Engagement key to avoiding sports controversies

Is there a recent sporting controversy that couldn’t have been averted through better consultation and engagement?

Think back to last year’s T20 cricket world cup, when Quinton de Kock sat out a match, reluctant to take a knee, as directed, in support of Black Lives Matter.

It later emerged that Cricket South Africa first provided this direction to players on the bus, on the way to the game.

Earlier this year, the first Manly rugby league players learned about the club’s pride jumper initiative was on the TV news in the week of the game.

Surely, better consultation and engagement would have provided parties in the recent Netball Australia controversy time to understand and reconcile the views of others, well ahead of the Diamonds’ series against England.

I also wonder if better engagement with WACA members might have prevented the statues honouring our men’s, women’s and Aboriginal players proposed for the redeveloped WACA ground becoming controversial.

In a world where culture wars are increasingly harnessed to advance personal and political interests, consultation and engagement have never been more important.  While some will never agree on these issues, most people reach fair positions, if brought on the journey.

Unless sports administrators get it right, issues will continue to flare up, with reputations and the causes people care about damaged in the process.

Daniel Smith is executive chair of ReGen Strategic and a WACA board election candidate. This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.


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