Towards Greater Professionalism

When I was asked to deliver a keynote address on Professionalism to this Body, I must admit to feeling somewhat humbled. To speak on this subject to the very sport that has lead the way towards Professionalism in sport in the modern era, seemed quite inappropriate.

Coming from a completely amateur background in the sport of volleyball, the only thing that I felt that I had in common was that Association Football and Volleyball are team sports. However, while Volleyball and Football have spread to all corners of the Globe only Football can truly claim to be the world's number 1 sport.

Since the Olympic Movement, has only recently embraced the concept of `Professionalism' I scurried away to my dictionary in an attempt to learn more about the meaning of the word. To my surprise, there was more to it than I thought.

For most of us in sport, the word `professionalism' conjures up the concept of pay for play. While this is certainly a large part of the equation, I was surprised to learn that there is a whole lot more to professionalism.

From the root word, `Profession' which we would all understand to mean:
¸ A line of work.
¸ Career
¸ A type of employment
¸ Earning one's living

We can derive a number of meanings and interpretations when talking about professionalism.

To be professional implies efficiency, businesslike and commercially orientated. Professionals are generally skilled specialists, experts, experienced and accomplished in what they do.

Professionalism implies integrity and adherence to values and a code of conduct. Professional approach implies a `duty of care' and with a sense of duty, professionals are expected to:

¸ Take responsibility
¸ Share liability and burden
¸ Be loyal
¸ Be conscientious
¸ Meet moral obligations
¸ Be answerable to higher authority
¸ Be accountable

It is easy to see why professional values have infiltrated sport so comfortably. Sport has, for many years been used as a training ground for most of the above professional values. Many successful `professionals' attribute their successful careers to the lessons that were learned on the sports field. The fundamental difference between amateurism and professionalism is payment for service. Otherwise the values and requirements as listed above still apply.

`Towards Greater Professionalism' is therefore a rather challenging and intimidating statement.
While it superficially implies payment for service, underlying this is the need to reinforce all of the codes and values of amateurism.

Ultimately this means being the best that one can be regardless of the role one has to play.
The demands of modern sport are such that we are increasingly moving towards pay for service. This has found its way to athletes, coaches, officials, administrators, facilities managers and to the endless ancillary support services that depend upon sporting events for their livelihood.

Sport has clearly become `big business' and a significant industry in its own right. It offers careers for so many people in so many areas, from medical services to marketing and promotion, not to mention the product itself, the athletes.
Unfortunately, the `mighty dollar' has tended to distract our attention away from the underlying values of `professionalism'.

`Towards greater professionalism' is a challenge for all sport. It is not only about paying for service. This will come in time. As the product we call `sport' develops and derives income, so it becomes capable of supporting a professional base.

The challenge, as it is for any business, is to live within our means and more importantly conduct our sport with the professional integrity that is the basis of the thing we call professionalism.
I note from the objectives of today's seminar that all of the underlying components of `professionalism' are being covered. It is important to understand however that `professionalism is in itself a process rather than an outcome. We can always strive for greater professionalism, just as athletes always strive for greater performance.

There is no limit to the level of performance our athletes, coaches and administrators can attain, just as there is no limit to the level of professionalism that every person involved in sport can obtain.

In conclusion, I urge everyone involved in the great game of Association Football to not only seek payment for service but to strive for greater professionalism at all levels of the sport in Fiji.

In football, the rewards for those who excel are indeed grand and with a well planned, cooperative approach to development, there is no reason, (other than that others are doing it better than us), why WE cannot find a significant place in the world of football, both in terms of local and international performance.

Brian Minikin

February 2000.


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