Brett Lee: good leadership or poor judgement?

Paula Ward Roar Rookie

By Paula Ward, Paula Ward is a Roar Rookie

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    Brett Lee playing for Australia. (Image: The Associated Press)

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    Brett Lee has been cited for inappropriate comments relating to the CEO of Cricket New South Wales (CNSW). On learning of the sacking of the CNSW coach, Anthony Stuart, Lee said that the CEO, David Gilbert, should have gone first.

    Gilbert subsequently reported Lee’s comments to Cricket Australia (CA) saying he had no choice but to do so as there is a clause in all player contracts that they are not to make disparaging public comments.

    Lee retorted, in his view, he has shown leadership by saying what many people were already thinking and that there is significant disharmony within CNSW.

    Lee will appear before a CA Code of Behaviour Commissioner this week after he was charged by CA for allegedly breaching rule six for unbecoming behaviour and rule nine for detrimental public comment. It is clear that under the code of conduct, players must not bring the game into disrepute or be harmful to the interests of cricket.

    Lee says he welcomes the opportunity for the hearing so he can express his views and the reasons why he said it. I think Lee has missed the point.

    It matters little as to whether his comments are right or not, employees (which is what a player under contract is) cannot breach a term of their contract without consequence.

    Sporting bodies are increasingly run as a business and, like a corporate organisation, corporate employees would not be able to make public comment about the management or leadership of their organisation without the risk of disciplinary action, including possible termination.

    It is common for a contract to state an employee must act in the best interest of the organisation at all times. Further, appropriate avenues and often written policies and processes exist for genuine grievances.

    Trial by media and/or trying to build a groundswell for public cynicism and pressure of the masses are not the way to go. Lee would surely be able to seek out an appropriate CA board member or executive to constructively provide his views, without the need for media involvement.

    In my opinion, Lee has not shown leadership, he has shown poor judgement.

    Does Lee not see the similarity to Quade Cooper’s negative public comment about the Wallabies and their “toxic environment”?

    Lee’s circumstances are also not dissimilar to that of Simon Katich, who called a press conference in June 2011 to give his views on why he did not have his CA player contract renewed. While the public gave Katich some support, CA and Captain Michael Clarke closed ranks, as a corporate organisation would do, and did not partake in a public debate.

    There’s no value for anyone to publicly play out a grievance – no one wins.

    In Katich’s instance it certainly put the full stop on his career as an Australian player and provided no chance of a different outcome. Imagine if Nathan Sharpe had done the same when he was left out of the Wallabies 2011 Rugby World Cup squad.

    As the constant calls for improved governance in sport continues and sporting organisations respond, players will see accountability cuts both ways. Lee may just be the next example of why the media should not be the forum for debate about leadership and management.

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    The Crowd Says (18)

    • December 30th 2012 @ 7:04am
      JamieJ said | December 30th 2012 @ 7:04am | ! Report

      Afraid I disagree with your article. Not because I don’t agree with its logic, but because I just can’t accept that Cricket Australia should be seen as a corporation and the players as employees.

      Sport is (or should be) more than that. I love cricket, because of the glory of the game and the way the longer forms of the game develop into a contest, not just of skill, but of will. The spirit of the game is what makes it great. Not the marketing bollocks that dribbles out of CA geadquarters.

      We’ve all seen what happens when corporate thinking turns the game into the ‘product’. Big Bash League anyone..?

      The players make the game. Not the administrators. Dave Gilbert may not like it, but to the viewer, he is a million times less significant than Brett Lee.

      Brett Lee may have been out of line wanting to come back without a grade game. But he shouldn’t be punished for not acting like a good little cog in the marketing machine!!

    • December 30th 2012 @ 7:11am
      Brendon said | December 30th 2012 @ 7:11am | ! Report

      Lee isn’t on contract to cricket nsw anymore so his meeting is with cricket Australia. I think he will do fine considering he can play 20/20 all over the world for as much money as he is on now

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      • December 30th 2012 @ 11:18am
        Matt F said | December 30th 2012 @ 11:18am | ! Report

        He has a sixers contract and they are owned by Cricket NSW, though run independently

    • December 30th 2012 @ 9:31am
      V44 said | December 30th 2012 @ 9:31am | ! Report

