Apologies for starting a new thread on this, but I've been asked about this in several different topics and by PM from several different people, and I wanted to put this where everyone could see it.
Well, as the topic title says. I will not be running for the board next year. I realise that by making this decision I might be disappointing some people, and I possibly even can be accused of one of the mistakes I've frequently criticised the current board for - talking big and then not following through - but I have never made any secret of the fact I had doubts about whether me running would be a good thing for the club.
There are several reasons for this decision. Short version:
1) By far the most important factor, I am too uncertain of my ability to fulfill the full legal, fiduciary, and other oversight duties required of a director of a multi-million dollar organisation.
2) I do not want to split the anti-Gauci vote and risk Gauci (especially) and Cunningham getting on the board
3) I will be away overseas for several months in the middle of next year, and completely out of phone/internet contact for a significant portion of that, and that's not appropriate for a first-year director who is still getting up to speed with the job.
4) I'll have a go next year
Below is the list of professional competencies required of a director of the club, according to the club's own 2014 board election guide.
Knowledge of a director‘s responsibilities â€“ includes an understanding of the role as well asthe legal, ethical, fiduciary and financial responsibilities;Strategic expertise â€“ the ability to review the strategy through constructive questioning andsuggestion and contribute to the effective decision making of the board;Accounting and finance â€“ the ability to read and comprehend the company‘s accounts,financial material presented to the board, financial reporting requirements.Legal and Governance â€“ overseeing compliance with numerous laws as well as understandingthe individual director‘s legal duties and responsibilities;Risk management â€“ experience in managing areas of major risk to the organisation;Managing people and achieving change â€“ experience in current management thinking onemployment, branding, member and stakeholder engagement, strategic vision andstakeholder communication;Industry knowledge â€“ experience in similar organisations or businesses in which theEssendon Football Club is engaged: Football/elite professional sport and its associatedbusinesses â€“ membership, sponsorship, entertainment/media, merchandise, gaming andcommunity engagement.
It's worth noting that this is an honour system, of sorts, rather than a hard set of requirements. In my reading of the club constitution, there is no way for the current board, the chairman, or anyone else to prevent a candidate from running for election even if that candidate does not possess some (or any) of the above skill set. The fact that this may dissuade conscientious candidates who don't quite meet the requirements but not at all deter someone who's completely incompetent but sufficiently determined or unscrupulous is a weakness that this shares with all democratic systems, to be honest!
The events of the last couple of years at EFC have obscured the true role of the board, imho. Someone said in another thread that a good board should be invisible, and they're right. When was the last time you heard about the activities of the Hawthorn board, or the Geelong or Sydney board? Never would be the answer. When 'the board of [club X] will meet tonight to discuss...' or 'the board of [club X] is divided on...' is in the news, it's a very bad sign for club X. Based on the last couple of years, it would be very easy to get the mistaken belief that the real role of an EFC board member is managing the Saga and deciding who the coach will be this week. This is wrong. The role of the board is to set strategy (financial, commercial, personnel, and football), provide oversight over the club executive and other club officials, develop policy, and to question, examine, and ultimately approve or otherwise the plans of the executive. Put simply, the directors need to be not only setting the direction of the club, but they are also the defence mechanism of the club against poor decisionmaking, unforeseen events, insufficient planning, or deliberate misconduct on the part of everyone else at the club.
That's why the list of professional competencies above is written how it is. The club (correctly) wants people who are qualified and capable of providing that oversight.
Which is where i come in. People have asked me to run, and I have considered running, because I believe that the current board has performed quite poorly in handling the Saga. I believe that too often the club has fought unnecessary or foolish battles while surrendering the vital ones, has too often talked tough in letters to members only to cave in later, and has too often failed to perform even the most elementary contingency planning and/or media management. This last two factors in particular have been consistent enough traits over the last couple of years that I do not have any faith in the board's ability to improve their performance in this area, since it is so long-running that either they are convinced there is no problem, or else they have already tried to address it and have utterly failed. Given the information I have, I believe that in media management and messaging if nothing else, I could do a better job than the current board have done.
