29 October 2020

Parents, players, coaches and admins

It's not just in 'clinical studies' that there's 'conflict of interest'
There’s something very basic in any competitive activity ruled by, well, rules and fair play: zero tolerance of interest-conflict. Conflict of interest is essentially a situation where an individual or an institution has multiple interests and serving one could be detrimental to another, then. In other words, if interests conflict, the concerned individual or organization keeps out of things. ‘Or ought to,’ one might add.

There are many kinds, of course. In sports it’s about interests coming into conflict in the case of coaches, players, parents and administrators.

If an active player is also a selector (except in the case of a skipper who is ex-officio a selector, i.e. he/she is already selected and his/her input is considered useful in selecting the rest of the team), there’s a problem. He/she can weigh in with opinions that favor his/her selection.

It’s the same with a parent, who could bat for his/her son or daughter, so to speak. Coaches can help ‘select’ those they coach.

And it’s not just about selection. There can be hanky-panky in policy-formulation too. Certain policies might favor someone related in some way to an administrator. If that is the case, the particular individual should disclose conflict of interest and opt out of the decision-making process. Judges do that often enough, but caught-in-conflict administrators by and large do not.

I heard randomly that the Squash Federation had elected a new committee. My first question to a friend in that committee was, ‘are there any coaches, parents or active players in your committee?’ The answer, soft but firm was ‘no.’

There are people interested in squash, past players who have represented the country in international events as well as top professionals who probably have a good understanding of identifying institutional and programmatic flaws, the efficient use of resources and teamwork. Good things can be expected.

Now here’s a question for Namal Rajapaksa and the Ministry of Sports: is this true of all sports bodies affiliated with the Ministry? Additionally, are there strict rules regarding conflict of interest and if so are they strictly enforced? If not, why not?

Conflict of interest is not just about players, parents and coaches holding office. There can be administrators who have benefited from the ‘largesse’ of sports bodies. For example, in the case of teams taking part in international events abroad, a ministry official can be offered a free trip, either as ‘Manager’ or as ‘Head of Delegation.’ 

There’s nothing wrong in this. However, one wonders why, for example, certain errant sports bodies are never investigated. There are certain federations that have not submitted accounts for years. When questions are raised by anyone concerned, typically we have a twiddling of thumbs, passing of files and all kinds of unacceptable excuses being offered. At the end of the day, nothing happens. The errant are untouched. They are untouchable because, if one may put it that way, they’ve ‘touched’ the right person in the right manner.

That’s conflict of interest too.

If Minister Namal Rajapaksa is interested in putting things right, he needs to correct the systemic flaws in the overall sports administrative edifice. There are many who render amazing services and with little or no appreciation for the efforts. There are also those who cut corners, those who are in it for self-gain and those who are taking care of personal interests.

There are coaches who are also referees, umpires or arbiters. There are coaches in sporting bodies. There are parents too. In some cases there are even active players in these committees.

Maybe they don’t know what conflict of interest is, but that’s not an excuse. They are required to know what’s what. In any event ministry officials know or else they shouldn't be where they are. The minister has to know or has to learn quickly. 



Other articles in the series titled 'The Interception' [published in 'The Morning']

Remember the coach(es)!

'Possible' is a single word lesson

Do you have a plan? Strengths and weaknesses It's all about partnerships