      Personally I think Brett Lee deserves a medal for raising these issues. About time somebody did. CNSW, it’s structure and function is a mess, built more on nepotism and old boy network than needs and required outcomes. Management are a mob dinosaurs so set and narrow in their views ( a lot built around their own club background) that there is a huge gap between them and the players, who want leadership, expertise and quite simply a “fair go”. Player dissatisfaction has been a huge issue for a number of years now, hence the ongoing drain to other States, yes some under banner of ” game improvement” but a lot more out of frustration at internal selection process, lack of direction etc. Quite simply the other States do it a lot better than CNSW with player / ability recognition not based on cronyism . This latest debacle with Anthony Stuart / Bayliss / Gilbert is simply putting out there some ( and only some ) of the player concerns of just what CNSW is really about. Contracted players or those close to one are too frightened to raise issues or question “the boss” because of what the outcome may be for not following the party line. Well Lee has broken ranks and hopefully it will lead some serious soul searching. If CNSW is to retain its place as the leading State (in cricketing terms ) then change is a must and Lees’ point is this must come from the top down. Take a minute and look at CNSW Strategic Plan to 2015, it is a joke, as are a lot of what CNSW do, take as an example the so called age based development squads ( Academy ) and subsequent selection of ” State Junior Teams”. Without any disrespect to those kids named reality is, these are based on a “fair ” distribution basis across Statewide Junior development areas ( to appease respective Junior Associations) and not on ability / potential of the kids themselves.( CNSW will argue “team balance” to in some way validate ) .So what happens, the better kids miss out to less talented players ( the joke is the kids themselves know themselves who are the better players ) and they in turn look elsewhere, maybe not there and then but in time they remember how CNSW do things, and move on. If the kids don’t remember the parents certainly do. From the ground up CNSW needs a rethink and please do not get me started on “Dr Harry”, who is actually pivotal to a lot of the said issues involving Stuart / Gilbert, that is a subject for another day. But back to the primary point….good on you Brett Lee and go into your meeting with CA “guns blazing” for the good of CNSW and all those that love the game not just the glory.

      • January 1st 2013 @ 3:26pm
        Rob said | January 1st 2013 @ 3:26pm | ! Report

        Agreed, it should be Dr Harinath and not led in trial, Lee spoke the minds of many players who have left NSW for the reasons he listed

    • December 30th 2012 @ 9:40am
      Atawhai Drive said | December 30th 2012 @ 9:40am | ! Report

      Too much solid text is off-putting, V44. The return key is useful.

      But yes, Brett Lee must have known he would be cited. He now has the opportunity to put all his objections and reservations on the record. Can’t wait to hear what he has to say.

      Gilbert had his say in the Fairfax press this morning.

    • Roar Guru

      December 30th 2012 @ 10:30am
      Hoy said | December 30th 2012 @ 10:30am | ! Report

      On one hand we all hate the written standardised statements sportsmen and women all spurt out today with nothing but cliches, but when we have someone who is honest, associations feel the need to fine them.

      It all comes down to whether the players have the right to speak their mind. Is it bringing the game into disrepute to out incompetence higher up? Is it the right thing to do? Quade Cooper probably did it the wrong way, and said some rather upsetting things, but he was right in my mind. Everyone was saying the same things at the same time. He obviously agreed.

      But, if the player is correct, and it really should be said, how do they do it to get benefit to the organisation if the people that can bring about the change are the problem?

      • December 30th 2012 @ 10:43am
        aussie sports lover said | December 30th 2012 @ 10:43am | ! Report

        From a contractual point of view, the author of this article is correct. Brett Lee should not have made public statements about CNSW as an employee. But that’s where it ends with regards to comparison to Quade Cooper. QC’s comments about the Wallabies and the coach were (1) more malicious – Lee’s comments were targeted at an individual, and I don’t think many would see his comments as “bringing the game into disrepulte” as QC’s comments did (2) QC already had a track-record of naughty behaviour – whilst Lee has been nothing but a great ambassador for his state and national teams and for Australians. I think Lee, with good legal representation, would have a good chance at the disciplinary hearing.

        • December 30th 2012 @ 11:24am
          Matt F said | December 30th 2012 @ 11:24am | ! Report

          I think you’ve summed it up pretty well there. Lee’s comments have breached his contract so in that sense he has rightfully been cited. However there do seem to be quite a few people who agree with what he said and I think he made his comments with good intentions i.e. what he thought as best for NSW cricket rather than any personal gain

    • December 30th 2012 @ 11:08am
      Brendon said | December 30th 2012 @ 11:08am | ! Report

      I just play it one game at a time……II’ll go back and work on it in the nets……The rotation policy is the right way to go……I don’t look to far forward, I’m just taking it one week at a time…..the best defence is a good offence……I’m not worried about my personal performance, I’m just working for the team……the team’s looked great on the track…….Blah, blah, blah, blah

      Whatever happened to freedom of speech? sick of plastic sport stars reading from scripts, good on ya Brett, it’s almost communist censoring people

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