CEO Corner: Managing Touring Teams

Water Polo Australia CEO Chris Harrison

CEO Corner: Managing Touring Teams



I normally discuss what has happened and what events are talking place, however at this time because we have over the last four weeks sent offshore seven Australian National teams of various age groups, including our senior men’s and women’s teams, to various destinations around the globe I thought I would talk about what’s involved in that.

This is a huge logistical operation and thanks go to the volunteer managers that tour with our teams and especially the parents of the Junior teams that have undoubtedly had to endure the same early morning sessions their kids have been through and then covering the cost of the tours. Special thanks to our office dynamo Alicia, herself a double Olympic medallist, and our new finance manager Les - talk about a baptism of fire!

When tours depart it is interesting to note what also happens in the background to allow the athletes to focus on their job.

Without delving into the politics of the situation our senior women entered Russia through Moscow on their way to Khanty-Mansiysk, which is located at the very centre of Russia. Khanty-Mansiysk occupies the central portion of the West Siberia Plain. In other words it is isolated.  

When the diplomatic tensions between Russia and Australia became obvious a few weeks ago, we made enquiries with FINA (the international body) to hear if the World Cup was still going to be held, which was met with yes.

As the days moved on the senior women left the country to depart for common training in Hungary.  As they were to hop the border, came further dialogue and the escalation of sanctions between Australia and Russia. It was then discussions with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and closely monitoring their website, a highly useful resource.

Internally alternative flights or transport to depart were discussed and planned. You never want these alternatives to come to fruition but the need to have planned for them is essential.

Years ago, a team I was involved with as the manager, travelled to Kruševac the capital of the Rasina District, in Serbia. This was not that long after the ceasefire and I would wager we were the first Australian national team to venture there. It was preparation for the Sydney Olympic Games and final selections for the team. The trip before, May ‘99 saw us looking skyward (we were in Hungary) mesmerised at the cross hatch of jet trails and more so by a ground hugging B-52, a plane probably older than its pilots who no doubt were the same age as our athletes

At the end of July 2000, a squad of four Dutch commandos was apprehended while attempting to cross into Serbia from Montenegro. During the investigation, they admitted that they intended to kill or kidnap President Milosevic. The four said that they were informed that a substantial bounty was offered for “Milosevic’s head.” 

This happened a week prior to us entering Serbia and the US team, with whom we had played in a prior tournament in Italy, decided not to enter. Needless to say emails and phone calls to our Embassies were made and a discussion with the team again outlining eventualities.

Fortunately in both instances – in 2000 and now in 2014 - there was no secondary plan needed to be acted on, but I imagine the boys in 2000 would have lasting memories of a city (Belgrade) that had been subjected to bombing and its after effects.

It is a fact that the vast majority of countries openly bidding for events that our sport is inextricably tied to are naturally resource rich (Oil and Gas), which the majority of the time is China or Russia. It is interesting to note that Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan will be hosting the 2015 European swimming and water polo championships.

Sometimes the behind the scenes work of WPA goes unnoticed but rarely is it more important than when we have to prepare for these politically driven challenges.

Coming back to the domestic front, Noel Harrod (our manager, operations and events) reliably tells me we are looking at a record number of entries for our 16 and under boy’s and girl’s National championships to be held in Hobart and Canberra respectively, from the 30th September to the 5th October.

So excellent news there for all the participants and future Sharks and Stingers.

Until next time, I hope you score some goals,

Chris Harrison


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