm not. So it's sort of an education piece for the public, too, that the CEO or whatever they might be called in different sporting organisations are the ones who have the day to day management. And the board, if it does its job, helps set the direction and is there for guidance, but is not there to pick the team.

So when we talk about the governance team, the role of the CEO, you've really highlighted how important that is. And then you've got your individual directors who are elected or appointed to serve on the board, and then those individual directors with their diverse backgrounds and experience come together to form a group. How important is unity in its decision making and operations?

Well, it's very important. So when we say ‘unity’, I don't mean that everybody has to agree all the time. What I mean is the understanding that a board doesn't have an individual voice. A board only operates as a committee. And I've often said that if you don't like being on committees, you wouldn't like being on a board, because once the decision is made, the director’s job is to say, I may not have voted for that decision, but I can support it. And the unity is that the public face is ‘this is decision’ the collective has made and ‘I’ as an individual, doesn't matter now.

And if you're at the point as a director that you cannot support that decision in any way, you need to know at what point you would say, I'll leave the board. So unity is important because it is presenting to your stakeholders the decision of the collective. And if you have someone who is the naysayer or who doesn't really give credibility to the decision because they think they know better or they think that we've made the wrong decision and they can't support it, then they are really undermining what the board is trying to do. And the stakeholders might start to think, well, who's running the place there? And of course, the media always likes to have story about dissension amongst board members. So I think unity is important in saying that this is a decision has been made and I can stand behind it, even if it wasn't my preferred decision. And I think if you take time, get the information in that you need to allow everyone time to make a decision that unity comes sort of naturally after that. If you rush people or if the president or chair comes in with a decision that's in effect almost been made outside meeting, it's really, I think, difficult to build trust in that way. So I think unity comes from trust amongst your fellow directors and trust with management team.

And one of the comments that you made related to trust in related to governance and culture, you see that is the same or very similar. How can boards build and role model, a positive culture for their members and for their sport?

Well, I think that the board is really watched in a way that most directors would be surprised. And I often think that a board is the chance to be the ultimate role model. And sometimes it may not be that members in your organisation know who those board members are. But the management team will know who those board members are. And if, for example, you have your purpose or your values that are expressed. And board members don't model those values, then it becomes permitted for no one to really think those values matter. If the board who set those terms act in a way that's inappropriate.

And for example, we've often talked at Richmond about the way you treat people, even waiters in a function, tells people how you respect people, how you respect each other, how you behave toward other people. And so there's little signals are always there. So I think you're not there showcasing those values every day. But when you have an opportunity, it's important that you do so. So I think that the board's very important in setting the tone and telling management whether they believe in what they’ve said their purpose is or not.

Fantastic. Peggy, thank you so much for joining us on our Support Governance Podcast series. Our next podcast is going to pick up Principle 1 — the spirit of the game, values driven culture and behaviours.

Thank you for joining me today. If you'd like to access a copy of the Sport Governance Principles, you will find them at the SportAUS website - sportaus.gov.au/governance. If you have any feedback or questions, please email us at sportsgovernance@sportaus.gov.au. My name is Kate Corkery and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the Sport Governance Series.

Sport Governance Principles - The Players

This is a Sport Australia podcast production.

Kate Corkery: Hello and welcome to the Sport Governance Podcast series. My name is Kate Corkery and I am the Director of Sport Governance and Strategy at Sport Australia. Over this series, we will take a deep dive into the sport governance principles and how they come to life in practice. Each podcast will focus on an individual principle with a special guest joining me to share their experiences and practical advice with respect to that principle.

In today’s episode we are focusing on Principle 4 – The Players. A diverse board to enable considered decision making. Principle 4 highlights that a board should be a diverse group of people who collectively provide different perspectives and experience to facilitate more considered decision making.

We are privileged to be joined by Pippa Downes to discuss this critical principle. Pippa has over 25 years experience in global financial services in Australia, Asia and the US. Pippa was a managing director of Goldman Sachs in Australia for over six years. Pippa is a commissioner of the Australian Sports Commission and is a director of Australian Technology Innovators ZIP Co., ALE Property Group and Ingenia Communities Ltd. Pippa is a former director of Swimming Australia and Sydney Olympic Park. Pippa is also a dual international athlete, having swum for Australia and represented Hong Kong in the rugby sevens. Hello, Pippa and thank you for joining me to discuss this significantly important principle that underpins good governance.

Pippa Downes: Thanks, Kate. I'm delighted to be with you today.

Kate Corkery:  So let's start with benefits. What are the benefits of diversity to a board?

Pippa Downes: Well, look, I think the research is very clear that when you have a diverse board, better decisions are made and you're less likely to miss things. So, you know, then if you have a group of like minded individuals and the role of the board is so critical in setting the strategy and for an organisation that you really can't afford to have a sub-optimal board. So a diverse group of people is really the only way to go.

