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A week for Sporting Champions and questions of leadership

A week for Sporting Champions and questions of leadership

What a week for Champions in two of our major sports – and a prelude for an unprecedented summer of sport after two years of Pandemic-driven abstinence.

As a 55-year-long Man City fan, even I was stunned by that comeback. When you know as a player that three scores are required in less than 20 minutes for a big trophy it requires an ice-cold mental attitude and the need to be in supreme form when it matters. That applies in any sport. It was very special and personal for that squad – what all sport aspires to on and off the field (bar the pitch invasion).

This weekend in Paris a second incredible football team, Liverpool will attempt a season treble against Real Madrid who themselves showed nerves of steel to defeat City at the death in the semifinal of the Champions League. These are unique times at the top end of pro sport. We should treasure these moments.

It’s all about France right now, specifically in Marseille, as what is being called potentially the best European rugby club team of all time attempts a fifth triumph in the Heineken Champions Cup. Toulon, Lyon and La Rochelle will ensure through their club support that the stadium is filled along with the rugby tourists that follow this great tournament around. Alongside the blue of Leinster of course. Make no mistake, the Irish National team is built from the Leinster model, not the other way round which is a huge credit to all at this great club. You have to think they will not be denied and with implications at last for a performance in the Rugby World Cup which make up for a few decades of underperformance. Does anyone remember Ireland v Australia in the 1991 RWC quarterfinals when they should have beaten the eventual world Champions? That was the last moment of true expectation.

A thought to ponder – How does leadership look in two of our major sports right now, namely rugby and cricket? I ask because I attended a Sports leadership conference superbly hosted by ex-President of the RFU Bob Reeves and featuring Eddie Jones among many other luminaries. The topic was avidly discussed by a number of leading names in the business of sport. Many great buzzwords and some very strong truths but precious little evidence that it translates to some of our sports.

The shambolic situation in English cricket shows an unacceptable lack of leadership on and off the field. It felt as if Ben Stokes was the default choice and there is hardly anyone left from the off-field disasters too numerous to mention. Tom Harrison may struggle to find too many fond memories. It was commonly accepted that rugby is struggling to generate leaders on the pitch, with far too many decisions being imposed on them by overbearing coaches. Their lives are prescriptive and predetermined and unsurprisingly that fails to develop leaders. Worse than that it hinders their development as human beings, never mind their sporting abilities. Those same coaches and administrators are now complaining about the void!

A fascinating solution was thrown up at the conference. Why not create a formal leadership initiative for these two great sports of ours, because there is a clear vacuum. I have to say, it’s a great idea!

Read more of Simon Halliday’s blogs HERE.

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