Wimbledon transmission among ‘UK’s Cultural Crown Jewels’ under threat

December 26, 2014

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A range of sporting events broadcast in the UK is protected by law. This attempts to control transmission arrangements for Football and Rugby World Cup finals, the Grand National, and The finals of Wimbledon

The BBC enjoys privileged transmission of a range of such events. These are under increasing threat through commercial pressures.

Recently, [ December 16, 2014 ] a story broke that The BBC has begun talks with British Telecomm [BT] about sharing transmission of Wimbledon after the BBC current contract ends in 2017.

Wimbledon is a protected species

Wimbledon fortnight in July is a cultural as much as a sporting event. Its symbolic significance is up there with the National Health Service. Political parties are united in the need to protect and preserves both in the public (and their own political) interests.

The arrangements illustrate something about the broader social culture in the UK and a widely held suspicion of unregulated commercialization of cultural events.

Mixed economy or mixed-up interventions?

I have never successfully explained the rationale to American friends who tend to view the phenomenon as quirky, and evidence of unhealthy state intervention in the workings of a free market economy. Any defense has to explain the funding of the BBC through a ‘license to view’ charged to anyone receiving BBC transmissions. In an earlier era this was enforced through the use of sinister transmission vans, targeting homes with TV aerials around the land.

“It’s the way we do things here” I say, rather defensively.

When culture and commerce collide

For all its iconic status, Wimbledon is also derided as a symbol of middle-class values state-sponsored and propping up an elite and effete sport. It is the target of much blokeish bile to that effect, as each July approaches.

When culture and commerce collide, the battles tend to be highly emotional. The discussion polarizes traditional values and the need for innovative change.

To be continued


Change at Manchester United

September 14, 2014

by Paul Hinks

Manchester United’s current turmoil provides a platform to explore how leadership dilemmas are influencing events at the world famous football club

THIS DEVELOPING STORY IS BEING UPDATED REGULARLY.  ADDITIONS TO BE FOUND AT THE END OF THE ORIGINAL POST

On the 10th Sept 2014 the BBC reported Manchester United’s annual revenues They had risen by 19% to £433.2m -but they also reported an 84% drop in Man Utd’s profits.

Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward directed attention towards a new shirt deal with Adidas. When a club of Manchester United’s stature is discussing shirt deals instead of trophies there’s implicit recognition that it has fallen below its own high standards of achievement.

Change vs Inertia

Sir Alex was manager of Manchester United between 1986 and 2013 – his teams became synonymous with success, dominating footballing headlines for all the right reasons. Trophies symbolized the success; fans and pundits alike enjoyed watching an entertaining style of football which also delivered results – to the envy of rival fans, this was the ‘Manchester United way’.

Manchester United’s culture, discourse and identity

Reference the ‘Manchester United way’ and it has a different meaning to different people – perhaps a benchmark for free-flowing attack minded football, or a fan’s recollections of an important victory against a fierce rival; perhaps somebody referencing the successful development of Man Utd’s youth into world class talent?
A great attribute of sport – and football in particular – is that it provokes opinion and debate effortlessly. For a club of Manchester United’s stature, any deviation from their own high standards of success amplifies the process of inquiry.

Alpha Males and Autocratic Leadership

The appointment of David Moyes as Manager is increasingly reflected upon as a transition period which didn’t go to plan. The swift and recent appointment of Louis van Gaal as Manchester United’s manager [19th May 2014] takes the club in a different direction again. In some ways Louis van Gaal’s leadership style has parallels with Ferguson’s: strong values; clear standards; absolute authority. In Ferguson’s time those who crossed him, or fell short of Manchester United’s standards, quickly found themselves playing for another club. Louis van Gaal maintains a similar reputation.

The ‘Make or Buy’ dilemma

In his short tenure, Louis van Gall his has spent in the region of £150m bringing in new players. He’s also started the process of shaping his team, which includes the controversial sale of highly rated home grown player Danny Wellbeck to Arsenal for £16m. Are we witnessing the start of a new ‘Manchester United way’ – one where success is bought rather than developed in-house?

The Guardian provided additional commentary on the situation:

Ryan Giggs has denied Manchester United’s recent transfer policy represents a betrayal of Old Trafford traditions, although Nicky Butt, the club’s reserve team manager, admitted promoting homegrown talent must take a back seat under Louis van Gaal.
United have spent £215m on new players over the past 12 months and off loaded the academy graduates Danny Welbeck to Arsenal and Tom Cleverley to Aston Villa on the day Colombia international Radamel Falcao arrived on loan from Monaco .

That turnover prompted Mike Phelan, United’s former assistant manager, to accuse the club of losing their identity, while Eric Harrison, the ex-youth team manager who brought through the famed “Class of 92”, said United were losing “their soul” as a consequence.
There’s a certain paradox and tension between retaining tried and tested methods versus embracing new and different ways of working.