Kate Corkery: And when we talk about sport, quite often matters relating to conflict of interests come up in terms of diversity. How is that played out for you?

Pippa Downes: It's very interesting, right? I mean, when you're on a board, you have a duty to the organisation to do the right thing. And I think what I've sort of encountered through some of my dealings with sports governance is people come onto the board and they come with their little patch that they feel like they're representing. But when you come onto a board, you need to leave that at the door because you're trying to represent the sport as a whole. And I think sometimes people miss that they have a fiduciary duty to the whole sport and the whole organisation, and they're not in there batting for their little patch. So everybody has to be doing what is in the collective best interests of the sport, not what perhaps they're, you know, where they came from. So if they're a coach, for example, if they're a high performance athlete, you've got to look at the big picture when you're on a board. And I think sometimes people don't quite understand that. And I think, you know, there are conflicts that arise. I've seen it myself. And sometimes that comes because people don't understand the duties of a director. To act in the best interests of the whole organisation. But I think that comes through education. And I think, you know, I think increasingly people do understand what a conflict is. And if it sort of smells like it, something might not be right, there's probably a pretty good chance there's a conflict going on.

Kate Corkery: We have conversations about the importance of elected directors and the importance of appointed directors. How does this inter-relate with a principle around diversity?

Pippa Downes: I think one of the lessons that I certainly learnt when I was on the board of Swimming Australia, one of the problems we had with the Federated Models is that the elected directors, like any politician frankly, I think there's a reason why elected politicians generally are continually rate quite low in the public's perception of them, rightly or wrongly. Because they are seen to be making short term decisions for the electoral cycle. I think, you know what I certainly witnessed in the swimming world when I was on the board many years ago, is that some of the directors were scared to make some of the the right decisions because they were worried about being elected. And that's the beauty of the independent directors who can come in. Often times they may or may not like obviously I was very involved in swimming but I hadn't been around the sport for 20 years. So I was able to come in with a very fresh perspective. I hadn't been involved, so I didn't have sort of a preconceived notion about what the right ideas were for the sport. I think what you can find, the people that been involved in the sport for so, so long, they sometimes may lose the perspective. I mean, the world's rapidly changing and sports also need to adapt. Like companies have to adapt. If you don't adapt, you die and you end up out of business. And unfortunately, sports are in the same way. I mean, we've seen it this year with COVID just how quickly we've seen the professional sports having to lay off people and adapt their operating models. So you need to be able to do that. You need to have a fresh perspective. Independent directors have that ability because they don't have to face the members, I guess, for a certain period, which gives it a little bit of flexibility to be able to sort of make those long term decisions that may not be popular but, you know, as we know, sometimes you do need to make decisions that might not be popular in the short term but there are obviously the best interests of the sport in the long term. I think a lot of sports are learning, just in the last nine months with COVID, that sometimes you've got to make some tough decisions to keep the sport liquid. You know, when when sport stopped and membership fees didn't come in. You know, it's been a very tough time for sports. Volunteers haven't been engaged and that forces, you know, decisions and strategic decisions that the board have to make. That sometimes, perhaps some parts of the sport may not be happy with but ultimately, the board has to make the best long term decisions that are in the long term interests of the sport.

Kate Corkery: Indeed, and I've certainly had many discussions with directors over the last six or nine months about the fact that they came on to a sport board because they wanted to see it thrive. They never expected that they would be in conversations about it collapsing. And that's certainly been a bit of a reality check for a lot of our directors on sport boards over last six months. What attributes create diversity on a board?

Pippa Downes: Diversity comes in many different forms but ultimately, I think you need people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives for a start. I think you need people with diverse experiences, a life experience and sport experience. So, for example I don't think it's valuable to necessarily have, for example on a rugby board have 10 guys that used to play rugby because, you know, let's face it, they're going to have a quite similar perspective. So I think, you know, having very different perspectives is valuable. I think having diverse backgrounds is very valuable. So, for example, you know, if I think of say some about the sport of cricket, you know, it's a very popular sport in some of the southern Asian parts for the Australian community. And, you know, if you're thinking about participation, you know, it would be wise to want to have the viewpoint of some of the people from that community, I would think. And you obviously need diverse skill sets both educationally and what you bring to the table, because, as you know, different boards at different times need different skills. But you need the greatest amount of perspective to make sure you don't miss anything. And that's the beauty of a diverse board. And you can have robust discussions with everybody asking different things. And, you know, sometimes it's great to have people that have a completely different perspective, because I think what happens if you've got people, too many people that have got the same perspective, sometimes the big questions don't get asked the sort of 'elephant in the room' type questions or the dumb question, which somebody who's not as close to it might say, well no actually, why are we even doing that, which might be for people that have been too close to it, perhaps for many, many years and are very entrenched in their views, might not be able to see. And that's why it really helps to have a whole lot of different people attacking a problem from different angles.

