by | Nashiruddin Mohd Tahir, firstname.lastname@example.org
Having a high level of competitiveness is very important to ensure that an organisation is ready to move forward and face the challenges of competition. Competitive organisations instinctively know what needs to be done to emerge victors in the game and are not intimidated by current challenges within an ever-dynamic market and limited resources.
Why competition and competitiveness is the catalyst for change
Without stating the obvious, any organisation will definitely experience more challenging competition, especially if they are transitioning from being a local player in a highly dynamic market towards becoming a global entity. Who’s to say that decades-old, highly established companies will remain victorious when competing with the new kids on the block, namely emerging companies that are way smaller in size compared to these so-called local ‘giants’?
Each year, thousands of small startups make their way into the scene trying their luck at making it big in the shortest time possible, but the reality is, not many would make the cut. The road to success is paved with many challenges, one of them being an ever-changing industry landscape.
What’s certain is that, companies who are prepared to change with the times and adapt to the market’s needs and wants, have a higher chance at success and continuous growth. They will likely be rewarded for their vision to remain competitive in an ever-changing market.
But here comes the kicker: with great competition and success, comes a great moral dilemma.
Can integrity and competitiveness co-exist?
Not many would realise this but the spirit of competitiveness is actually very closely related to an important and key identity value, namely, integrity.
It is important to recognise the fact that at the heart of fierce competition lies an even bigger reward which tends to affect the attitude, actions and even a person’s value. It can lead to violations of rules or laws, fraud, leading to undesirable outcomes in the absence of firm integrity.
Consider this: we often see intense competition in the world of sports, where players and teams compete with each other with high hopes of achieving victory. Putting up high capital, time, energy and unbridled passion is common but the question, does it justify misconduct, racism, trickery, corruption and the like? Where is the limit? What is the meaning of victory if there is absolute disregard for integrity and dignity?
Fact: the highly dynamic ecosystem of football, one of the most popular sports in the world, is fueled by relentless global demand thanks to its hundreds of millions of fans. This age-old industry is worth tens of billions of dollars. Because of the high expectations, there is mounting pressure on the players, coaches and the whole team to attain championship glory. But to remain competitive, all team members must learn to balance this high pressure with utter professionalism, credibility and integrity.
To put this all into context, there may be a lesson or two we can learn from the role of the parent body of the world of football, namely FIFA (International Federation of Football Association). Since its inception in 1904 until now, FIFA has a membership of 211 members worldwide. In 2018, its revenue reached the ballpark of US4.6 billion with a net profit of US1.2 billion and cash reserves of US2.7 billion by the end of 2018.
It goes without saying that administering a prestigious world-class body that is over a hundred years old is not a walk in the park. FIFA’s success in maintaining the status of football as the world’s most popular sport is certainly more challenging with the changing demographics of the world’s population, rapid technological advancement and various other challenges.
Standing proud in the eyes of the world
Under the administration of President Gianni Infantino, who was appointed in 2016, FIFA became even more successful. Now, the game of football is no longer only concentrated in a few regions such as Europe and Latin America but also beyond the growing Asian region. FIFA is also at the forefront of its initiatives to utilise all modern technologies to innovate the sport, with key efforts in high definition live broadcasting, Video Assistant Referees (VAR), Goal-line Technology, Virtual Offside Line, Electronic Performance and Tracking System and other innovative offerings.
With success comes great challenges. FIFA is not untouched by controversy. In 2015 some of its top leaders were linked to corruption, bribery, vote fraud involving the appointment of FIFA president Sepp Blatter and the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup Russia events to Russia and Qatar respectively. Eventually many of its top officials were suspended by FIFA’s ethics committee including FIFA President Sepp Blatter and UEFA President Michel Platini for unethical offenses and were banned from engaging in the sport until 2023.
But under the new administration of President Gianni Infantino, the football governing body rose up to the challenge by overhauling and streamlining the administration of the body by inculcating high values of integrity. As a result the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia which is FIFA’s flagship product achieved impressive heights of success, attracting the largest number of spectators in its history of 4 billion spectators with revenue of USD6 billion, up from USD4 billion previously. Now, the thrill of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 which will take place in Qatar next year has begun to rally up global excitement and will once again be the focus of its legions of fans despite the challenges of the global COVID19 pandemic.