Like any organisation, Manchester United has various metrics to measure its success – trophies remain the currency that most fans prefer to use – but perhaps here is one of the biggest misnomers of football – football is increasingly commercially focused. Sure the fans crave the bragging rights that go with winning, but there are other stakeholders to consider too.


‘Something Special’

Sir Alex had an enviable reputation for developing the potential in players, nurturing youth into world-class talent; examples include: Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Gary and Phil Neville and Nicky Butt – there are others too. Perhaps aged 63, Louis van Gaal perceives time is not on his side? Perhaps his experience helps him recognize the urgency in returning Manchester United back to be serious challengers for honours? If he doesn’t succeed quickly, perhaps another candidate will be afforded the opportunity?

Manchester United’s various stakeholders – its fans, directors, owners, sponsors – and indeed its closest rivals all expect Manchester Utd to be serious contenders for honours. Few other clubs have history and expectation to deliver success – Louis van Gaal is shaping the future of club which many regard as ‘something special’. How he delivers will be watched with great interest.

UPDATES START HERE

July 14th 2014 

The Adidas shirt deal is worth £750 million over ten years.

September 14th 2014

Manchester United beat Queen’s Park Rangers 4-0 Van Gaal’s team with its costly Galacticos win in style at Old Trafford. Move from 17th to 9th in league table.

September 15th 2014

Disenchanted Ronaldo wants move back to Manchester United.


After Sir Alex: Van Gaal leads out Manchester United for his first game as manager

July 24, 2014

Louis van Gaal
The match [July 23rd, 2014] is a ‘meaningless’ friendly in Los Angeles. Or is it so meaningless?

Louis van Gaal arrives as manager at Manchester United Football Club after managing Holland in the recent World Cup in Brazil. He joins a club suffering a severe dip in performance following the departure of the iconic Sir Alex Ferguson, who is widely credited with the record-breaking successes of the club in recent decades.

Van Gaal’s reputation as a leading manager has been established in a string of successes at the top European clubs. After Sir Alex, his own selected successor and fellow Scot, David Moyes, lasted less than the season, as results declined disastrously.

In the recent World Cup, Van Gaal reinforced his reputation as a tough but creative manager of the Netherlands’ [Holland’s] national side. For example, he came up with an incredible and pre-planned decision to substitute his first choice-goal keeper in extra time to bring on one better able to win the imminent penalty shoot-out.

First impressions at MUFC

Within days of Holland’s departures from the World Cup, their new manager arrives at Manchester United. There followed a few days of intense image management, reinforcing his image as a dominating personality who expects to get his own way on as many matters as possible.

MUFC fans largely approved of this, [call-in messages at the club’s TV station MUTV] as it was a style for which Alex Ferguson was recognized and feared.

The pre-season tour

Within a week, the squad had left for the pre-season tour of North America, van Gaal grumbling about excessive traveling which was a disruption to pre-season preparations. He said such arrangements would not happen again on his watch.

Reconstruction of the club

On van Gaal’s arrival, funds withheld from Moyes were released by the owners and board to strengthen the team. New players were acquired seen as the quality needed to address weaknesses in defense and midfield.

The LA Galaxy game

The first pre-season game was against LA Galaxy, a club with prior connections with MUFC, through the recently-retired David Beckham. The match was switched to the Pasadena Rose-bowl to accommodate the interest it attracted. A near-capacity 86,000 fans watched the game.

The American team, half-way through its season, was expected to be match fit. This did not make much difference in the first half. United, playing a new attacking formation, were lively and effective, scoring three unanswered goals.

The new manager had made it clear he would be assessing all players before completing his summer transfers. At half-time, as agreed for the fixture, large numbers of changes were made in each team. The United squad players brought on were more successful than their Galaxy counterparts,and scored a further four goals unanswered.

Final score: Los Angeles Galaxy 0 Manchester United 7. The Van Gaal managerial regime could hardly have started better.

Leadership reflections

The new manager has a direct – some would say brutal – style which seems designs to overwhelm all opposing views. His history of success with his teams has been accompanied with confrontations with players and with influential figures in clubs he worked in. He wins respect and makes enemies. The style can be found in many business and sporting leaders. In his encounters with the press, the style does have resemblance to that of Sir Alex Ferguson who could be famously (or infamously) combative.

There is something vaguely Machiavellian in the public persona which may be designed to rule through fear rather than being judged weak.


Germany v Brazil. A Hegelian nightmare of momentum and demoralization at the Football World Cup

July 9, 2014


Last night, a shocked global audience watched Germany defeat and humiliate host nation Brazil in The 2014 World Cup. Can the German philosopher Hegel offer insights to the astonishing happenings?