Kate Corkery: So if you're looking for these different people, you're out there, you've got a board, you recognise you need to diversify the directors either for age or gender or cultural and linguistic background, how do you go about doing that?

Pippa Downes: Well, look I think for all boards to be effective, they need to really understand at any given point what their big challenges are and what the sort of basic skills that they need to be a high performing board. And so, you know, I think it's a given that you probably need people that are financially literate particularly sports are in some challenging times financially. So financial expertise is almost a given. But 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, as I said, 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 looking for a sponsor and trying to raise its profile, because at the end of the day, it's a dog eat dog world out there in the sports world trying to compete for dollars. So maybe you might want to get some marketing people with some of that skill to sort of assist the management teams to do that. So the board isn't there to do the job of management but it's certainly able to counsel and advise. You might have, you know if you're going through tough times, you've got to look at how the organisation needs to change in a tough environment, having people that are management consultants or people with HR backgrounds might be able to assist. Technology is obviously a very big one. So I think increasingly sports need to compete and connect with their members and technology is the enabler in that space so having somebody with that background. But I think really you need to have a skills matrix set up to make sure you know what you've got. Look at the you know, look at the people you've got on the board or work out where your holes are and that's absolutely critical to make sure, again, that you don't miss stuff because a diverse board needs to be able to cover all its bases, or at least if they don't have it, know that they don't have it may be able to bring somebody in from the outside to assist on some of the more tricky issues that they're facing.

Kate Corkery: Absolutely. And you have the board skills matrix to identify all those gaps in terms of skill and personal qualities on the board. You then find yourself in a position where you've got a nominations committee to oversee the election and appointment of directors. Talk to me about the change in the sophistication impact of nominations committees in sport over the past couple of years.

Pippa Downes: Yeah, look, I think there's been some really good work that's been done in sports like tennis that have really tried to sort of, I guess have that lens about what the board really needs. What the sport really needs. And in a sort of almost a dispassionate way to say listen right now we need skills A, B and C. And so really, if we're filling some spots on the board, this is our immediate need in the next one to two to three years that we really need to beef up our skills in that area. And that way they can look at the candidates that are coming through and sort of almost sort of vet them to say look these people can add that value to the board because we're always trying to enhance the quality of the board by beefing up the skills. I mean, that's how I mean, it's like an athlete and if an athlete wants to be successful, they've got to train hard. They've got to cover all their bases. If they've got a weakness, they've got to work on it. And that's how you excel. And that's how our athletes are high performance athletes. That's how our coaches learn. And boards have to do the same thing to understand where they're a little bit weak, how they can fill the gaps to, you know, be able to assist the greater sport moving forward.

Kate Corkery: And is it important that the voting members understand the value and the importance of the nominations committee process in terms of ensuring ultimately as the people with the power of the vote, the candidates who are not suitable for the needs of the diversity of the board at any time?

Pippa Downes: Well, look, I think it's absolutely important to connect with your members. I mean, you know, sports are run for the members. And there has to be absolute transparency but for the boards and the members to understand the process and why the boards are doing what they're doing. And I think the minute you know boards are not clear about what they're doing or the boards are not listening to their members or even, you know, there's a lot of governance reform going on now where the members you know frankly, sometimes they don't even have a say. And I think that's problematic. So ultimately the boards are there to help the sports and its members, not the other way around. So it's critical that the members understand the process, why it's happening, be absolutely transparent about the skills that they're looking for at the time so they can understand the appointments or they can understand the type of candidates that have been put forward to them to vote for. And ultimately 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.

Kate Corkery: You've just mentioned the chair and the chair is another position on the board which modern good governance has sort of adapted in terms of its appointment over recent years. And one of the key good governance concepts now is around the board appointing or electing the chair from amongst the directors. Why is that so important?

Pippa Downes: That's absolutely critical. I mean, the chair is apart from the CEO of the organisation, the chair is the most important person. You know, they are ultimately the conduit between the board and the management team and the CEO and they are the ones that run the meetings and optimise the discussion and the strategy coming out of that board. And it's a skill. I mean, 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. And that's, you know, when you have a diverse board, which is what we need to be successful, a good chair is very skilled at doing that. Now, I have experience absolutely the opposite and sometimes I know when I was on the board of swimming there was a member elected chair. Now, sometimes that just doesn't work. I mean, you really know the directors and know who is the person that probably is best placed to have that integrity to run the board meetings and to optimise the work of the board and I think it's absolutely critical that the directors are the ones that nominate that because the members they don't have that, if the members elect their directors, they need to have that trust that the directors can choose who it is appropriate to run that and do that optimally.

