I sometimes get unsolicited blogs sent me by friends. This one was sent me by Bob Compton, a regular commentator on here. It’s written by Michael Redston who combines an interest in cycling with pensions governance
Innovative art is often remembered for its willingness to break through previously accepted boundaries. Science is driven by a desire to understand the rules but often later proves its earlier conclusions wrong. Religion is built on a belief that all will turn out brilliantly in the end for those who accept handed down rules but with no consensus on what these actually mean.
All over the news, we see examples of bad practises coming to light years too late, followed by enquiries and court cases that take even longer; this is rife in politics, sport and almost every other area, with few seeming able to hold up their heads with pride.
‘We shall learn from our mistakes’ and ‘lack of good governance’ trip of the tongue but often it is the sheer volume of people and complexity of structures that creates the dilemma as to who exactly the ‘we’ are; who exactly will rectify the mistakes and where exactly does responsibility lie for setting the rules and overseeing good governance?
Cycling is a good example. Whilst numerous people are taking up cycling for leisure purposes, the dominant feature is the desire to win – both individually and as teams. The difficulty, as with most areas these days, is that money plays a big part and a lot goes on behind the scenes. Sponsorship, subsidies and national pride are founded on the need to win. There is of course nothing wrong with competition and quite right to be proud of legitimate achievements – but there should be no pride or financial gain in cheating.
Life for a cyclist cannot be easy at this practical level with harsh training and pressures to perform, but is made worse if there is confusion above with arguments over interpretation of drug and medicine rules and long running enquiries and uncertainty on where the regulations are actually set or over-ruled.
Definition of Definition
I have looked up the definition of ‘definition’ in various places. This is the one I liked: ‘The act of defining or of making something distinct, definite or clear’. The example given also seemed very suitable: ‘We need a better definition of her responsibilities.’
The word ‘clear’ jumps out. Without clarity, no one stands a chance. This is actually what good governance should be all about. Being absolutely clear who is meant to do what and ensuring it is done properly.
There is a dilemma of trust too with vested interests and financial resources. Individuals who have slaved away and sacrificed their own money and time justifiably should have an entitlement to receive their due reward but this is not necessarily the same for big business or those who are appointed to do a job. What are they in it for? Morally, rewards do not need to be equal but the structure and relationships need to be fair. Most people I hope do think fairly but very few would actually turn down money or rewards they were offered and temptation not always easy to resist. So it is not necessarily selfish individuals that are driving this (although there will always be some) but more likely the system.
Solutions and Governance
Whilst the sport itself is competitive and at the practical level can expect a few crashes along the way, it should not be to win at all costs (including illegal means) but to win within clear rules. The potential conflict of working as a team or working as an individual could fall within this scope. Any vehicle is made up of various components all of which need to work but it will not work without joining them together properly. So, for governance purposes, therefore, we are not talking about the top end streamlined racing bike but something more stable and sturdy that everybody can rely on.
This requires clear designation of policies, principles, relationships and responsibilities for all involved to be aware of and comply with. Without this, time and money can be considerably wasted, and the reliability and access to facts and information diluted and dispersed.
This is not necessarily easy but neither should it be that difficult if tackled in the right way.
Michael J Redston
Author, Composer & Pensions Governance Specialist