How big brands could solve the gender pay gap in sport

Written by Katie Lebel, Ryerson University. Photo credit AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino. Originally published in The Conversation.

The U.S. women’s soccer team celebrates with the trophy after winning the World Cup final.

Once upon a time, a team of phenomenal female athletes won a championship in spectacular fashion. Their victory received significant media attention, inspired a generation and motivated a mass uptick in sport participation. The accomplishment was widely celebrated and pundits labelled it a pivotal moment in sport history.

This blip in the news cycle then wrapped up. The superstar athletes returned to their regular lives, and the rest of the world returned to its regularly scheduled sports programming.

This was 20 years ago when Brandi Chastain famously lead the United States to a World Cup victory in 1999.

We’re experiencing a similar afterglow today following the grand accomplishment of another extraordinary team of sportswomen.

It’s the same warmth of inspiration that now predictably follows all mega sporting events that feature female athletes at their best.

What have we learned?

Highlighting exceptional athletic feats with the right mix of hype and media coverage sparks interest in women’s sport. FIFA estimates this year’s Women’s World Cup drew more than a billion viewers. Television records were broken around the world. The round of 16 match between Brazil and France garnered an audience of almost 59 million people, making it the most viewed women’s soccer match of all time.

In response to the massive outpouring of support for the women’s tournament, FIFA president Gianni Infantino got positive media attention for announcing that the 2023 Women’s World Cup would expand from 24 to 32 teams and double the tournament’s total prize money to US$60 million.

Context is key though. The 2022 Men’s World Cup has earmarked $440 million in prize money, not including the bonuses provided by national federations. This amounts to, at minimum, a $380 million pay gap between FIFA’s men’s and women’s championships.

When it comes to pay inequity, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The most recent U.S. Women’s National Team lawsuit crunched the numbers to illustrate the alleged pay discrimination within the United States Soccer Federation.

The U.S. women’s soccer team celebrates at a parade in its honour in New York City following its World Cup victory. Photo credit AP Photo/Richard Drew.

The calculations show that if a woman were to play in and win 20 national team matches, she would earn US$99,000 — just 38 per cent of the US$263,320 that a man would receive for the same feat.

In 2014, the federation provided the men’s national team with performance bonuses totalling US$5,375,000 for losing in the round of 16. In 2015, the women’s national team received US$1,725,000 for winning the entire tournament.

Critics often argue the gender pay gap in sport is simple math — men’s sports bring in greater revenue, therefore, male athletes earn more lucrative salaries.

This argument dramatically oversimplifies the issue and fails to take into consideration the environmental and cultural factors that so powerfully hinder earning potential in women’s sport.

Inequities exist around playing, training and travel conditions. There is disproportionate investment in long-term player development, lopsided promotional budgets and severely limited merchandising opportunities. The U.S. women’s team lawsuit specifically argues that inferior marketing budgets are routinely coupled with reduced ticket prices and used as tactics to “manufacture revenue depression,” which can be “used as pretext for lower compensation.”

All of these factors must be taken into account when considering compensation structure — something the U.S. Soccer Federation’s recent pay analysis failed to do. Male-versus-female compensation is not an apples-to-apples comparison. Women in sport are consistently asked to accomplish more with less.

Where do we go from here?

Some might wonder why an organization would do anything not directly related to profit maximization. The answer is simple — institutionalized practices are often taken for granted, widely accepted and resistant to change, and there are few more institutionalized practices than male hegemony in sport.

The good news? One of the tenets of institutional theory suggests that organizations look to their environment for clues to understand appropriate courses of action. Sport federations are historically slow to adapt to change, but big corporate brands have the flexibility to be more nimble. While women’s sports now account for just 0.4 per cent of sport sponsorship spending, we’re beginning to see some evidence that suggests a potential sea change.

Notably, Budweiser announced it would become the first official beer sponsor of the U.S. National Women’s Soccer League on the heels of the women’s victory. Their #WontStopWatching tagline implied a deeper understanding of the issues at hand and how they might be able to best leverage their power to affect change.

Procter and Gamble, an official sponsor of U.S. Soccer, urged the governing body to “be on the right side of history” in a full-page ad in the New York Times while simultaneously announcing a US$529,000 donation in support of closing the gender pay gap.

Visa recently mandated that 50 per cent of its official sponsorship go towards the women’s team in its new deal with U.S. Soccer.

Luna Bar announced it would make up the difference between the women’s and men’s World Cup roster bonuses by paying out US$31,250 to each of the 23 players on the U.S. women’s team.

FOX Sports sold out ad space for the Women’s World Cup tournament, nearly tripling expected revenue.

And Nike’s U.S. women’s national team jersey became the company’s all time highest-selling soccer jersey, men’s or women’s. It unveiled an inspirational ad following the American victory.

Just imagine if a company like this also used its clout to demand equal pay.

The business model in sport is changing. These brands have not suddenly become more philanthropic. They’ve realized the market potential of women’s sport and have their finger on the pulse of a broader cultural turning point.

The fact is, brands have the power to be incredibly influential allies in this quest for change. And there is power in numbers. If more brands were to realize the full weight of their influence in the sporting sphere and demand gender equality in sport, we would collectively be able to put a much deeper crack in that glass ceiling.

The impact of women trailblazers in Canadian publishing

Written by Ruth Panofsky, Ryerson University. Originally published in The Conversation

Many of the classic books of Canadian literature thrived because of women editors, publishers and agents. Some are profiled here: Anna Porter in the 1970s, Bella Pomer in 2015 and Claire Pratt in 1950.

As you indulge in summer reading, consider this fact. If not for the path-breaking women in Canadian publishing, some of Canada’s best-known writers might not have made it: Margaret Laurence, Farley Mowat, Carol Shields.

Although it’s known that women have always participated in Canadian publishing, the lasting influence they’ve had on the industry remains largely unacknowledged. It’s time we honoured Irene Clarke, Claire Pratt, Anna Porter and Bella Pomer — Canada’s own Diana Athills, the famous British editor — whose contributions count alongside those of men like Jack McClelland, a name that still dominates the history of Canadian publishing.

My research focuses on Canadian authors and their publishers, editors and literary agents. It has led to many happy hours immersed in archival collections in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, where I’ve uncovered the record of women’s labour in mainstream Canadian publishing. In making a place for themselves in the mainstream press, these women helped lead the way for the feminists who established their own imprints, such as Press Gang Publishers (1970-2002) and Sister Vision Press (1985-2000).

Who were these trailblazing figures?

Irene Clarke, publisher

Irene Clarke (1903-1986) was Canada’s first woman publisher of English-language books. In 1930, she co-founded Clarke, Irwin.

