Living in the UK it is hard to miss the endless government u- turns which have led to being in lockdown almost a year after COVID arrived on the island. Watching the news it is equally hard to ignore the events in the USA and the ongoing threats, incited by the outgoing President, to the country’s political system. And lastly logging into my social media it is difficult to ignore the continued lack of accountability by photographic cooperative Magnum in regards to images taken by members of exploitation and child abuse. As both a long term fan of sport, in particular rugby, there is a clear connection between sport and the decision making process in each.

Scoring in sport does not come about through one positive decision; a score comes through multiple positive decisions, often made by multiple players. As an England rugby fan the key phases of play in winning of the Rugby World Cup (RWC) final in 2003 is a perfect example of this. The ball needed to go to playmaker and kicker Jonny Wilkinson, to attempt a tournament winning drop goal in the final minutes of overtime, but the link man to pass Wilkinson the ball, Matt Dawson, was buried under a pile of bodies. He had darted up the pitch to gain territory which shortened the distance, and thus the difficulty, of the kick. England teammate, Neil Back then passed the ball to his captain Martin Johnson, who undertook a phase of play that earned no extra territory but critically freed Dawson from the ground and thus ensured his return to position to pass Wilkinson the ball. This was successfully done and the rest, as they say, is history. All of this took 20 seconds, approximately the same amount of time it just took you to read this description of the events. A video link to this passage of play can be found here.

The core of this winning team and been together for six years and gone through highs and lows and a key factor, according to Back, was having the right person execute the right decision at the right time. This thinking is clear in these phases of play; any one of these players could have attempted individual glory but they all played to their strengths in order to achieve a win for the team. Tellingly all four of these players captained England during their careers. 

Conversely conceding a score does not come through one negative decision, it comes through a compounding of errors. We all make mistakes but if one is made, it is key not to make a repeated mistake or poor decision but to rectify it with a good one. At Magnum, it has taken five months of pressure for them to release a code of conduct and although they have retained the services of a PR firm they have remained deafeningly silent. During these five months statements of sexual harassment have been made against a Magnum member who has been given a one year suspension; the timeline of these statements span a number of years which raises the question why nothing was done earlier. Further investigation by @duckrabbitblog and @kiell (follow these accounts for more information on this issue) have shown further poor decisions and leadership including the the fact that Magnum outsourced the meta tagging of their images to a third party, thereby losing control and oversight of their product in order to cut costs. This is in addition to failure by Magnum to publish their child protection policy which was first requested three and a half years ago. All of this come from a sequence of continued bad decision making. If at any stage a good or positive decision had been made, Magnum would be in a better position today.

Returning to sport, sport also involves communication; communication within the team and also with the officiating team. Lack of clarity within a team hinders good decision making and poor communication with officials risks facing their ire which often manifests itself in losing out in the marginal calls putting the team under undue pressure. A series of bad decisions and penalties can swiftly turn a potential scoring situation into a potentially conceding a score. Failure to accept responsibility and learn from mistakes is an abdication of leadership and if such leaders are not held accountable, then there will never be success. Magnum’s lack of transparency in their communication continues to raise more questions about the cooperative and as such Magnum’s light and reputation has been severely, and potentially, irrevocably tarnished. Were Magnum a sports team their supporters’ seating would, at best, be emptying.

Sport, like life, is not limited to attack; defence is also required and it is important to be positive in both. It is hard to suffer repeated hits in defence so it is critical to wrestle the initiative back and gain momentum; great scores have come from counter attacks and catching the opposition off guard. There is good reason why the proverb ‘A good defence is a good attack’ has been applied to numerous fields of endeavour. What is true in sport is true in life.