Where does one draw a line for team owners?

Sport is a results business. Things can be all hunky-dory within a team’s camp and quickly turn sour if results don’t come their way. Or, the state of the dressing room can be absolute shambles and it still might not make the headlines, as long as the team is winning. It works both ways, and that’s how it is for all the stakeholders involved.

Each stakeholder executes their role to the best of their abilities and trusts their counterpart to do the same. But what happens when there is a difference of opinion between the stakeholders – say the owner and the player?

Well, the entire world saw a glimpse of such an incident last week. After Lucknow Super Giants lost a game in the Indian Premier League, team owner Sanjiv Goenka was involved in a “robust discussion” with his captain, KL Rahul.

“A robust discussion between two cricket lovers.”  Well, that’s how LSG assistant coach Lance Klusner described the incident. Such events are open to interpretation for the public, of course, but to anyone watching, it seemed like the team owner was schooling his captain. To make it worse, he was doing it in front of millions of people watching it on live television.

The incident sparked plenty of discussions. Some believe that the team owners are well within his rights to put their opinion across to their captain, as long as it is done in a private manner. On the other hand, some strongly stand by the stance that an owner shouldn’t be overstepping their responsibilities and let the team sort itself out.

Afterall, that’s what the entire team is there for – to win. The players and the coaching staff are the professionals in their sport. If they wanted an expert opinion on how to run a business, the owner might be one of the first people they go to for advice. But in matters involving the team, it might be best to let the professionals handle what they do best.

It’s not to say that the owner cannot be involved in the team discussions and give his suggestions. In fact, they would be more than welcome, if they are done in an appropriate manner. A holistic approach right from the top-level management can do wonders for a sports team. On the other hand, an unstructured approach from the top can leave a lot to be desired. Just look Manchester United, one of the biggest football clubs in the world.

The incident that occurred in the IPL last week was brushed aside by the Lucknow team rather quickly, after enforcing what can only be described as some decent PR activities. The team’s social media posted a photo of the owner and the captain embracing each other at a team dinner, subtly suggesting all is well in the camp.

And there might be some truth in that. However, the incident doesn’t reflect kindly on the owner, especially with his history of having done something similar in the past. It also serves as a reminder that while sports is a result business, there’s always a human element involved where managing egos becomes a crucial aspect when all stakeholders are involved.

By Pratyush Rohra, AISTS INDIA Cohort, 2023- 2024

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