Monthly Archives: December 2007

Is Web 2.0 Enabling Corruption in Tennis?

Governance and information technology is becoming a serious issue in professional sports. This year Formula 1 team McLaren was fined US$100 million for spying on Ferrari then McLaren in turn accused Renault of information theft. Now Tennis is bracing for an integrity crisis.

Allegations of bribery have been building up over the past few years and the sport’s governing bodies met recently to form the Tennis Integrity Unit currently in review mode. According to a report in Australia’s Daily Telegraph a dossier has been put together featuring 140 suspect matches over the past three years. Current number four ranked player Nikolay Davydenko is under a considerable cloud of suspicion due to irregular betting patterns associated with his loss this year in Poland against number seventy four ranking Vassello Arguello. On line bookie Betfair voided almost USD$7 million in placed bets on this match. The Independent reports he was later warned and fined by umpires at the St. Petersburg and Paris tournaments for lack of effort. He is not the only one tangled up in this with many players reporting that they have been approached with inducements to throw matches for big bets. Andy Roddick Murray this summer said publicly:

everybody in the game knows [betting] goes on

According to the Independent, he later toned down his comments after a rebuke from the powers that be in world tennis. Still tennis is vulnerable to corruption, quoted in the New York times US Davis Cup Captain Patrick McEnroe said

Tennis is a very easy game to manipulate. I can throw a match and you’d never know. A trained eye can figure it out.

Pending a global governance review Tennis Australia is taking matters into it’s own hands with the formation of the Tennis Australia Anti Corruption Commission in conjunction with local Melbourne police to oversee the Australian Open scheduled for January 2008. More than 12,000 accredited attendees to the Australian Open including players, staff and media will be banned from betting during the event and the police are promising to vigorously pursue any improprieties. Tennis Australia is also promising sanctions up to and including contract cancellations and lifetime bans. The actions taken in Australia are seen as a stop gap whilst the game gets its governance house in order so we are likely to see similar restrictions throughout the 2008 tour. Tennis Australia CEO Steve Wood commented at the launch of this initiative:

This is an interim protection measure for the Australian Open while globally our sport completes a comprehensive and independent analysis of the overall threat to the integrity of tennis.

Of particular note here are the restrictions on information flow that TAAC has deemed necessary to put in place so to build a garden wall around the tournament. The use of laptops courtside and in the grandstands has been prohibited during matches and all betting websites will be blocked from publicly accessible computers on site. Steve Wood has described such measures as:

a rational and measured approach to information security

Somehow I cannot imagine Tennis Australia will be wildly successful in their efforts to place the tournament in an information bubble. They really might be better served to exploit web 2.0 technologies to improve security rather than trying in vain to restrict access to the outside world. Serious corruption tends to be fairly sophisticated and subtle so these information security measures are unlikely to be very effective. But just imagine how web 2.0 could be used to help enable resistance against corruption and improve civil security more broadly. Tennis Australia is missing an opportunity here, let us hope the global governing bodies do not make the same mistake.

Besides, having read Serena William’s blog post on the loss of her Blackberry at the Fendi store in Paris, I am rather worried about the impact of digital isolation on player morale.

Here’s what happened: after Zürich, I went to Paris to relax. As I was leaving the hotel, I decided I wanted to go to go to the Fendi store. I saw some fabulous boots there that I thought would go great in my fall repertoire. Well, I also had to use the bathroom really badly… So the driver dropped me and my friend Paul off at the corner and we walked to the Fendi store. I asked the employee if I could use the bathroom. I went to the bathroom with my purse, then came out and looked at a dress. I never sat my purse down – I just was holding it. Later, I tried on the boots and put my purse down. I liked the boots so I decided to buy them. I picked up my purse and noticed my Blackberry was missing… So I paid for the boots and then looked for the Blackberry. It was nowhere to be found. I called it and found out that it was turned off. Someone got it and turned it OFF! All of you out there that have Blackberries know that they’re not easy to turn off – you have to purposely turn them off, or they will always stay on. Every time I called it I went straight to voicemail. Someone took it out of my purse and turned it off so when I called it I would not hear it ring. Who would do this people? I mean really! It’s so upsetting, and I feel as though my privacy has just been violated. I feel raw and alone now that I don’t have my BB. My BB is out there, all alone, cold and scared. She had a great life, a warm bed and a wonderful mom that took great care of her. I wish I could just see her one more time. I did not even get chance to say goodbye.

Must have been a dreadful experience for poor Serena …… and her BB. Still, I can think of worse places to be lost even if you happen to be an inanimate, albeit, social object.