At the time, with the world economy in collapse and the country in the grip of the Depression, the decision to launch a publishing company might have seemed foolish. By the late 1940s, however, under Clarke’s leadership, Clarke, Irwin had become one of the country’s five largest educational and trade publishers.

In 1941, Clarke took another bold step and published Emily Carr’s first book, Klee Wyck, under the Oxford University Press Canada imprint. At the time, in an unusual arrangement, Clarke, Irwin shared staff and premises with Oxford.

Carr’s book of sketches, which had been rejected by other publishers, won the Governor General’s Literary Award for non-fiction and helped generate new recognition for her paintings.

A close bond formed between Irene Clarke and Emily Carr, two women who broke historic ground, one as a publisher, and the other as a writer and a painter. Clarke not only launched Carr’s literary career. She went on to publish and acquire the copyright to all of Carr’s writing, which now endures alongside her more celebrated paintings.

Claire Pratt, editor

From 1956 to 1965, Claire Pratt (1921-1995) was senior editor at McClelland & Stewart, where she worked closely with individual writers.

Pratt came to know Margaret Laurence through her fiction set in Africa and recommended the novel This Side Jordan (1960) and The Tomorrow-Tamer and Other Stories (1963) for publication.

When she read the draft of The Stone Angel (1964), the first novel in Laurence’s Manawaka series, the editor was deeply moved. Pratt’s appreciation won the author’s trust and she remained a touchstone figure in Laurence’s life.

Pratt was most vivacious with the spirited poet Irving Layton. Pratt worked with Layton on four volumes issued by McClelland & Stewart, the first of which was the Governor General’s Literary Award-winning A Red Carpet for the Sun (1959).

Layton sought Pratt’s opinion of his poetry. He tested her patience by continually revising a manuscript until the moment it was forwarded to the printers. He bartered constantly: if he were to remove one poem from a collection, might he replace it with another? He also enriched Pratt’s professional life and offered some of the most heartfelt expressions of thanks she received over the course of her career, even an ode glorifying “Saint Claire.”

Anna Porter, publisher

Following a similar path taken decades earlier by Irene Clarke, Anna Porter (born in 1943) became the first woman to head a Canadian publishing company devoted to English-language non-fiction trade books. In 1979, she co-founded Key Porter Books, and then in 1982 assumed the lead as publisher of the firm.

Today, non-fiction is a popular and steadily growing genre that appeals to a wide audience. When Porter established her company, however, she broke new ground by rejecting fiction in favour of the expanding category of non-fiction.

Porter pursued journalist Allan Fotheringham, whose Malice in Blunderland or, How the Grits Stole Christmas (1982) was Key Porter’s first best-selling title and the first of Fotheringham’s six books to be issued by the press.

The crusty Farley Mowat was one of Key Porter’s more outspoken and popular authors. Mowat and Porter shared a long and fruitful connection characterized by impassioned and vigorous debate and reconciliation.

Bella Pomer, literary agent

Bella Pomer (born in 1926) established her own literary agency in 1978. One of Canada’s first agents, she was undaunted by the prospect of entering a burgeoning field that soon was dominated by a cluster of women based in Toronto.

Pomer’s most prominent client was Carol Shields. Their agency agreement lasted 20 years, from 1982 to 2002. Pomer’s vision and tenacity helped shape Shields’s career.

When Pomer placed The Stone Diaries with Random House of Canada in 1993 — after 11 lean years of representing Shields — the response was immediate. Critics and readers alike were intrigued by the novel’s structure and captivated by its elusive protagonist, Daisy Goodwill. It was short-listed for the Booker Prize and went on to win the Governor General’s Literary Award and the Pulitzer Prize.

Soon, Pomer was handling the countless administrative details that increased exponentially in the wake of The Stone Diaries. She orchestrated U.S., British and foreign publication of all of Shields’s books, ensuring that each edition received individual attention. She negotiated with publishers and sub-agents to secure handsome royalty advances for Shields’s subsequent books.

As a top agent, Pomer was more than a professional who shared in Shields’s triumph. She was also an attentive listener, an ally and a strong defender of Shields.

Pomer’s business approach to her many book deals was a boon to writers. With understanding and skill, she brokered better terms and royalty advances for her clients and sold their work outside of Canada. Such intervention succeeded in altering Canadian publishers’ negative perception of agents. More importantly, it helped reform dated practices that favoured publishers over authors.

Clarke, Pratt, Porter and Pomer were among the women who changed the face of Canadian publishing. Their achievements, which resonate in today’s highly charged publishing environment, deserve our attention.

Women’s hockey has avid fans but needs a corporate cash infusion

Written by Katie Lebel, Ryerson University. Photo credit Dave Holland. Originally published in The Conversation.

The Toronto Furies huddle up before their match-up against crosstown rivals, the Markham Thunder.

Kawhi Leonard recently registered one of the most iconic moments in Toronto Raptors history with his Game 7 buzzer-beater against the Philadelphia 76ers. The thrilling shot was captured by five different camera angles, the play-by-play commentary was available in multiple languages and corporate partners immediately activated, enhancing the value of the moment.

It also engrained Leonard’s awe-inspiring feat into the minds of millions of fans around the world.

In the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) this past season, the Toronto Furies won their final five games in a row to clinch a playoff berth. In a classic win-or-go-home matchup against their crosstown rival, the Markham Thunder, the game-winning goal was scored by the Furies’ top draft pick, Canadian Olympian Sarah Nurse, in a storybook finish.

How was this different from Leonard’s immortalizing shot?

Only the 500 people physically in attendance at the game had the pleasure of witnessing it. The event was not covered by any legacy media, there were no cameras to capture the moment nor any audio commentary to preserve the excitement of the play. Like trees in a forest, even the most extraordinary sport achievements fall silent if there are no tools in place to showcase them.

The power of visibility

Women’s sports are not promoted in the same ways that men’s sports are. This shortcoming has an impact on the awareness of women’s sports, which in turn affects the public’s ability to get to know female superstars, understand key rivalries or bear witness to historical performances — all important ingredients that foster fan engagement and inspire sport participation.

These systemic limitations make it incredibly difficult to even try to be a fan of women’s sports. They restrict opportunities for revenue generation and perpetuate the common misperception that there is no market for women’s sports.

These pitfalls are among the root causes of the CWHL’s downfall earlier this year.

There is a market demand for women’s sport. Lack of awareness is different than a lack of interest. In fact, women’s hockey has been called one of the fastest growing sports in the world, with 34 percent growth worldwide over the past decade.

We know that when women’s hockey is promoted, fans turn out — the late-night battle between Team Canada and Team USA for 2018 Olympic Gold broke midnight-hour programming records for both NBC (2.9 million viewers) and CBC (4.8 million viewers).