The integrity of the President of FIFA is evident from his infamous words:
The association’s far-sighted goals can be seen in its FIFA 2020-2023 Vision Report titled Making Football Truly Global. One of its core values include Football Governance – The principles of good governance, in particular transparency and integrity, are the heart of FIFA’s mission to protect the game of football and all its stakeholders globally. All matters related to players’ status, transfers, professional football, intermediaries, as well as disciplinary and ethics constitute the core of this area.
The application of high value of integrity to balance the fierce competition is a very important ingredient and has proven to successfully remove the body from the turmoil it faces, resulting in great success. This teaches us that professionalism and integrity must be maintained no matter how high the stakes or how fierce competition is so that the victory achieved will be more meaningful, dignified and will be remembered in the pages of history.
When integrity meets inclusivity
Another lesson that we can take home from FIFA’s role and experience as a major football governing body is the success of creating an ecosystem that is precise, conducive and excellent. With its cumulative experience and capabilities, FIFA has succeeded in producing a great impact due to its conduciveness and inclusivity which involved all parties without exception or discrmination. The involvement and role of all industry components such as team management, competition governance, financial management, training and development, event management, player welfare, sports education and development, development and use of technology, support community involvement and more have played their respective roles, reinforcing its stature as a global force to be reckoned with, and as a favorite sport for people all over the world which has also spawned a variety of new innovations that provide widespread benefits.
It goes without saying that any country in the world regardless of whether they are in the northern or southern hemisphere, poor or rich, has the same chance to excel in the sport of football if they work hard to develop themselves with the right formula. Anyone can claim the title of football world champion – it is considered fair game for all with no bias or discrimination as to the team’s origins. Monopoly is also limited so that wealthy football clubs cannot monopolise everything with the power of money as it will only damage the industry in the long run.
Today, we witness the improvement in the performance of countries that used to lag behind in the trenches of the football industry. Countries such as Japan, South Korea, China, Tunisia, Turkey and Australia that have not previously been known for football are now able to compete at a higher level as a result of adaptation to professionalism and integrity, leading to each of their success as a global football force. A well-established and fertile ecosystem produces quality football and is capable of generating huge profits.
Shine bright like a diamond
Any player who achieves professional status is looked upon favorably due to his ability and credibility to perform the task entrusted to him as long as it commensurates with the training offered. Players do realise that they need to perform to the best of their ability while complying with every rule, standard and ethics. They will not arbitrarily break any rules as it can damage his credibility and professionalism. Here, we bear witness to the quality of performance and how it is driven by strong integrity which is undeniably an important component of professionalism.
And when it comes to coaches and team leaders, a professional and credible individual will always set himself an example when implementing everything from the ground up. He will strive to be an exemplary coach: held in high esteem by each of his men and respected by his opponents. He conveys his hopes and goals clearly and vividly and considers himself the shining beacon of light that will guide them in the march towards victory. His core focus as a coach will always be on the ability and wellbeing of each of his players. The welfare and safety of his men will not be compromised as he will defend the team, leading towards the referee and opponents regarding him with great respect because they know he is an honest and trustworthy person.
With these scenarios clarifying the link between high competitiveness and the value of integrity and its importance as one of the components in a conducive and excellent industrial ecosystem that is capable of bringing success at the highest level, there really should not be questions about whether there is a place for integrity to co-exist with competitiveness, in or out of sports.
There is much that other industries can learn from FIFA’s impeccable management of the world-class football industry. Football’s competitive nature would always demand that each of its players be at their best by building on a foundation of integrity, self-confidence and focus to realise their goals. It also teaches the importance of teamwork — indeed, a cohesive team will be more equipped to weather great challenges as opposed to banking on an individual’s strengths. As world football legend Pele famously said: I’m constantly being asked about individuals. The only way to win is as a team. Football is not about one or two or three star players.
In the borderless world of competitive footballs, local companies, policymakers and the rest of the local industry players need to constantly think of the latest formulas to further enhance the competitiveness of our industry. Indeed, strengthening the value of integrity among all stakeholders is one of the winning formulas that will strengthen our country’s industries and propel it towards excellence.