Kate Corkery: One of the key issues that we faced in good governance, not just in a sports sector but across the corporate sector, the not for profit sector, is women on boards and they are obviously a fundamental input into good decision making in terms of diversity. In 2015, Sport Australia applied a target of women NSO boards and that target was 40 per cent representation and despite that target being in place now for five years, we're still not hitting it. And in fact, worse than that for the 68 funded national sporting organisations, the gender balance is actually only 34 per cent and has declined by one per cent over the past four years and only 18 of our chairs are female which is 26 per cent. Why do you think that is?

Pippa Downes: Well look I think historically, you can't get away from the fact that sport and most businesses have been run by men. But things have changed radically in the last few years, particularly in sport, with the participation of women. So it's obviously critical you're not going to have a diverse board making good decisions if half the population are missing from the seat at the table. So I think, I don't know but there's still a lot of work to be done. Unfortunately I think some people are involved in boards, you know some people love their sports, everybody loves their sports. You'd hope that they're involved for the right reasons. But sometimes people want to be with people that they're comfortable and familiar with. Perhaps they don't know the women some of these boards are very political, as we know, unfortunately and sometimes people lose sight of why they're there and the purpose of the board and whose interests they should be looking out for which of course is the best interests of the sport as a whole. And maybe some women get a bit sick of it or they're not as interested in the politics because they want to work more collaboratively and, you know, sometimes people end up being a bit too close to the sport. And I've seen that. I've got firsthand experience of people who I'm sure anybody on a sporting board knows where people are in it, potentially not for the good of the sport, but for power or whatever reason, or they're just you know, they're so they're so close to it sometimes that they lose sight of why they're there and perhaps people sort of who are there for the good of the sport, you know, get disheartened and I know I certainly know that was sort of my experience a few years ago at Swimming Australia and others but it's so critical for the sports that we get as many people involved from as diverse range from the volunteers, to the coaches, to the participants. I think re-engaging with the alumni of the sport and ex athletes once they've, you know, been a successful athlete, often go on to have a different career and then they come back to the sport or maybe their kids start playing the sport. And I think having those people that have the love of the sport at their heart, maybe they're not as attached because they haven't been involved in sort of the day to day politics for the last sort of like 10 or 20 years. And, you know, sometimes people don't appreciate sometimes it's time to walk away. You know, you've got to let other people have a go. People can, all of us get very attached to our views and that's human nature. So sometimes I think it's important that people step away from the sports to give other people go, to get fresh perspectives on how the sport should be run. And you shouldn't have entrenched people running sports forever and a day because I think unfortunately sometimes they sort of lose sight of why they're there and moving forward and that's why you always have to have diverse, fresh thinking to make sure you're always looking forward about how to adapt into the new world.

Kate Corkery: So you've highlighted there the ways we can promote vacancies to actively seek diversity of directors. You've spoken about re-engaging with alumni of the sport, using networks, not being afraid to reach into professional community organisations and businesses. The other opportunity that there is and highlighting this for our listeners is Sport Australia actually has a national Director Register. You can register your interest to be on sport boards in Australia and when sport board positions are advertised, we push that out to those who fit the criteria on our register and that's a really great opportunity for us to identify and communicate with people who are interested in being on sport boards and feel like they've got a particular skill set or capability to offer.

Pippa Downes: Absolutely you think about how many participants in sport, who loves sports, who go off and, you know, enter into whatever career they choose, who have got a lot of knowledge, a lot of passion, who want to funnel that into the sport just because they love it, like me swimming gave me a great opportunity to travel to get a college education in the US so I want to give back to the sport and there's you know, hundreds of thousands of other athletes similar to me or perhaps their kids are playing a sport and they want to make sure that that sport is well-run. They can see things that probably need to change from their perspective. And they may have a very different perspective from a participation perspective watching their kids than sort of an elite high performance lens and, you know for sport to be firing on all cylinders, you've got to get the pathways right, you've got to get the participation right, you've got to get the elite and that's why having a diverse perspective and lots of different people who are looking at the sport from different angles is the way you make sure you don't miss anything and it's thriving.

Kate Corkery: Pippa, thank you so much for joining me on our SportAUS podcast, exploring Principle 4 -The Players.

Pippa Downes: My pleasure. Kate.

Kate Corkery: If you'd like to access a copy of the Sport Governance Principles, you'll find them at the SportAUS website sportaus.gov.au/governance. If you have any feedback or questions, please email us at sportsgovernance@ausport.gov.au. My name is Kate Corkery and I look forward to you joining me for the next podcast in the Sport Governance Series.


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