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The Boardroom Effect – what happens in the boardroom stays in the boardroom…or does it?

How well do boardroom shenanigans align with the performance of a sports team on the field. In other words, how strong is the correlation between what happens on and off the field? And is there a locker room lesson for us?

Let’s take the Proteas Cricket team.

Never in the history of the game in South Africa has management been in so much turmoil and non-performance. Accusations of fraud, money wasting and internal politics made more headlines than the performance of the team…which in itself has been dismal.

The main man in charge, Thabang Moroe, was suspended. However, the issues we are seeing are the result of broader challenges with Cricket South Africa’s administrators, the executive, the members council and the previous board of directors, all of whom are responsible for the mess at boardroom level. And guess what… the performance on the field followed suit. The Proteas lost all three T20 matches against England. Thank goodness the one-day series was suspended due to COVID-19 protocols not being adhered to by the English team. With a few exceptions, the individual performances of most players are seriously concerning. In fact, from being the Nr 1 team in all formats of the game not too long ago, we are now ranked Nr 6 (Test), Nr 5 (ODI) and Nr 5 (T20).

Let’s take another example – Western Province Rugby. Whether we are talking about the sale of Newlands stadium or the general management of the rugby union, it is all in shambles and money is at the centre of it all. This leaves little doubt that egos and money have become far more important than the game itself. Even Remgro and Investec, both long-time supporters of Western Province Rugby, decided not to be associated with the boardroom politics and exited the building (field). And guess what? The performance of the team on the field has moved in a similar direction. As probably the proudest and most successful team in South African history, there has been very limited on-field success for Western Province of late. Recent results and performances mirror what is going on at boardroom level, with even top players like Siya Kolisi, a stalwart of Western Province rugby, being identified as a player who will possibly leave the union in the near future.

And if you still doubt this correlation, let’s look at the positive side. Where boardroom tactics are going well, the impact is clear on the field. Not long ago, Remgro and Patrice Motsepe bought the majority shareholding in the Bulls rugby union and appointed Jake White, the 2007 Rugby World Cup winning coach, as the Bulls coach. With no recent world cup winners in the squad and only two regular springboks (Duane Vermeulen and Trevor Nyakane) – many thought the team would have to start building from scratch. However, instead they are going from strength to strength. The Bulls recently won the Super Rugby unlocked title and are now strongly on their way to win the Currie Cup. It seems nothing can stop them now! This is in strong contrast with the Western Province rugby union, which, despite boasting nine senior and many more regular players from the 2019 Rugby World Cup winning squad, cannot convert experience into performance.

We need to take this locker room lesson to heart – what happens at boardroom level does not stay in the boardroom. Rather, it flows directly down to the operations on the field – whether it be the factory, sales or general operations. Get your boardroom (sports or business alike) in order if you want success in the numbers on the scoreboard, whether these are measured in points or real KPIs and targets!

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