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Professional athlete behaviour under the microscope


Steve Spinks
11 May 2012
It was the car crash that reverberated around the world and ended up costing Tiger Woods millions of dollars.

Who would have predicted at that moment in November, 2009, when Woods got into his car, careered down the driveway of his home and struck a fire hydrant that led to the public knowledge of his infidelity, the massive losses – estimated as high as $12 billion – that would be inflicted upon the shareholders of some of the companies who were major sponsors of the golf star?

As sponsors fled Woods to lick their bottom line wounds, Nike remained the only major company to stick with the embattled golf star describing the incident and fallout as a ‘minor blip’.

The implications of this disparity among sponsors, in fact, any stakeholder within an athlete’s world are complex and often conflicting which illustrates the need for more clearly defined performance measures among the parties involved. It’s a challenge that has been taken up by Southern Cross University academic and Doctor of Business Administration candidate Val Morrison who will present an update of her thesis on the subject at this weekend’s DBA Symposium, at SCU Riverside, Brett Street, Tweed Heads.

“It is not uncommon for an athlete’s numerous stakeholders to have different expectations, strategic goals and performance benchmarks,” Ms Morrison said.

“To an athlete whose focus is purely on being the best in the world competing within a very narrow margin of opportunity, stakeholder expectations, strategic goals and performance benchmarks may not always rank highly in their priorities.

“The overall objective of this study is to explore how stakeholder theory can be applied to the performance management of high profile athletes, taking into consideration the more complex case involving multiple stakeholders and team sports.

“It is expected that the outcome of this study will contribute to the emerging discipline of sport management theory and provide solutions to assist sport executives in developing and maintaining successful stakeholder relationships.”

Ms Morrison will focus her study on a team within the Australian Football League (AFL), which is the highest commercialised sports league in Australia with annual industry revenues in excess of $640 million and a television rights agreement worth $1.25 billion over five years. Furthermore, the average playing career of a player is only 2.9 years or 34 games.

Ms Morrison believes players should be judged by on-field performance but also by an off-field performance review considered in light of the club’s various stakeholders.

“In some cases, human resource management is far less advanced in sport than in mainstream business. Sport needs a more customised approach to performance management, taking into consideration stakeholder interests and organisational strategy,” she said.

Professor Ian Eddie will be chairing the semi-annual Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) Symposium. Southern Cross Business School operates one of the largest and most successful doctoral research programs in business in Australia and Asia.

“The DBA is an applied research degree. We want our candidates to research real world business problems and find evidence to support practical business solutions that add value to any business,” he said.

“Our research candidates are investigating many industry sectors such as sports management, tourism, agri-business, construction, health and medical practice, automotive manufacturing and services industries. Across these various industries research is being undertaken into a range of contemporary business problems such as brand identity, customer engagement, financial performance, workplace behaviour, entrepreneurship and leadership styles in different organisations.

“During the Symposium participants will present a report on their current research projects and these will be reviewed by experts regarding their research design, methodology and evidence. In addition, leading researchers will provide guidance on how to successfully complete advanced research and meet the ethical requirements for undertaking research required by the Australian Government.”

Photo: Val Morrison.