IMI International found that 22 percent of Canadians engaged with the CWHL brand this season, a figure on par with the fandom of athletics, gymnastics, the Ryder Cup, Champions League soccer and National Lacrosse.

Beyond this, few data points exist to corroborate the undeniable growth and value of the sport.

Sponsorship opportunities in women’s sports

On the heels of the CWHL ceasing operations, 200 of the best female hockey players in the world banded together in an attempt to create an economically viable professional women’s hockey league.

A formal leadership group has just been established known as the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association (PWHPA). While providing a means for players to stay connected and co-ordinate with one another, the players’ association is also meant to serve as a front door for discussions with potential investors and business leaders.

Currently, men’s sports enjoy 99.6 percent of all commercial sport investments. While there are cultural norms at play, insufficient data again stands as a key challenge.

When prospective sponsors are not provided with the traditional business elements used to argue value, it’s difficult for them to validate serious investment. Instead of working to document relevant metrics and provide context around measures of viewership and awareness, investors are often asked to simply overlook poor profit margins.

The CWHL didn’t struggle with attendance because fans were ambivalent; fans didn’t attend games because they didn’t know they existed. There was no media publicity or promotional advertising, there wasn’t even team-specific signage at venues.

Any sponsorship was treated as more of a gift than a serious investment; brand return-on-investment research wasn’t even considered.

The need for revenue generation

We need to recognize these types of barriers and develop a system that provides legitimate opportunity to generate revenue. Emotionally charged campaigns have been helpful in elevating the conversation, but true success will require sponsors to invest with intention and activate as more than just advocates.

Keep in mind there is a precedent for this.

In 1970, nine women dared to envision a better future for women’s professional tennis. Lead by Billie Jean King, these trail-blazers signed $1 contracts with magazine publisher Gladys Heldman, who arranged a partnership with Virginia Slims to sponsor a tournament at the Houston Racquet Club.

Women’s tennis has never looked back. All it took was for one brand to believe in the product and over-invest to create the tipping point necessary for success.

Clockwise from top left: Valerie Ziegenfuss, Billie Jean King, Nancy Richey, Peaches Bartkowicz, Kristy Pigeon, promoter Gladys Heldman, Rosie Casals, Kerry Melville and Judy Dalton. Photo Credit: Creative Commons.

Brands now have a similar opportunity with women’s hockey. All they need to do is have a little imagination and take a chance on long-term potential. It always seems impossible, until it’s done.

Sport strategy consultant Katrina Galas, who served as the assistant general manager of the CWHL’s Toronto Furies, contributed to this piece.

As Ottawa helps the news industry, latest research suggests journalists’ loyalties are tough to buy

Written by Heather Rollwagen & Ivor Shapiro, Ryerson University. Photo credit THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang. Originally published in The Conversation.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau participates in TV interviews after tabling his budget, which included a $595 million financial package for news organizations.

Ottawa has finally announced the details of how it will offer financial assistance to the country’s struggling news media industry — a controversial policy that will lead to suggestions that journalistic independence is compromised by government funding.

Under a heading called Support for Journalism, Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s budget laid out three new measures: some journalism organizations will be allowed to issue charitable tax receipts to donors in a potential new source of revenue, a tax credit will offer a 25-per-cent refund on newsroom salaries and consumers will be able to claim a tax credit for digital news subscriptions.

The total projected cost of the financial package would be $595 million over five years. The aid will only be available to what the government has dubbed “qualified Canadian journalism organizations,” which will be recognized as such by “an independent panel.” How that panel will be chosen is just one of several obscure or questionable aspects of the government’s approach, likely to be at the centre of debate as this election year proceeds.

A question of principle

Underlying most of the arguments is a question of principle: If news organizations get government money, do journalists become government servants?

This question’s importance as it relates to freedom of the press cuts both ways.

On the one hand, there is no freedom of the press if the press does not exist, or if its existence hangs on a daily thread of avoiding bankruptcy. On the other, funding journalism fosters at best the appearance of a conflict of interest and at worst the tendency of pipers to pick tunes that please their payers.

Our research offers reason to think that Canadian journalists’ loyalties cannot be bought as easily as some fear.

Rather, as we will report in a forthcoming issue of the Canadian Journal of Political Science, most Canadian journalists express a collective sense of mission that requires them to be detached from those who provide their funding. Those sources of funding have long included corporate owners, advertisers, and — for public broadcasters and magazines — the public purse.

Canadian newspapers have struggled for years. The 2019 federal budget stated: ‘A strong and independent news media is crucial to a well-functioning democracy.’ Photo credit THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette.

Identifying the journalist’s creed

These findings come two decades after the launch of an influential turn-of-the-century study led by David Pritchard at the University of Wisconsin and Florian Sauvageau at Université Laval, who identified a “Canadian journalists’ creed” of detached commitment to the accurate and impartial telling of public-interest stories. Follow-up work suggested that adherence to this “creed” was subject to variations according to language, region and media ownership, among other factors.

Much has changed in the media landscape since the birth of social media platforms like Facebook in 2004, with news organizations’ revenues devastated by competition with free alternative sources of public information, resulting in buyouts and closures and a particular crisis in local news.

In the wake of these changes, we interviewed a random sample of 352 Canadian journalists, including freelancers and salaried journalists working in small, medium and large news organizations across Canada.

Rating sources of influence

We asked them to rate potential sources of influence including politicians, business representatives, audience feedback, social networks and, of course, the mandates of employers and expectations of shareholders. Their answers strongly suggest that politicians, government officials and pressure groups are no more likely to influence their work today than at the end of the 20th century.

Instead, the journalists cited procedural matters as most influential on their work, especially ethical and legal constraints, limited time, the availability of news-gathering resources and access to information.

Journalists understand their role is to report on things as they are, educating their audiences, telling stories about the world and being detached observers. In addition, many believed their role to be one that especially scrutinizes politics and business and provides analysis of current affairs.

Creed tied to identity

What’s more, this enduring “creed” seems to be a stronger part of Canadian journalists’ professional identity than is true for peers in other democracies.

The budget offers tax credits for readers who have digital news subscriptions. Photo credit THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson.

Because we are part of the Worlds of Journalism Study, we were able to compare Canadians’ answers to those collected from more than 27,000 journalists in 66 other countries. When compared to their global peers, Canadian journalists report a stronger sense of being detached observers who report things as they are — and are significantly less likely to believe themselves to hold a collaborative role with the government.

Canadian journalists are also less likely than others to perceive themselves influenced by politicians, government officials and pressure groups and more influenced by journalism ethics.

Could this difference be ascribed to self-delusion or self-aggrandizement? Of course that’s possible, but there’s no theoretical basis for this to be more true in Canada than elsewhere. Social psychologists have demonstrated a significant link between people’s behaviour, their values and the norms of their milieu, and that they feel rewarded when they act consistently with their beliefs.

Whether journalists demonstrably produce work that is consistent with their collective sense of mission is another question, which will be a focus of our next phase of research.

Journalists are far from immune to confusion and ambivalence in describing their roles and their ethics. Yet, Canadian journalists’ accounts of their commitment to accuracy stand as an enduring article of faith, in stark contrast to their apprehensions about procedural (including financial) stresses.

This, if nothing else, gives us reason to suspect that a little extra financial security will aid, more than hinder, news people’s determination to remain independent monitors of power.

Post-Brexit, the U.K. and Canada can fuel global sustainability

Written by Deborah de Lange, Associate Professor, Ryerson University and Philip R Walsh, Associate Professor, Entrepreneurship and Strategy, Ryerson University. Photo credit THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick. Originally published in The Conversation.

A “circular economy” is one that avoids waste and instead innovatively reuses or regenerates end products. That’s in contrast to today’s largely “linear” economy, in which products are dumped as waste after we’re finished with them — losing value and damaging our environment.

With a circular economy, new business models generate value from end products and even turn those products into services, such as the phenomenon known as car-as-a-service, which minimizes negative impacts on the environment and people. A circular model relies on renewable energy, and an emphasis on human well-being has been incorporated into the concept.

Our new research into circular economy trade is one of only two reports on the topic tying the circular economy to international trade. The report was jointly funded by the Canadian and British governments as they ponder a post-Brexit Canada/U.K. trade deal.

As 2019 dawns, we’re proposing that a worldwide circular economy could be created through international trade and trade agreements like the one that might be forged between Canada and the U.K.

Global circular economy a possibility

The main message of our research is that Canada and the U.K. could jointly start a global race to the top through a trade agreement that incorporates circular economy principles.

The two countries can move ahead on precedent-setting circular economy trade, which would harmonize regulations across nations so as to eliminate industrial and consumer waste. We could even add incentives as part of the terms of trade — for example, lowering tariffs on goods generated by a verified cross-border circular process.

CETA (the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement), Canada’s agreement with the European Union, is considered a foundation for progressive trade, according to the expert opinions incorporated into our study.

Others, however, think CETA needs a great deal of improvement. Our research offers suggestions on how CETA too could be enhanced by more circular trade provisions, although they still may not satisfy those who prefer no trade agreements at all.

The norms of free trade among nations originated with GATT (the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), continued through the World Trade Organization (WTO), and have led to the unintended consequences of weakening environmental rules rather than strengthening them.

Standards weakened, not strengthened

Our trade agreements, in fact, have amounted to a race to the bottom and that must change. Many businesses also want to see positive initiatives incorporated into trade deals, but they’ve faced competitive pressures to lower rather than raise standards.

So let’s turn the negative side effects of our activities into an economic boon, enlarging the economic pie.

Both Canada and the U.K. are on their own paths towards greater sustainability and have Paris Agreement climate commitments to reduce greenhouse gas pollution. They can reinforce and strengthen each other’s efforts through circular economy trade — reducing, reusing and recycling in a co-ordinated fashion among businesses and consumers around the world.

We would like to see circular economy principles normalized into trade agreements. The WTO has set a goal for free trade everywhere, and we are ultimately proposing that the WTO could also get behind circular economy free trade everywhere too.

Trade integrates economies

Our study covers five areas in a potential circular economy trade agreement: Design inputs, governance, tariffs and non-tariff barriers, technology and sustainability as related to prosperity.

Thematic Linkages to Canada-UK Circular Economy Trade

We know from previous research that trade tends to integrate economies, reducing trade volatility and increasing trade volumes. Integrating economies may also tend to reduce the potential for violent conflict because the economic sacrifices become too high. Circular economy trade would lead to even tighter integration.

Through circular economy trade, firms develop even more intertwined relationships with each other, not only by selling new products and services to each other, but also by selling their waste products to each other and finding new, more efficient business models to serve each other and consumers.

Depending on firms’ expertise, they can work together through a digitized economy to deliver co-ordinated products and services to consumers. Circular economy trade can support this international digitized co-ordination based on complementary expertise. If circular economy trade increases integration, then it should further reduce trade volatility and boost trade volumes.

Consumers also need to redefine their role as part of waste reduction/reuse in a circular economy. Circular economy trade can spread these new consumer norms. For example, consumers may choose to buy or lease their appliances, their smartphones, their cars, etc., in the future, and purchase upgrade services instead of throwing old appliances and cars away.

Tesla cloud upgrades

Trade rules can support an increase in the availability of these consumer options. Some of it is already the norm in Europe.

Longer-lasting electric vehicles support sustained use, and software upgrades from the cloud are already part of Tesla’s service. As car-as-a-service spreads, utilizing electric autonomous cars, a new international auto industry is developing.

Canada and the U.K. can work together on this modern circular auto industry by co-ordinating on trade and investment. The U.K. has a strong auto industry and Canada could rebuild its own by doing business with the British industry, given the current losing game with American automakers.

A Canada-U.S. auto pact supported our auto industry, so now we need a circular version with the U.K. British automakers would work with sophisticated Canadian partners from a convenient base to supply the hungry and lucrative North American auto market.

Financial services are another area for co-ordination. Canada and the U.K. both have vital banking sectors with different strengths. By sharing their strengths, they can become even more robust and co-ordinate investments in an international circular economy while they divest of fossil fuel investments.

A recent OECD conceptual report examining global circular economy trade calls for more research on the topic. Involvement and support from the WTO would also be helpful.

Future research needs to consider how social justice can be integrated into circular economy trade —for example, by ensuring more stakeholder engagement as part of negotiations and trade agreement development.

Consultation with, and input from, citizens, industry, provincial governments and other stakeholders will all help devise workable circular trade solutions while we carefully balance national with corporate interests.

Our report emphasises the potential for a post-Brexit trade agreement between the U.K. and Canada that could promote and foster a sustainable circular economy around the world. We hope trade negotiators use the ideas to make international trade more sustainable overall.

Funding journalism means defining who’s a journalist – not a bad thing

Written by Ivor Shapiro, Ryerson University. Photo credit THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward. Originally published in The Conversation.

The Canadian government wants to offer financial assistance to the news industry. How will it define what’s journalism?

The federal government’s recent announcement of financial support for news organizations has been met with understandably wide-ranging reactions — from relief to skepticism, and worse.

Among other measures, the package will incentivize consumers to sign up for digital news subscriptions and subsidize publishers through a tax credit on salaries paid to journalists.

It’s good news for imperilled news businesses, but even some who share the government’s expressed concern over the sustainability of independent information about public affairs have expressed misgivings. The doubters include many journalists — the very people who stand most to gain from the promised support.

So what gives? It’s all about definition — and independence.

The argument for taxpayer subsidies rests on an immutable truth: It’s become tough, and sometimes impossible, to turn a profit by providing communities with verified information about public affairs.

People want free info

People want information to come free, like so much on the internet, and the economics of online advertising favours Facebook and Google over news providers.

This is a problem, according to Ottawa’s fall economic update, because:

“A strong and independent news media is crucial to a well-functioning democracy. It empowers citizens by providing them with the information they need to make informed decisions on important issues, and also serves to hold powerful institutions — including governments — to account by bringing to light information that might not otherwise be made available to the public.”

Principled counter-arguments to the government’s plan, however, likewise hinge on a perceived threat to the independence of a free press. To explain, here’s a deceptively simple political-philosophy pop quiz.

Which of the following statements is true?

  • Democracy functions best when the relationship of journalists and governments is one of tension, rather than interdependence.
  • In a healthy democracy, governments today need to spend taxpayer money to sustain a free and independent press.
  • Freedom of the press means that no one needs the government’s permission to produce and publish journalism.

The answer may be “all of the above,” because contrary to first appearances, the three statements aren’t contradictory.

Public support isn’t new

The United Kingdom, for example, is arguably home to the world’s rowdiest, most indomitable reporters and editors. Thousands of that country’s journalists benefit from a legislated universal tax (the so-called radio licence) that’s kept BBC’s news division vigorous enough to boast a global digital audience nearly 10 times bigger than Canada’s entire population.

Closer to home, the federal government has long provided grants to magazines both newsy and not, but not to daily papers, private broadcasters or news websites. And hundreds of journalism jobs at CBC-Radio Canada depend for their continuance on the largesse (or otherwise) of annual federal budgets, because there’s no Canadian equivalent to the BBC’s longer-term legislated assurance.

Who’s a journalist?

Now, the government plans to extend public-purse subsidies directly to the salaries of privately employed journalists.

But who and what is a journalist? This question has stumped some tough minds over the years, including that of former Chief Justice Beverly McLaughlin.

In 2009, she wrote a landmark libel judgment that lit a cherished green light for investigative reporters by holding them accountable for the fairness of their methods, rather than demanding literal truth of every word. The new protocol was based on a British precedent that lawyers call “responsible journalism.”

This straightforward moniker succinctly captured “the essence of the defence,” McLaughlin allowed, but instead of citing the term “responsible journalism,” she chose a markedly clunkier name for Canada’s version: “Responsible communication in the public interest.”

Why? Because “the traditional media are rapidly being complemented by new ways of communicating on matters of public interest, many of them online, which do not involve journalists.”

Dearth of local news

So, Chief Justice, one might ask — what is a journalist? On this, McLaughlin declined to pass judgment.

In 2011, the problem of defining journalists scuppered the country’s first substantial proposal of government support for news media. Laval University Prof. Dominique Payette delivered a carefully researched and well-argued report to the government of Québec describing a crisis in the availability of local news that escaped attention in the rest of Canada until some years later.

A proposal for government to legally recognize the profession of journalism was first proposed in Québec in 2011, but the idea was met with derision from many journalists. Photo credit THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes.

Payette recommended legal recognition of professional status for journalists and taxpayer-funded benefits to organizations that employ members of this order.

Shot down in Québec

The idea was initially welcomed by Québec’s government and by many journalists, but eventually got dropped due to a fractious debate among journalists about how it could be implemented. Opinion among anglophone journalists, meanwhile, was solidly dismissive — many persisted in misunderstanding the proposal as implying a required “licence” for practising journalism.

Coincidentally, around that time, my research was focused on a search for signs of consensus about what defines journalism. But the only consensus to be found was that a definition was neither needed nor wanted.

For most Canadian journalists, a free press means anyone should legally be allowed to describe their work as journalism. End of story.

Drawing distinctions

When I published my theory-building paper on the topic in 2014, I was careful to defer to the prevailing inclusive point of view. I made the case for defining journalism with reference to, among other things, the work of “independent” discovery. As for defining journalists (the workers rather than the work), my argument discreetly evaded its own obvious conclusion — if journalism can be defined, then a journalist is simply a person who practises journalism.

The inclusive position will no longer be tenable once the government offers tax breaks to companies that employ journalists. The government proposes to establish “an independent panel” to “define and promote core journalism standards, define professional journalism, and determine eligibility.” And who will be on this vital panel of definers? Journalists, of course.

Circularity aside, this might be viable as a short-term pragmatic solution. Most appointees to the independent panel will likely be current or former minions of legacy news brands, disinclined to recognize traces of their traditions in nimbler, edgier upstarts aimed at unconventional audiences.

Paul Godfrey, CEO of Postmedia Network, Canada’s largest newspaper company, has joined other publishers in lobbying Ottawa for financial assistance. Godfrey has in turn been criticized for giving himself large bonuses while laying off journalists across the country. Photo credit THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette.

But attention to diversity and terms of appointment will foster open minds and a sense of fairness. So too will a clear mandate, crafted through non-partisan consultation that favours neutral criteria, perhaps including membership of either the francophone Québec media council or its anglophone national counterpart.

But long-term, there is a more intuitive and less compromising way by which professions “define” themselves, set “standards” and determine “eligibility” for government recognition.

A time for self-regulation

This more conventional system for managing professional recognition works well enough for engineers, lawyers, plumbers and many others.

Governance for these professions and trades does not involve government-appointed panels, whose own biases must eventually collude or collide with those of their effective employers to foster actual distrust or subtle corruption.

Rather, these other socially important professionals are governed by their peers in legally recognized official bodies usually known as colleges or institutes. Their central goal: To protect the integrity and independence of their profession.

The system is called self-regulation and it already applies to journalists in France, Italy and many other industrialized democracies that boast markedly undeferential news cultures.

If self-regulation came to Canada, journalists choosing to enrol would not morph into humble servants, ready to trade away their constitutionally guaranteed freedoms. And those same freedoms would continue to protect, likewise, the right of conscientious non-registrants to publish news (whether verified or fake).

In short, a system of self-regulation could do no harm and much good. Mostly, it would simply recognize the plain reality that journalists’ work is vital enough to foster, distinct enough to define, and, today more than ever, vulnerable enough to defend.

Big, bigger, biggest: Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Singles Day

Written by Norman Shaw, Ryerson University. Photo credit 松林 /flickr, CC BY-SA. Originally published in The Conversation.

The holiday shopping season is upon us. But do you need to go to the mall?

Cyber Monday is online retailers’ response to the bricks-and-mortar marketing push of Black Friday. Online shopping is only set to increase, as smartphones and apps continue to capture more of the market.

In the United States, the fourth Thursday in November is Thanksgiving, a public holiday recognizing the first harvest gathered by the colonists. The streets are quiet, the shops are closed and families gather together to enjoy the holiday. Many businesses add to the occasion by giving their employees a day off on the Friday immediately following Thanksgiving Thursday.

And what do these people do? Go shopping!

Kicking off the shopping season

Marketing gurus have advertised the day as “Black Friday,” which heralds the start of the Christmas shopping season. One myth about the name is that it was the day when retailers started earning profits, or in other words, their bottom line changed from red for losses to black for profit.

In truth, the term was used by the Philadelphia police in the 1960s because of the traffic jams caused by shoppers flocking to snatch the bargains. Whatever the origin, we are now treated to Black Friday super sales when hordes of consumers wait until the stores open at midnight so that they can buy whatever is on sale at a bargain price.

Demonstrating the reach of the American marketing machine, the term has been used in other countries. Even though Canada celebrates Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October — and the U.K. does not even have a Thanksgiving holiday — retailers in these countries, and about 20 others, have learned that there is a large sales uplift with the marketing fever generated by Black Friday. The timing of their Black Friday sales follows the American one in late November, not because of Thanksgiving, but because it kicks off the Christmas shopping season.

Crowds walk past a large store sign displaying a Black Friday discount in midtown Manhattan on Friday, Nov. 23, 2018. Photo credit AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews.

The Monday after Black Friday

The hype of Black Friday encourages consumers to visit physical stores. But online retailers did not want to be left behind, so they created Cyber Monday. Rather than compete with Friday’s activity of actually going to a physical store, they appealed to the consumers who had just returned to work after a long weekend, but were still looking for bargains. These consumers could shop online, and so Cyber Monday was born in 2005. It has since grown to be a bigger shopping day than Black Friday.

Lonely shoppers

But which day is the busiest shopping day? Not Black Friday, not Cyber Monday, but Singles Day … in China. It all started in 2009 when the giant Chinese online company, Alibaba, wanted to encourage people to buy online. They saw the date Nov. 11 with all its ones (11:11) and offered on-line bargains on that day to singles.

Alibaba runs the online shopping site Tmall, which is the Chinese version of Amazon. They dominate business-to-consumer (B2C) online shopping, with close to 50 per cent of the Chinese market. This year, online sales on Singles Day topped $31 billion, which is over four times the volume of Cyber Monday.

Not only does China have the busiest online shopping day, they also have the highest penetration of online sales completed with smartphones. Twenty-three per cent of their Gross Merchandise Volume is online and over 50 per cent of that takes place via mobile phones. Mobile payment is made easy through WeChat Pay, owned by TenCent, and AliPay, owned by Ant financial. These two competitors dominate the buying and selling of merchandise and, with their acceptance of mobile payments, they are moving China to become a cashless society.

A chart showcasing Thanksgiving weekend e-commerce sales in the U.S., demonstrating that sales overall have increased since 2016 and that Cyber Monday is the top shopping day.
This chart shows Thanksgiving weekend e-commerce sales in the United States. Photo credit Statista/Adobe Digital Insights, CC BY.

Shopping through apps

Online shopping has moved from the desktop to mobile. In 2011, only two per cent of online shopping was via mobile whereas in 2017, it was 60 per cent. In a survey conducted in 2017 by Pew Research Center of smartphone ownership, the majority of adults in 26 countries owned smartphones.

This penetration will continue to expand, and with the growth of new financial applications powered by technology (Fintech), mobile phones will become the vehicle of choice for online shopping.

Smartphones can also benefit physical stores. Apps help consumers compare products, find the nearest store, locate the item in the store, retrieve detailed product information and finally make the payment.

We can expect retail sales to continue to grow, in both clicks and bricks. We can also expect the mobile phone to be an integral component of shopping, in both clicks and bricks.

Capitalism needs a reboot so that no industry is too big to fail

Written by Deborah de Lange, Ryerson University. Photo credit Shutterstock. Originally published in The Conversation.

No industry should be considered too big to fail, including the auto industry.

The financial crisis of 2008 has not led us to take sufficient steps to avoid the next economic disaster. The dips in stock markets last February and just recently, together with dire predictions for early 2019, are setting off alarm bells.

If you have a defined contribution type of pension plan or your RRSP funds are tied up in stocks or mutual funds, you may also be concerned about reforming our stock market system.

But stock market fluctuations reflect a more fundamental problem than most realize.

Trader James Lamb watches his screens on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Oct. 10, 2018. The next big stock market correction could be coming. Photo credit AP Photo/Richard Drew.

Large firms need to be able to focus on the substance of their operations, not be distracted by stock markets.

The next big stock market correction could be coming. Although many foresee macro-economic changes driven by a technological transformation as the world switches to clean energy and transportation and away from fossil fuels, not all are equally prepared. In Canada, we had strong banks to mitigate against the last crisis, but we still bailed out the auto companies because they were “too big to fail” — meaning their failure would have resulted in an economic catastrophe for Canada.

Canada’s reliance on the fossil fuel industry and reluctance to diversify quickly enough may make the nation more economically vulnerable than the last time — especially when Canadian banks and the domestic auto industry are still linked to the fate of oil and gas. The oil-and-gas industry is resisting change.

No pressure from Canadian lawmakers

The global auto industry, however, is trying to save itself by offering electric cars now with autonomous features and car-as-a-service coming soon. Car-as-a-service means that rather than purchase a car, we will use an app to call a car to pick us up, drive us autonomously to a desired destination, and drop us off.

This simpler car-sharing approach saves time and resources. But automotive plants in Canada have not retooled for these new technologies. And Canadian political leaders have not pressured automakers building cars in Canada to adapt.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with auto workers at an assembly plant in Windsor, Ont., on Oct. 5, 2018. Photo credit THE CANADIAN PRESS/Troy Shantz.

But how can the government engage this way when Big Auto can threaten to move jobs out of the country? The government only has leverage when the auto industry is on the brink of extinction because these firms are not just too big to fail, they’re also too big to budge.

At the same time, Forbes’ 2018 list of largest publicly traded companies reports many oil-and-gas companies as some of the biggest firms in the world, with Shell at No. 11 and ExxonMobil at No. 13, to name just a couple of companies populating the list.

Canada’s the home of some big oil-and-gas players like Suncor, Enbridge, Imperial Oil, Canadian Natural Resources and TransCanada Corp. Overall, everywhere, the oil-and-gas sector, like the auto industry, is both too big to budge and too big to fail, a very tenuous situation.

Independent oversight long overdue

In my book Cliques and Capitalism: A Modern Networked Theory of the Firm, I make suggestions on how we can avoid the too-big-to-fail problem. New corporate structures and matching incentive systems with independent oversight are crucial. Structural changes can make capitalism work better for us.

This can happen by changing the way firms are run. My book makes a holistic set of interlinked recommendations that need to be interpreted as a whole, but a few characteristics are outlined below.

The aim is to develop a sustainable model for corporations so that they do not become too big to fail, and their failures don’t spell disaster for a country or several nations.

1) By eliminating hierarchy, firms are less top-heavy while more democratic and egalitarian. By placing an emphasis on core work rather than administration, companies become more adaptable.

The firm is more directly and regularly subject to market forces because it is treated like a “bundle of projects” that can be added or removed as consumer market forces dictate. For example, in strategy consulting, we would staff client projects as needed and consultants would switch to a new project after finishing the last one, and there would be multi-tasking across several projects.

Continuous learning is an imperative. The firm adapts on an ongoing basis through its changing set of projects so it doesn’t experience sudden shocks that are impossible to recover from.

2) Through team governance, the tension between labour unions and management — a result of hierarchy and concentrated power — is eliminated.

Employees become a more integral part of decision-making. Monitoring is achieved by a combination of employee social networks and market forces together with an independent audit function. Employees will not tolerate other low performers if their own survival is at stake.

3) Oversight has to become more integrated, independent and transparent, but it can also be more cost-effective for firms.

Boards of directors are not needed, and no controlling shareholders are allowed in the new paradigm. Without hierarchy, ineffective “top-down” influences are removed. Instead, each large firm has an internal Independent Audit Council (IAC) that is truly independent and motivated through a carefully designed incentive system, explained in the book.

The IAC coordinates with a single external stakeholder-run Government Business Regulator (GBR). The GBR sets out common triple-bottom line reporting standards for all large firms, and works with the IACs of each firm to make objective decisions regarding breaking up companies due to anti-competitive monopolistic or oligopolistic industry developments. Companies use a triple-bottom line approach when they report transparently on their activities as related to environmental quality, social justice, and profitability.

Picking up the slack

Maintaining transparency and market competition ensures that if one firm fails, several others in the same industry can pick up the slack. Governments never have to bail out firms this way.

At the same time, the suggested systems and structures help firms prevent failures. They are more adaptive, and internal structural problems related to hierarchy are removed.

Ultimately, the effectiveness of operations becomes the focus, while the short-term whims of shareholders and stock markets have decreased influence.

No matter what method is used to teach math, make it fun

Written by Anthony Bonato, Ryerson University. Photo credit Shutterstock. Originally published in The Conversation.

The Ontario government “back to basics” approach to the curriculum will not best serve children who need a mixture of traditional and discovery learning methods.

There’s a change coming to Ontario’s elementary school math curriculum. The new provincial government says it is responding to a decline of standardized test scores and plans to recommend a return to “back-to-basics” teaching methods for mathematics teachers.

Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Education Lisa Thompson have told educators that directives for changes will be coming within a matter of weeks. Teachers, whose lesson plans for the fall are already drawn, are possibly now scrambling to implement new curriculum guidelines.

Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) scores for students in Grade 6 and Grade 3 in Ontario are both down one percentage point from last year. Previous efforts, including a $60-million initiative by the former Liberal government to improve the EQAO scores, have not worked.

What are ‘back-to-basics’ methods?

What exactly are “back-to-basics” teaching methods for mathematics? These traditional methods of mathematics education include an emphasis on drills, formulas and memorization. If you are old enough, then this was how you were taught mathematics in grade school. In contrast, discovery-based methods spend less time on rules and puts more emphasis on problem solving and applications.

The two methods have somewhat opposing approaches. In traditional methods, rules are taught first and then drilled into students via memorization and solving problems. In discovery methods, problems and examples come first and are abstracted to rules and formulas.

Doug Ford’s ‘back-to-basics’ approach to mathematics is a traditional method where math is drilled into students via memorization. Photo credit Shutterstock.

For example, in a traditional math lesson, children are told the rule that the order of multiplication of two numbers doesn’t matter, and then they would work on problems related to that topic. In discovery math, children would work out examples such as 2 times 3 and 3 times 2, and then abstract this to the general case. Both approaches teach the same thing, but in different ways.

No one should be surprised by these changes after the Progressive Conservatives won a majority in the Ontario election in June. During the election campaign, Ford tweeted, “…We are going to scrap discovery math, and replace it with proven methods of teaching:”

A similar change was announced regarding Ontario’s sex-ed curriculum and elementary school teachers are now required to teach a curriculum essentially dating back to 1998.

Which option is better?

There are pros and cons to both traditional and discovery methods.

My issue with the debate about the “correct” way to teach mathematics to children is the way it is phrased as a binary, either-or approach. The choices we are given are:

1) Drill students on topics such as fractions and timetables.

2) Have children discover math rules and formulas from scratch.

Neither approach in isolation does justice to math education or reflects how people learn mathematics.

Learning rules and formulas in mathematics is an essential skill, as you need a foundation from which to build. Children need to know what the product of 6 and 8 is without having to rediscover it every time.

At the same time, children gain critical problem-solving skills via discovery. They get to think more deeply about the subject. No one would teach language skills by only teaching grammar. You teach children the rudiments of grammar to get them speaking, reading and writing.

In my university teaching, I employ a mixture of traditional and discovery approaches. For example, in a first-year Calculus course, I introduce a formula or rule at the beginning of a lecture but spend most of the class working out examples interactively with the class so they may figure out how things work. In a more advanced, upper-year mathematics course, I state a theorem or problem, but then break up the class into smaller groups and have the students discover the proof with hints from me along the way.

A third path: Math specialists

When I was in elementary school, our classes had the occasional visit from specialist teachers who focused solely on art or music. These teachers didn’t perform the regular, daily instruction in classes but instead floated between classes enriching the curriculum. It was always a treat when these specialist teachers came and it also was a break from the routine of everyday instruction.

Let’s imagine something like this with mathematics education. Math specialists could be teachers with a mathematics background in their university education, or even math professors or university students with the proper training to engage with elementary school classes. I can think of plenty of fun and engaging lessons in my research area of networks for a Grade 6 class, for example. Math specialists would float between classes with the sole goal of enriching math education for kids.

Lisa Thompson, Ontario’s Minister of Education scrums with reporters following Question Period, at the Queens Park Legislature, in Toronto on Thursday, August 9, 2018. Photo credit THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young.

Math specialists may assist with the teaching of core material, but more importantly, they would help coach teachers and provide lesson plans that complement the material. Their goals would be to engage students and cultivate their interest in learning mathematics.

