Explaining Conflict

September 3, 2013 at 2:41 pm 6 comments

Last night on local radio show “Let’s Talk Football” the CEO of Football West, Peter Hugg,  once again showed he is a masterful politician, dodging and ducking questions, and wriggled off the hook simply because in a live interview the interviewer did not have access to previous statements that he has made and contradicted in this one.

The biggest concern is his lack of understanding as to what a conflict of interest is. In the interview he stated that he had assisted ten clubs with their presentations for the National Premier Leagues (NPL). In their press release dated June 28th Football West announced that they had received 25 applications for the NPL.

Mr Hugg stated that his role as CEO meant it was his job to assist these clubs, which is correct. However if that is his role he should not have been involved in the selection process.

To assist Mr Hugg, here is an explanation of a conflict of interest.

1. A situation that has the potential to undermine the impartiality of a person because of the possibility of a clash between the person’s self-interest and professional interest or public interest.
2. A situation in which a party’s responsibility to a second-party limits its ability to discharge its responsibility to a third-party

With his public admission yesterday the remaining 15 clubs which he did not assist have a right to appeal the process which was used to select the 12 teams for next year’s NPL. As they have every right to claim that they have been disadvantaged.

Other questions any of those 15 clubs, who were disappointed not to be selected for entry into the NPL should be asking their fellow clubs, is how much assistance was given. Was it simply giving clubs the correct contacts within government departments? Or was he or any other staff or board member present at any of those meetings?

As creditable as it is that Mr Hugg wants to have a ‘hands-on’ approach he needs to learn when is the right time to step to one side. Everyone understands that the NPL is to be implemented on his watch and he wants it to be operational at the start of next year or it will reflect badly on him personally and the organisation, but he needs to learn when to step back and let others take over for his own integrity and that of Football West.


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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Struth  |  September 5, 2013 at 10:17 am

    Integrity and Mr. Hugg in the same sentence –

    an Oxymoron

  • 2. Dave  |  September 5, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    Let’s run with your explanation of a conflict of interest, for the moment:

    “1. A situation that has the potential to undermine the impartiality of a person because of the possibility of a clash between the person’s self-interest and professional interest or public interest.
    2. A situation in which a party’s responsibility to a second-party limits its ability to discharge its responsibility to a third-party.”

    What exactly is Hugg alleged to have done that meets either limb of the above?

    The relevant “admission” you are seizing upon appears to be Hugg saying that he provided a Subiaco representative with a name and contact details for someone at the DSR who might be able to assist Subiaco in regards gaining access to the Athletics stadium.

    Please explain how this either (a) could result in a clash between Hugg’s self interest and his professional or public interest, or (b) gives rise to Hugg having a responsibility to Subiaco that affects his ability to discharge his responsibility to third parties (such as FW and the committee charged with selecting NPL clubs).

    I realise that there is dissatisfaction with the way the process has been run and the outcome but, as someone with no vested interest in the matter, the charge of “conflict of interest” just doesn’t wash. Not in a million years.

  • 3. notthefootyshow  |  September 5, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    Dave, thank you for your comment. I was not actually referring to the Subiaco situation, but the fact that he stated he had ‘advised’ 10 clubs in the application process. Giving out contacts to someone who requests them would not in anyway be a conflict, and as stated above is Football West’s role.

    However in my opinion section 2 is applicable in this case, the ability to carry out his responsibility responsibly to a third party. Having given advice to any clubs the person giving that advice should not be involved in the decision process. They open themselves up for accusations of favouring those they advised, or should the application fail, of giving poor advice which may have affected their application. Their ability to be impartial is impaired.

    It cannot be a healthy situation where the man who drew up the contract/criteria advises some of those looking to apply, – thereby telling them what he is looking for – and then becomes a part of the decision process. It may not be a personal conflict, but there is a conflict on behalf of the body that Mr Hugg represents. Sadly he failed to see that.

  • 4. Struth  |  September 5, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    I must agree with the above by Not the Footy show and suggest Dave you look closer at what is written !

    However it is good that you and others take an interest in this well written Column on ALL Sports !

  • 5. Dave  |  September 6, 2013 at 9:09 am

    Ashley, thanks for the considered response. I think what is lacking is any particulars of what Hugg is supposed to have done in regards “helping” 10 other clubs. What actual assistance is he supposed to have given?

    You appear to have accepted that providing Subiaco with contact details of someone at DSR does not result in a conflict. It follows then, that if all he has done for the other 10 clubs is also provide them with contact details of people who may be able to assist those clubs, then you would accept that there has been no conflict in that particular instance.

    On the other hand, if he has actively assisted a club by, for example, drafting a section of the club’s submission, then clearly there is a conflict! But we don’t know all the facts, so we cannot reach the conclusion you (and others) wish to reach at this juncture.

    From listening to the interview, I inferred that the type of assistance Hugg has provided to the “10 other clubs” was similar in nature to that which he provided to Subiaco. I accept I don’t know this as a fact, but I don’t have any other info – neither do you (unless you are yet to report on it).

    If I was drafting a submission on behalf of a club (FYI I am a member of a club that is not involved in the NPL nor did it apply), I would look at the criteria being put forward by FW and respond directly to each of those criteria. If I wasn’t sure what was being requested in respect of a particular FW requirement, or what precisely FW was looking for, I’d pick up the phone and ask someone at FW exactly what FW was looking for and what it expected from a successful applicant. If Mr Hugg answered the phone and said, “Dave, what is important is that you demonstrate to FW blah blah blah…”. I’d then say “thanks Mr Hugg for your assistance” and keep working on the proposal with Hugg’s comments in mind.

    In the above example, Hugg clearly has “assisted” or “helped” me, in the ordinary meaning of these words. But by absolutely no means would that give rise to a conflict of interest. Not ever.

    So my suggestion you journalists out there who care, is as follows:

    1. If you want to level a charge against Hugg for a conflict of interest, establish ther facts in sufficient detail by asking him to detail exactly what assistance he provided to the other clubs.

    2. Analyse his response to see whether it is sufficient to suggest he acted in circumstances where he had a conflict.

    3. Until the facts are established, don’t suggest it is a lay down misere that there was a conflict, because I think it discredits you. But you are right to at least ask the follow up question and you could put it to Hugg that until he provides some further detail, he is opening himself up to accusations from the wider football community. That is about as high as you can current put it, based on the current evidence.

  • 6. notthefootyshow  |  September 6, 2013 at 9:45 am

    Thank you Dave for the points that you raise. I agree with a great deal of what you say, and if you read the last paragraph I am trying to say that Mr Hugg as part of the organisation is in a difficult position, as his actions can make people question his integrity and that of the Football West process, which has happened here.

    I agree that clarity on the form of assistance given would have avoided a great deal of this conjecture and had this been declared prior to the interview process no one would be raising the issue now. Needless to say some clubs are also very coy on revealing how much ‘assistance’ they were given.

    I have been advised by some clubs as to the extent of the advice that they received, and in my opinion based on that information the person giving that advice should not have sat in on the interview process. That is my view, I do not expect everyone else to agree with it. Had the advice been as simple as the phone call you mention in your comment, I too agree that would not be such a big issue.

    As you said in your first comment there is dissatisfaction in the process. Football West and Mr Hugg as the head of the organisation, due to a lack of thought on their part, have opened themselves up for criticism, and based on the information I have gleaned, allowed people too close to the application process to be involved in the actual decision process. The question then can be raised as to whether they – the individual or the body they represented – carried out that duty responsibly to the third party whom they did not assist.


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