30 09 2010

Alarm bells are ringing in the offices of sports bodies up and down the UK as rumours persist that the Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt is about to impose swingeing cuts in an attempt to boost his career and gain a place on the Government’s ministerial committee deciding on departmental cuts, the so-called ‘star chamber’. 

Jeremy Hunt. Friend or Foe (Picture: The Telegraph)


Writing in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph Paul Kelso reported that while the Minister for Sport and the Olympics Hugh Robertson is fighting sport’s corner, Hunt is likely to favour the culture and media sectors of his portfolio and savagely cut the funding of sport. 

Given that the DCMS typically receives a very small budget compared to many Government departments, any cuts could seriously undermine the future of sport in this country, an important by-product of which is also the nation’s health. 

Undoubtedly some savings could be made by reducing the duplication of work and streamlining the structure that delivers sport through implementing vertical integration of strategies where currently only horizontal planning takes place. However the cuts Hunt is believed to be in favour of will go much deeper. 

How much deeper? The Telegraph reports that Hunt is considering cutting funding to sport by 40%. 

In real terms what does 40% mean? Using Sport England as an example, they received £123m of exchequer funding for the current financial year. A 40% reduction in that figure would reduce it to £73.2m, a loss of £49.2m to the development of grass-roots sport in England. That is almost double the annual contribution to the entire County Sports Partnership network! 

Cuts will, of course, need to be made but surely the role of the Culture Secretary is to treat each section of his portfolio as an equal partner while making the case to the Exchequer to keep cuts to a minimum? 

If The Telegraph’s report is correct and Hunt is about to sacrifice sport for his career then the Prime Minister should examine the actions of Hunt, believed to be a Cameron favourite, closely. 

If he is not fully committed to working in the best interests of his entire department then surely he should be replaced by someone who will serve those interests. And if he is putting his ambition to become a member of the ‘star chamber’ ahead of the demands of his appointed role then he should not be considered a suitable candidate for either. 

Of course, in the foggy world of politics there is another way to interpret The Telegraph’s story. 

Should cuts be lower than the feared 40%, let’s say a still draconian 30%, will we have been conned into believing we got a good result? The story also portrays Sports Minister Robertson as someone well-regarded within sport, yet that is not the opinion of all as we still await evidence of the improvements in the structure and delivery of sport promised prior to and during the election suggesting the story could be a means to improve his image. 

D-Day is 20th October. In the meantime, British sport is holding its collective breath. 

Read the full Telegraph article here. 

© Jim Cowan, Cowan Global Limited, 2010 

Twitter @cowanglobal


17 09 2010

I believe the Government are right. With the national economy in such a fragile state it is necessary to make drastic cuts to public spending. But I believe they are wrong in that this doesn’t necessarily mean we should face cuts to public services as a result. 

So I also believe the TUC are right, many public services are worth saving. And then I believe the TUC are wrong, saving many of those services does not mean we don’t have to make cuts to public spending. 

The TUC - right but also wrong


The problem here is that both Government and TUC are not thinking in a vertically integrated way. I know I have talked of vertical integration of strategy in this blog before but I make no excuse for doing so again and will continue to do so until key decision makers start to show signs of ‘getting it’. 

Vertical integration of strategy; planning in a way that means every action considers the impact and needs of every other action; or in this case, every department/service on every other service. 

Let’s take the police as an example. Nottinghamshire police are opposed to any combining of forces to create a larger East Midlands force. Whether you agree with that stand-point or not, do forces need to combine to share resources for improved efficiency/effectiveness? Of course not. 

It is the same in many local authorities. While times were good no one examined the waste created by employing only horizontally integrated strategy. Now they are so used to thinking only in a horizontal way that they fail to see how many of the services they provide could be maintained (or at least cut less) if they considered looking at how different departments can work together and share resource. Indeed, a whole generation of managers has grown up not knowing there is any other way to plan. 

There have been a tiny number of ‘eureka moments’ around the country. Only this week three local authorities in Leicestershire announced that they are to combine support services as a cost saving measure in order to maintain front line services. 

I’ve picked on the police and local authorities but during the good times we have seen the same bloated bureaucracy of employing more people than an organisation needs because that organisation cannot think beyond the horizontal. We have seen it demonstrated worst of all in the NHS but also in sport and in much of the ‘Third Sector’. 

Sadly taking such measures will undoubtedly mean cutting jobs something the Government have recognised and the TUC have opposed mistakenly thinking jobs and services are the same thing. 

Structure should always be the servant of strategy, it is part of the process designed to best achieve the strategic objectives, to reach the Vision. Yet by maintaining a system of horizontally integrated planning far too many organisations (including businesses) are making strategy the servant of structure and drastically limiting their potential during the good times and putting services at risk during the bad. 

It’s time for a national rethink on how we do strategy. 

For more on Vertical and Horizontal Integration of Strategy see: 

‘What’s All This Vertical And Horizontal Integration Stuff?’ 

‘An Accidental Demonstration Of The Need For Vertically Integrated Strategy’ 

© Jim Cowan, Cowan Global Limited, 2010 

Twitter @cowanglobal


11 09 2010

If you know me you will know that I am passionate about sport. I was brought up in a home where sport was always centre stage, we played, we watched, we discussed. Later on I became an athlete then a coach and in recent years I have worked closely with any number of organisations in the hope of improving the development of sport.

Yet I ask, even for someone like myself, is there a point at which sport loses credibility?

Fernando Alonso

This week we have seen Ferrari let off any meaningful punishment for a blatant breach of the rules of Formula One at the German Grand Prix. As a fan of motor sport, someone who spends a lot of money following the sport each year, how should I feel should Fernando Alonso win the world driver’s title by less than the seven points he gained by his team’s cheating?


I’m less of a snooker fan but in the same week we have seen John Higgins also let off any meaningful punishment for being caught on film agreeing to take £300,000 to throw a game. Next time we see him miss an easy pot; can we believe what we are seeing?

In both instances the governing bodies tasked with protecting the integrity of the two sports in question have let the very same sports, and thereby the fans, down.

But I am not picking on motor sport and snooker, the fall in standards, the acceptance of cheating as the ‘norm’ is rife. The issue of taking bribes and spot betting has been at the forefront of cricket news, rugby union suffered the ‘bloodgate’ fiasco and in football ‘diving’ has become an accepted part of the sport, even cheered by fans of the player getting away with it.

Standards in football have even dropped to the level where a player who has served a ban for missing a drug test is seen as a better option as national team captain to one who has cheated on his wife.

Athletics, swimming, cycling and other sports have all had their share of performers who thought they could cheat their competitors and the fans by taking illegal substances or who missed tests put in place to catch such cheating, but at least in those sports the governing bodies don’t then reward the individuals concerned.

Cheating is cheating. The rules of each sport define what is and is not permitted. An athlete taking steroids is no more or less a cheat than the cricketer deliberately bowling no balls or the footballer taking a dive to win a penalty.

Sport isn’t losing its moral compass, it has already lost it. Following the latest high profile contributions to sport’s ethical decline from Formula One, snooker and cricket is there a point at which credibility drops to the point at which we lose faith in what we are watching?

Where is the point at which sport will lose its public or, are we all contributing to the moral decline by simply accepting cheating as an integral part of sport, an acceptable way to improve the chances of fame, fortune or victory?

© Jim Cowan, Cowan Global Limited, 2010

Twitter @cowanglobal