City & Corporate: CEOs could learn from sports stars

Two massive sporting events last weekend. I watched on TV as Roger Federer won Wimbledon on Sunday and the British Lions ended their tour of South Africa on Saturday. I was privileged enough to have been at Wimbledon last week to see Roddick in the semi-final and in South Africa on 27 June to see the greatest game of rugby ever played.

However I was forced to wonder whether - had the CEO of a FTSE 100 company been with me in Pretoria or in SW19 - would he or she have been worried about a stray newspaper photographer or diarist spotting him or her in the crowd? The answer of course is yes, and what a terrific shame that is.

Everyone knows how inspiring sport can be and how it challenges us to look at ourselves and ask: 'Could I do that? Could I match that commitment? How can I be like that in my own life?' So do we believe the men and women who run our top companies should be encouraged to attend such inspirational sporting events? I am not sure we do.

Sadly I think the writ of political correctness has it that our business leaders should not be indulging themselves in such a fashion ... even if they are using their own money.

But what of the lessons sport teaches us about how to handle defeat as well as victory? We saw how gracious Andy Roddick was after beating Andy Murray on Friday and we felt his pain on Sunday. We now know that he is a person of the utmost quality. The same is true of those magnificent Lions players.

Believe me there were many businessmen who wanted to go to these events and would have been enriched by them, but would have been deterred because they read the public mood as being hostile. I believe we - the public - are wrong.

Surely as taxpayers and shareholders we should actually demand that our top bankers and industrialists turn out at these massive sporting occasions and be inspired by such heroes?

That would create real 'shareholder value', in my view. And I would like to bet there would be fewer Enrons or Madoffs as a result.

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