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The Cost of Going Green

Last month at Oracle Open World, Oracle announced it’s support as an Affiliate of the Intel/World Wildlife Fund led Climate Savers Initiative.  The overall goal of the initiative is to collectively reduce power consumption by 50% by 2010 through better equipment design and power management. 

I thought the onstage announcement was profound in it’s broader implications for disruptive business model innovation as we struggle towards a lower carbon economy. Announcing the initiative Oracle Vice President of Customer Services Juergen Rottler claimed that the Oracle On Demand business had driven down its overall server count by 70 percent thanks in part to Intel technology.

Intel CEO Paul Otellini’s on stage reply:

“When you talk about reducing servers by 70 percent, it’s clearly good for your business. But I can’t help but think about what it does for mine.”

 Indeed.

 

In Boston for the Summit

I just arrived in Boston for the SAP Influencer Summit. I’m especially pleased to host a session on CSR on Tuesday afternoon. We have invited some really top notch thinkers including:

  • Graham Baxter from the International Business Leaders Forum in London. Until this past summer Graham was the long time head of CSR at BP and served as board member for the ground breaking Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.
  • Steve Rochlin and Mairead Cahill from AccounAbility. Steve is Head of AccountAbility North America and Mairead is a consultant based out of the UK office. AccountAbility is the home of the AA1000 standard for CSR reporting assurance.
  • Ara Avakian from the Global Reporting Initiative. The GRI, based in Amsterdam, is the de facto global standard for CSR reporting.
  • Cody Cisco from San Francisco based Business for Social Responsibility. Cody, on behalf of BSR, is leading a software industry working group to shape an approach for CSR reporting and sutainability metrics relevant and material to our industry. This is an initiative to watch over the coming months.
  • Simon Mulcahy from World Economic Forum. Simon is Head of IT Industries at WEF and so is the industry go to person. WEF are doing some really interesting work on CSR not least the annual Davos event. Simon runs the IT Access for Everyone initiative.
  • Susan Cote Freeman from Transparency International. Susan is part of the TI Private Sector engagement team and is the main person for the North American region. Susan is particulary engaged with the TI Business Principles Programme.

It should be a good session and I hope a productive one for everyone. If you are in town, do look us up and join us if you can.

Microsoft’s ‘Homosexual Agenda’ ?

An unholy public row has broken out over Microsoft’s diversity policy. Former Dallas Cowboy, Pastor Ken Hutcherson, claims to have cut a deal with Microsoft two years ago agreeing that MS should switch from supporting local gay rights legislation in Washington state to a neutral position. Apparently, under pressure from employees, Microsoft switched back again from neutral to supporting reform and is was this that unleashed the Pastor’s wrath at the recent Microsoft AGM. In a recent interview with Daily Telegraph he said:

” Microsoft stepped out of their four walls into my world so that gives me the right to step out of my world into their world. …….They tried to turn their policy into state policy, making their policy something I had to submit to. And my playbook [the bible] tells me you don’t submit to sin.”

Hutcherson, who runs Redmond based Antioch Bible Church, has vowed to lead a takeover of Microsoft by asking his followers to buy up shares and so change the company’s ‘homosexual agenda’.

“I don’t care how big Microsoft is,” he said. “They are nothing but a feather in the wind of God. America basically got started with a tea party and Goliath, if I’m not mistaken, got taken down by David, who believed in the same cause I believe in. “I’m going to go after the new Goliath with one little rock called a share and I’m going to make them tremble before we get through. I consider myself a warrior for Christ. Microsoft don’t scare me. I got God with me.”

It is quite common these days for social activists to buy small holdings in a target company and use the AGM to introduce minority resolutions to pressure for better CSR performance. It is part PR, part shareholder democracy in action with generally mixed results. But Hutcherson’s actions remind us that today pressure can come from any point along the political spectrum. It is crucial, therefore, to have a well defined CSR strategy outlined up front so to anticipate legitimate and material stakeholder demands and to avoid trying to react later to pressure on the hoof. This whole affair made me think again about Hugh McLeod’s porous corporate membrane (hat tip James Governor) where he talks about the dangers of the company being isolated behind the membrane unconnected to the external conversation. Arguably, membrane or not, the company also needs to clearly understand which conversations it really should have and want to have.

To their great credit Microsoft seems to be doing the right thing here to support the legislation and their employee’s expressed interests. Certainly Hutcherson did not go unchecked at the AGM. You can watch the company AGM video here. If you cue up to the 51:40 mark you can watch a question from another shareholder calling on MS to oppose Hutcherson and the company response. It will be interesting to see how this campaign shapes up. The good pastor promises to come back in force at Microsoft’s next AGM.

 

You can watch the full Daily Telegrah interview with Hutcherson here:

 

You can watch Pastor Hutcherson’s actual representation at the recent Microsoft AGM here: