Leaky businessPosted on

Sport is a leaky business. It is an industry where those within and without can’t help gossiping. Search for the terms “ITK” (“in the know” apparently) on Twitter and almost every single Tweet will be about sport, particularly football.

Its all good fun though isn’t it? We love sport, we want to know the inside story, right? It depends if you’re sat on the inside or the outside.

If an ordinary business experienced regular leaks of business plans, proposed purchases and financial details then they would no doubt be regulars at court seeking injunctions and/or suing publishers, employees or bloggers.

Though it has to be accepted (for a number of reasons) that sport is a “special case” there is no reason that clubs, organisations and players should not expect their confidential information to be treated with far more respect than is currently the norm.

The law is the law and remains available to help on those rare occasions where affirmative action is necessary, however, the key battle is to try to overturn the leaky culture within sport. To what extent are documents marked Private and Confidential treated as thus? Is it now necessary for documents and emails to be watermarked to guard against leaks or all discussions preambled with a statement on confidentiality?

One of the real problems is unwitting disclosure. Staff members, particularly away from the playing side, often don’t realise their obligations of confidence and the consequences of their actions. Knowing what information should remain within and who they should and shouldn’t speak to is crucial. Where those things are not understood then social media can become a problem. An employee who works for a business within sport is likely to be a sports fan. Their friends know that they have access and they can’t help a cheery brag or a little indiscretion here or there. Statistically staff at renowned sports institutions have up to 30 times more Twitter followers than ordinary members of the public*. Those employees have explicit confidentiality obligations and potentially heavy sanctions for a breach, however, confidentiality is like an ice cube, once its melted it can’t be put back together again. The damage is done. The key is to create a culture of confidentiality within the company. A Big Brother approach is not recommended, as employees need freedom to be creative, the more suitable approach is to create empowerment; allowing employees to understand the risks and create their own environment for protecting the sporting institution which they love.

 

*based on targeted research

 

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