#THIS ARTICLE IN DUTCH
SOS - responsive organising of sports
Slagvaardig Organiseren van Sport (SOS – responsive organising of sports) is the name of a project – developed by several medium-sized sports federations and financed by the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports – that should help smaller and medium-sized sports federations become more responsive and better equipped to anticipate changes in society. To start with, twenty sports federations took part in the SOS programme. Over the next six months Sport Knowhow XL will feature a series of articles on how those sports federations experienced the programme, describing, among other things, how one federation executed the change process, the effects and any follow-up steps. Previously we published part 1
(with the cooperation of the Dutch handball association). This is part 2: The change process of the KNCB (Royal Netherlands Cricket Board).
by Leo Aquina | 11 June 2020
'Worldwide we are the second most popular sports after football, but in the Netherlands we are just a minor sport, with some 5,000 members’, says Jaap Wals, of the Royal Netherlands Cricket Board KNCB. Formerly director of the Royal Dutch Gymnastics Union KNGU, Wals joined the cricket association in 2018 as acting director. He was entrusted explicitly with readying the organisation for the future and that called for change. Wals drew up an agenda for development in two phases. After defining the objectives in the first phase, the Royal Netherlands Cricket Board joined the SOS project to implement and realise those objectives in the second phase.
The objective of the change process was ‘to achieve a stable, reinforced, future-orientated and integral organisational and management model’. The KNCB’s agenda for development comprised four building blocks: organisational and management model; development and implementation of (annual) policy cycle; mission, vision and strategy development; (re)designing and professionalizing a modified work organization (federation’s office and committees). "Those building blocks of course have areas of overlap", Jaap Wals adds. 'Together they provide a quality boost and professionalisation of the organisation as a whole.'
Although in sports, and especially a traditional sport like cricket, changes do not come about without a struggle, even the cricket world was aware of the need for change. Wals: 'Like many other sports cricket is still very traditionally organised in clubs with classic membership models. In a changing society that membership model is no longer the obvious choice. People want to decide for themselves when, where and how they practise sports. Of course, you need the Royal Netherlands Cricket Board and associations for the traditional variants of cricket matches, but there are many alternatives like beach cricket, or backyard cricket, to name a few."
"There is nothing wrong with the classic sports model but it no longer suits the world of today"
Like many other federations, the cricket association, too, had to go along with the transition in sports. "As a federation you have the expertise, and – together with the clubs – you should consider the value you could add, also for non-affiliated athletes', Wals explains. 'Examples are flashcards, alternative forms of the game, opening up facilities to children without the competitive element. It is a work in progress.'
With the agenda for development and the SOS scheme as catalysts, the cricket association successfully applied to the Innovation Fund 2019 to develop and implement a business case for a new target group: Cricket4Kids. The Innovation Fund 2020 currently develops a similar project called ‘cricket4you’ for young adults aged 12 to 18. Wals believes this illustrates the change in mindset within the organization.
"The SOS project reinforces this trend. There is nothing wrong with the classic sports model, but it no longer suits the world of today. Personally, I believe in the hybrid model. The federation and clubs should still offer the classic competition model while also facilitating the other type of users, the people who do not fit that traditional model."
The SOS project came as a god-send for the cricket association once the agenda for development was on the table. Wals: 'It was a perfect tie-in, because you get to work in all sections of the organization. The SOS project focused on cooperation and adjustments to the organisation’s culture. The inventory we made as part of the agenda for development revealed several points for improvement: there was no distinct division of roles between the different bodies of the organization; there were no work routines, planning or structure, which meant that policies were overly swayed by the issues of the day; patterns and routines were repetitive and ingrained; frequently actions and decisions were not followed up, as everyone was waiting for someone else to act; there was no focus on strategy and ambitions, because the accent was on operational activities; there was little initiative and risk preparedness, and an inadequate definition of responsibilities. Moreover, the organization was turned inwards, and precisely when it comes to the transition in sports, it is important to show the outside world the beauty of cricket."
One of the main elements of the agenda for development was a reform of the organisational and management model. The cricket association had another long hard look at the Good Sports Management Code. In a couple of sessions with The Brown Paper Company the board, the management and the directors built on the model. Wals: 'In the past the different elements, the preparation and execution of policies, strategies and supervision often got intermingled. We have developed a new management model in which those roles are clearly distinct. The general meeting of members has already given its approval, but it still has to be incorporated into the articles of association. The byelaws, ethical code and the financial statute all still have to be approved."
"We can tell we are not yet done. Further development is necessary"
Completion and Continuation
Meanwhile both phases of the agenda for development have been completed. 'In the first phase, we had to determine our strategy and fill in the work organisation. We had to make sure that we had a strong policy cycle that offered stability. The second phase was all about safeguarding the developments we had set in motion. That is much more intensive because it is about culture and behaviour. Can we really get people to join in?'
But Wals is still not yet done as acting director now that the second phase has been completed. The Royal Netherlands Cricket Board has applied for a new SOS project. 'Most SOS projects focus on a specific activity, which is compact and manageable', Wals explains. 'We went for a complete overhaul. It was necessary, but after completing the first two phases we can tell we are not yet done. Further development is necessary. We made a road map featuring seven topics: participation, top sport & talent, marketing & communication, management, cooperation, structure and personal development.'
Wals expects that further development will take another six months. 'I was hired to run the business, but also to bring the agenda for development to a good end, meaning change the business. I was not given a deadline. I have been on it for two years now, and expect that by the end of the calendar year we will be pretty well done.'
Bumps in the Road
Does Wals have tips for other federations about to take part in the SOS project? 'Changes in behaviour call for changes in mindsets. Easy in theory, people are happy to sign off on new plans, but to actually realise a change in behaviour you need more. You have to keep repeating the message, convince people to actually come onboard, organise meetings. Of course, you will hit bumps in the road. And that’s fine, for they will keep you alert. The bumps are the people you have to convince, but at the same time you have to give them space. Sometimes they are the ones who come up with ideas. Not changing is not an option for sports federations these days, if they want to justify their existence. This means you have to be open to new ideas and different approaches. The advantage of the SOS project is that it gives you a chance to talk to other federations following the same route. You can learn from each other."
For more information: Please contact Jaap Wals at email@example.com if you have questions about the SOS project or go to: www.kncb.nl.