However, while I like to believe that I'm a reasonably intelligent bloke, and I have some minimal management qualifications, as i said above, there is more to being a director of EFC than managing the Saga. EVERY director has legal obligations to the club, to monitor the clubs finances and its adherence to the law in dozens of different areas from gaming to OH&S to contract law to property law to taxation to all sorts of other things. A director who fails in this duty, who lets a dodgy set of numbers through, or fails to call the club up if a proposed policy neglects some OH&S rule or similar, opens both the club and themselves to significant legal liability. And that's even without considering the question of how a director without sufficient legal, financial or administrative expertise is supposed to contribute to the long-term strategies that lead to the strengthening of the club.
That's basically the killer for me. I genuinely want to run for the board and believe that in the areas of media management and grassroots fan relations I have something to offer the club, but I have to be honest with myself here, and I do not believe that right now my rarely-used Cert 4 in Small Business Management, and my couple of years as a director of a small conservation non-profit, give me the legal and fiduciary skill base to be the sort of director that EFC needs on a day to day basis. Hell, if nothing else I'd be opening the club to charges of 'New Hird-cult EFC director has zero knowledge of corporate governance!' on the back page of the Age from you-know-who. Not that she needs any excuse.
Many people have posted on here that the board would benefit from an outside voice, someone who does not originate inside the inner circles of coteries, big donors, and ex-players. A 'representative of the ordinary fan', if you like. I happen to agree with this, but such a director would, in addition to being the outside voice, still need to fulfill the basic duties of every director as discussed above. The change, however, I believe is one that is coming fast. Historically, the coteries and ex-players held such a stranglehold on the board simply because those were the only mechanisms by which board candidates could become widely enough known among the membership to have a hope of getting an election-winning number of votes. The online supporter base, on Blitz and elsewhere, I think is changing that. Someone on here can, I believe, be elected to the board as an outsider, and even better, be elected to the board by a voter base who have had the opportunity to examine and question that person about their views and policies to a degree unknown in board elections previously. I believe it will happen soon, and I believe when it does happen, it will be a very good thing.
A word on the Gauci and Cunningham ticket. As stated above, one of the lesser reasons I'm choosing not to run is that i don't want to risk Gauci getting on the board if my candidacy should end up splitting the 'anti-Gauci' vote. Based on the articles published about his candidacy, I believe it is very important that he be kept from obtaining a directorship. The backing of the nameless 'influential supporter groups' are one - I strongly suspect that these are the same 'influential supporter groups' who may or may not be real, who may or may not be Fairfax-speak for 'the AFL', and who've been feeding you-know-who with stories about board instability and the imminent sacking of Hird for the last 18 months, and that is not behaviour that should be rewarded with power. Second is the fact that I believe he is attempting to mount a board takeover. In his interview, he claims to have the numbers to call an EGM to spill the board but then says he's ever-so-nobly refraining in the interests of club stability, but then in the very next breath calls for the board to voluntarily spill itself (stability, really?). In short, he desperately wants a board spill but desperately wants to avoid looking like the one who caused the board spill. White man speak with forked tongue, and all that. Cunningham I know much less about, but I am frankly suspicious that his name has been linked to Gauci in every article about Gauci's candidacy, and that makes me think that as they're linked in Gauci's obvious concerted media campaign, the two are working together. Which makes me inclined to think the club is better off with him a long, long way from the boardroom.
Finally, at this stage it is my intention to run for the board at the 2015 AGM, if there is still support for me among Blitz-based supporters by then, and once I have had a chance to put myself through some courses of study in order to get myself more up to speed with the duties of a director. It is possible that by then the Saga will have resolved itself (that would make me VERY happy) and as such there will be less pressure on the board and i would be less likely to win an election. If so, so be it. In the end, I'm an Essendon supporter and if the board is strong, competent, and enjoys the support of the membership base, then that's a GOOD thing even if the board doesn't include me! I would like to thank everyone who's paid me the enormous compliment of telling me they thought I would be a good board member, and apologise if any of them feel I've let them down. One thing that really heartened me over the course of this process was that I received enthusiastic encouragement to run from people who have been very vocal on both sides of the acrimonious EGM debate of a month or so ago. And that tells me that while we have had our disagreements over the last few difficult, draining, and infuriating couple of years, they are really only scratches on the surface rather than deeper structural rifts, and that in the end, we are still united in support of the club, and want the same thing.