Searching for sense after the game [July 8th, 2014] I remembered the ideas of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. The philosopher remains influential for his system of thought which considers the nature of contradictions and how they become integrated.

Triumph and its contradiction

So Germany whacking in seven goals suggests the presence of triumph and its contradiction, disaster.

Or maybe it was through the energized performance of the German team and the defeated efforts of the Brazilians which produced the 7-1 scoreline. Some would describe what happened in terms of momentum and demoralization.
Any which way, Hegel invites us to seek a synthesis emerging from the thesis and its antithesis in seeking understanding.

Demythologizing the game

Without synthesis the story has no satisfactory closure. A focus on a crushing victory and defeat risks the stabilizing of beliefs of superiority and inferiority in cultural terms. It may be better to recognize the events are in a limited time and space. We should beware of y wider stereotypes, of German efficiency and Brazilian creativity crippled or destroyed by the loss of key players.

At a stretch, I can just about reach a Hegelian synthesis in which the story of the specific and spectacular game tonight is demythologized. It is important to appreciate the power of myths and myth making.

Destiny

It is not destiny that will permit Germany to win the 2014 World Cup, it will be the interactions between two teams which have each earned their places in the final.

Note for fellow pedants
See this beginner’s guide to Hegel for an introduction to his logic. Note also that the three step process of thesis, antithesis and synthesis is widely used, but was never specifically characterized in these terms by Hegel.

What happened next …

Holland beat Brazil in the decider for third place no-one wants to play.

Germany and Argentina play a close final, and a brilliant goal by Gotze wins the World Cup for Germany and illuminates a drab game.

Scolari and his coaching team resign before they receive any more public humiliation.

Germany, spiritual home of Hegelian philosophy, welcomes its heroes with promises of redoubled efforts to retain world supremacy in Football.

Triumphalism, Humiliation, Rebirth. The cycle of thesis, antithesis and synthesis continues for Brazilian German football.


Graeme Smith, a greatly underestimated leader of South African cricket

March 6, 2014


Graeme Smith is rarely mentioned among lists of the great cricket captains. This is mostly a matter of style over substance

Graeme Smith announced his immediate retirement from international cricket this week [6th March 2014]. The timing of the announcement was curious,and appears to have been a shock to his closest colleagues. I want to return to this, but my main interest is why he has not received far more recognition for his achievements.

His track record as captain starting as a 22 year old is outstanding with numerous achievements. His 109 tests as captain far exceeds that of second player Alan Border, and his batting average of nearly 50 is only surpassed as an opening bat in Test Cricket by the great Sunil Gavaskar.

He has been a particular success over England with team and personal displays that have contributed to several retirements of his English counterparts.

His curious departure

There have been rumours over the last few years that he was becoming disenchanted with his lengthy time as captain. Changes in his personal life contributed recently. Even so, to announce his retirement as his team were struggling in series-determining match against Australia goes against the principles of a leader putting his team above personal considerations. It suggests considerable internal conflict or a cranky individualism of another controversial South African, Kevin Pietersen whose defections to the ranks of the England team and then out of it are infamous to English and South African cricket lovers alike.

Why is he rarely hailed as an all-time great captain?

The only explanation I can think of is that he is the antithesis of a stylish player. His personality verges on the dour and anti-charismatic. Cricket is a game that loves the effortless style and flamboyance of players such as David Gower and Ian Botham. You can see more psycho-analytical ramblings on leadership style, Geoffrey Boycott and Kevin Pietersen in an earlier blog post


FIFA – gatekeepers to our beautiful game

February 6, 2014

FIFA logoPreparation for the Brazil 2014 FIFA World Cup Finals may well be causing anxiety for some, but there is evidence of greater challenges within FIFA.

by Paul Hinks

According to FIFA’s website, the FIFA World Cup is the world’s most widely viewed sporting event. An estimated 715.1 million people watched the final match of the 2006 FIFA World Cup held in Germany – the 2010 event in South Africa was broadcast to 204 countries on 245 different channels.

June 2014 will see Brazil host the next World Cup Finals – a country synonymous with carnivals, rich culture and ‘samba’ football – but also struggling in terms of economic progress.

Ethical Leadership versus Financial Motivations

As PWC report, the World Cup Finals will provide Brazil with investment and an opportunity for commercial success – a credible legacy for FIFA and the host nation.

However as The Guardian noted, challenges are evident in the preparation for the tournament. The Economist noted that workers are now scheduled to work around the clock in an attempt to meet the fixed deadline; there have also been fatalities when a crane collapsed in São Paulo’s new football stadium. Deeper concerns remain that Brazil cannot afford to host the World Cup Finals and that the investment should have been spent on hospitals, basic sanitation, housing and other more fundamental needs.

Brazil as a template for success?

