Cricket Ball Tampering Scandal Epitomizes Lack of Understanding of Reputation Risk

The Cricket ball tampering scandal has raised important questions about the understanding of Reputation Risk by sport organizations. Not only has it damaged Australia’s fine reputation as a leading cricket playing nation, but it has irreversibly damaged the reputation of individual players.

Whilst Cricket Australia can be commended for their quick response to the crisis and their harsh actions, important questions remain.

Unfortunately a brilliant cricket player such as Steve Smith will now be remembered for all the wrong reasons. A Headline such as “Australia’s Steve Smith steps down as captain amid ball tampering scandal in SA” has brought attention to the fact that sport is not immune from Reputation risk and its impact.

Unethical behavior has found its way into all stratas of society.

While the tampering incident has been widely analyzed – see article links below, it again raises important questions:

  • What are Sport organizations doing to prevent Reputation Risk incidents?
  • How do we respond to Reputation Risk incidents?

In my work, root cause analysis of any incident is crucial. That’s what I would do in this case!

What made a “senior” group of players decide to want to win at all costs, even if it meant cheating? Or, has it happened before?

This incident reveals that there is definitely something lacking in sporting circles and that the will to win supersedes fair play. This definitely points to a cultural issue.

If we define culture as the “instinctive ways in which things are done”, then I would seriously advise that a cultural analysis is conducted. “Corporate Culture” is one of the three top reasons why institutions undergo reputation risk (Lack of Compliance and Unethical behavior is the other two).

It also tells me that the Risk Management side of sport is not understood nor adequately communicated. Take this for instance; a plot is hatched in view of all.

Do players not understand the danger of Social Media and the velocity with which messages will travel?

Has no one alerted players to this definition of Reputation Risk i.e. that “Reputation Risk in an age of Social Media is the probability of someone watching you and taking photos or videos is proportional to the stupidity of your action?”

Do players understand that they are role models? Do they understand the impact of Social Media?

There is also the concept of the Cycle of Learning that is not understood by organizations. The Cycle of Learning concept is a continuum that moves learners through stages from unconscious incompetence to unconscious competence.

This process involves a lot of repetition and reinforcement.

In my opinion, there is a lot that organizations can do to instill ethical behavior and sporting codes. They can:

  • Ensure understanding of values through continuous training, analysis and communication
  • Better orientation
  • Analysis of similar incidents and sharing learning through knowledge transfer

This past weekend a referee was severely criticized in his handling of incidents on the field in a rugby game. Proper analysis of these types of incidents is crucial.

Do organizations such as the Referee Association take into account the opinion and thoughts of stakeholders?

The wide spread condemnation by Australian authorities are welcomed. But words are empty.

What are they going to do to?

  • Clean up sport in Australia?
  • Reinforce Adequate Behavior?

But, we in South Africa are not immune. What are we going to learn from this debacle?