Sunday, February 20, 2022

Cheques and unbalances in institutions: the example of sports

All organizations and institutions should have checks and balances, to avoid concentrations of power and risk in a few -or even in a pair of-  hands. Sports organizations and institutions are no exception.

Simon Kuper in his book “Barça,” wrote about the rise and fall of FC Barcelona, the soccer club. The book ends with the departure of Leo Messi, with the institution unable to keep paying his high salary. The management debacle that led to that financial disaster is not clear that has been rectified by the current club officials. Head coaches (of first and youth teams) and CEOs have shorter and shorter tenures, and the elected president shows no sign of resisting populist pressures and of running the club in a professional way.

The agents of the most promising young players, Gavi and Araujo, do not undestand the high expenses of the January transfer window before negotiating the new contracts with them, the talented young stars who are sustaining the team in this transition period. The club will suffer to retain them. Too much looking to the past glory days makes it difficult to commit to renovating the roster and tell the old stars that their time has come.

Continuous managerial changes mean that nobody takes responsibility for the time until the last change. Meanwhile, the club has taken an enormous loan to rebuild the stadium, something that is long due, but which will require a degree of financial and managerial discipline that is nowhere to be seen.

The same need for discipline and commitment is required for Olympic Games and other big sports events. As the special issue of the journal “Nature Sustainability” argued last year, the proposition that Olympic Games can be environmentally and financially sustainable is not totally an illusion, but it is very difficult to verify. It requires very serious reforms that can only take place under strong discipline and cooperation. The importance of alliances, inside the public or the private sectors, and among the two sectors, goes hand in hand with the need for strong governance.

In British English, a cheque is a printed form on which you write an amount of money and say who it is to be paid to. In American English, this word is spelled check. Too many cheques and too few checks and balances in Sports institutions.

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