Exploring the rationale behind FIFA’s decision making process deserves closer inspection – preparation for the Brazil 2014 FIFA World Cup Finals may well be causing anxiety for some, but there is evidence of greater challenges within FIFA.

There are accusations that the selection of venue for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup Finals were unfair – allegations of vote rigging and bribing were reported by the BBC in 2010 when Russia was awarded the 2018 finals; Forbes are amongst credible sources who echoed similar concerns about the successful Qatar 2018 bid.

The selection of Qatar for the 2018 finals appears even more confusing, given that traditionally the World Cup Finals are held in summer – in Qatar the summer temperatures would expose teams to temperatures of more than 40c – even today’s highly conditioned footballers cannot expect to excel for 90 minutes in that heat. Then there is the deeper analysis of how FIFA are attempting to correct the situation – prompting closer inspection of Sett Blatter’s tenure as President of the FIFA organisation.

Internal disruption within FIFA

The Telegraph reported (on 09 Jan 2014) that all may not be well within the FIFA hierarchy:

The row at Fifa over the timing of the 2022 World Cup intensified on Thursday after Michel Platini accused Sepp Blatter and Jerome Valcke of disrespecting their own executive committee.

Platini, the Uefa president and Fifa vice-president, condemned the latter’s president and secretary general for their repeated public pronouncements indicating the tournament in Qatar would be moved to November or December.
The latest of those was delivered on French radio by Valcke on Wednesday, prompting an angry response from Fifa’s British vice-president, Jim Boyce, who insisted the decision over any switch lay with the governing body’s ExCo.
Platini, who could stand against Blatter for the Fifa presidency in 2015, was even more nonplussed, telling L’Equipe: “When the executive committee was held in early October, it was decided to launch a major consultation of all football and no decision would be taken before the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. It was also agreed not to talk about this before then.”

Leadership challenges within FIFA

FIFA need to retain their credibility as an organisation that operates ethically and also to the expected high standards – the recent global banking crisis illustrates just how quickly the public loose trust in institutions where those in positions of influence operate with self-interest and guile.

Football is unquestionably a global sport – it transcends geographies, providing an opportunity for supporters from different cultures and backgrounds to mix on equal terms, exchanging opinions and creating debate – in some ways it provides a common language which can bridge political and cultural differences. Those entrusted as guardians of the ‘beautiful game’ need to demonstrate an authentic style of leadership – one which engenders trust.

There remains an interesting dynamic around who is leading and who is following in this increasingly powerful industry – power plays are evident both internally within FIFA, and also externally beyond the boundaries of FIFA’s organisation. FIFA and Sepp Blatter deserve credit for how football has prospered on the global stage in recent years – the rich diversity of footballing talent from different nations in our domestic leagues and competitions is just one metric of success.

However, if FIFA is to remain a highly respected organisation, perhaps it’s time for improved governance and more transparency around how key decisions are made.


In Chess, Carlsen keeps mum. In Cricket, Cook tells all?

November 14, 2013

In the build-up to the chess world championships Magnus Carlsen refuses to reveal who his support staff are. In Cricket, Australian captain Clarke says England’s captain kindly revealed his Cricket team to him. What’s all that about?

Two little stories about leadership, one from Chess, one from Cricket.

In India there are two sports stories this week about all-time greats. Sachin Tendulkar is playing his last international cricket match; and Viswanathan [‘Vishy’] Anand is defending his chess crown against the new chess prodigy and Norwegian ‘pawn star’ Magnus Carlsen.

Chess trends on Twitter

Yesterday, the official website of FIDE, the international chess organization, announced that chess had become the number one news item of all stories trending on Twitter. The rise of Indian chess owes much to Anand, who has help five world championships (if you include rapid play ones). Carlsen is being hailed as a mega-star who is bringing attention to chess globally .

Magnus keeps mum

At a pre-match press conference, the players were asked out their support teams. Vishy spoke glowingly of his back-up team who help in preparing openings and in studying the play of his opponent. The twenty two year old Magnus thanked him for the information but politely declined the invitation to respond.

Cook tells all

Half way around the world, Australia is hosting their fiercest cricket rivals England. In a remarkable press conference Australia captain Michael Clarke says England’s captain Alistair Cook has revealed the England team to him a week in advance of the test.

What’s all that about?

Vishy says that the players ‘exchanged information’ only after playing the first game. The rest could be no more than mis-information. The same might be true of whatever Cook did or did not say to Clarke.

Was Cook [or Clarke] being a silly billy?

We seem to be entering the region of mind games. Chess is the more obvious mind game, but more many athletes and sporting coaches have gone in for psychological warfare. I have trouble believing the headline that Cook told Clarke the names of the team for the forthcoming test.

Maybe Clarke is trying to make Cook look like a silly billy.


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