While mathematics educators like myself might point to the positive impact of math specialists, research on their effectiveness is still emerging. A study funded by a National Science Foundation at Virginia Commonwealth University found that math specialists have a significant, positive impact on student achievement. Similar results were reported by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

Beyond test scores

While test scores are important, there is much more to mathematics education. Despite the declining EQAO scores, our kids aren’t exactly flunking out of math in droves. The EQAO standards require a 70 per cent or better to qualify as meeting the standard, not the typical passing grade of 50 per cent.

Our children must be exposed to a rich, engaging mathematics curriculum, even if they don’t become mathematicians or have anything to do with STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) directly in their adult lives. Numeracy, like literacy, is an essential skill in our modern world.

A generation with weak math skills will not be competitive to tackle the next set of challenges in our knowledge-based economy. And a dislike of math tends to pass on from one generation to the next. No child should think it makes them cool to boast that they hate math.

While we are rethinking math education in Ontario, let’s use the best of both traditional and discovery methods and add in math specialists. Done correctly, this should not only increase test scores, but also bolster student engagement.

Let’s also take the time and effort to make math fun. Imagine if children were excited to learn mathematics? Isn’t that what we all want?

What businesses can learn from teamwork at the World Cup

Written by Nicole W. Forrester, Ryerson University. Photo credit AP Photo/Frank Augstein. Originally published in The Conversation.

Mario Mandzukic celebrates during Croatia’s victory over England in the World Cup semifinal. Croatia’s emphasis of team over individual goals was crucial to its success.

Sport and business often seem to share common ground when it comes to performance. It’s not uncommon for businesses to use sports metaphors such as “down for the count,” “the ball’s in their court,” or “full court press.” As an Olympian, I’m often invited to speak at corporate events to inspire employees on setting goals or resiliency.

But only recently has there been a burgeoning body of researchers in the field of sport psychology and organizational psychology exploring the parallels between sports and businesses.

One study compared and contrasted the perceived factors of organizational success from the viewpoints of leaders in the fields of sport and business. The results revealed sport and business leaders identified more similar factors (e.g., leadership, communication and team cohesion) than differences.

Many parallels exist between sports and business when it comes to success. The recent FIFA World Cup provides a unique opportunity to examine some of these parallels and provide lessons for both business and sport.

Few would have predicted France versus Croatia in the final match. If you glanced at the FIFA world rankings a week before the first match, you may have anticipated the 2018 World Cup champion to be Germany or Brazil, respectively ranked first and second.

It would have also been easy to assume the two teams with the greatest players in the game — Argentina with Lionel Messi and Portugal with Cristiano Ronaldo — might also be contenders for the title.

However, true to the nature of sport, this year’s World Cup delivered unpredictable results.

The Team, The Team, The Team

“No man is more important than The Team. No coach is more important than The Team. The Team, The Team, The Team, and if we think that way, all of us, everything that you do, you take into consideration what effect does it have on my Team?”
Bo Schembechler, former University of Michigan football coach

One of the most powerful lessons from the 2018 World Cup is the positive relationship team cohesion had with performance.

More than 40 years ago, Canadian sports psychologist Albert Carron wrote that team cohesion is “a dynamic process which is reflected in the tendency for a group to stick together and remain united in the pursuit of its goals and objectives.” It still holds true today.

The Canadian women’s hockey team that won gold at the 2014 Olympics. Successful Olympic teams have cited unity and trust as key components of a winning effort. Photo credit AP Photo/Petr David Josek.

There’s evidence that better team cohesion results in better performance, and better performance results in better team cohesion.

Studies on Olympians in team sports have identified team unity and trust among the most important factors for success, while teams that failed to achieve their expected results attributed it to planning and team cohesion problems.

Belgium surprised many World Cup fans by making it to the semifinals and eventually winning the third-place match. Team manager Roberto Martinez attributed Belgium’s success to “the notion of being a team. Individual skills and talent are important, but in these tournaments, it’s absolutely necessary to play as a team.”

Shared goals

Integral to team cohesion is a shared goal among all group members.

While each team consists of individuals with different roles and interests, their individual goals must support the team goal and not supersede it. Teams will struggle when an individual within the team places their needs above the rest.

Recognizing the importance of the team’s needs, Croatia’s coach, Zlatko Dalic, made a difficult decision when he sent striker Nikola Kalinic home after their opening game in the World Cup. Kalinic had refused to go on the field in the 85th minute of the game, saying he had back pain. However, it’s believed he may have been demonstrating his displeasure for being benched in the game.

Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalic watching his players warming up before the World Cup final against France. Photo credit AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis.

Acknowledging some problems in the camp, Dalic refused to elaborate or discuss Kalinic, simply stating “…since I need my players fit and ready to play, I have made this decision.

In this example, the coach took action to preserve the team chemistry and commitment to their shared goal by removing a player who appeared to place his own wants ahead of the team. Croatia was an example of a team in which the whole was greater than the sum of its parts.

When team members understand their role as it relates to the team goal, it can assist with buy-in and commitment. In business, it has been found to be associated with greater job satisfaction.

The importance of resiliency

Researchers have established resiliency to be a characteristic demonstrated by successful athletes and teams. A British study in 2015 of a rugby union World Cup-winning team found team resilience to be supported by five main psychosocial processes: Transformational leadership, shared team leadership, team learning, social identity and positive emotions.

This was also a theme cited by soccer analysts in the 2018 World Cup — most notably when Belgium overcame a 2-0 deficit to defeat Japan in the quarter-final match. Belgium scored three goals in the final 30 minutes. Such a comeback means the players stayed focused and avoided getting down on themselves. Additionally, controlling one’s composure and providing positive feedback to teammates can further bolster the teams’ collective confidence.

Anchored in their pursuit of excellence, it is easy to see the link between sport and business. Understanding your role on a team, aligning behind a common objective and putting team goals ahead of individual needs are strategies that work on the field of play — in the boardroom.

Video gamers may soon be paid more than top pro athletes

Written by Louis-Etienne Dubois & Laurel Walzak, Ryerson University. Photo credit Ubisoft. Originally published in The Conversation.

The Finnish R6 eSports proleague team, winners of Rainbow Six Pro League Championship in Sao Paulo.

Your interest in sports may have started out as a hobby when you were just a kid. You were better at it than others, and some even said you were gifted. Maybe you had a chance to develop into a professional athlete.

Colleges would soon line up to extend full scholarships. If you pushed hard enough, practised countless hours and kept a cool head, lucrative contracts and international fame awaited.

This fantasy plays out for many North American kids who dream of “making it to the big leagues.”

Whether they play hockey, football or basketball, even the most remote possibility of turning their love of the game into a respected career is worth sacrificing for.

Enter video games.

In less than a decade, the realm of professional sport has been taken by storm by the rise of eSports (short for electronic sports). These video game events now compete with — and in some cases outperform — traditional sports leagues for live viewership and advertising dollars.

For the top eSports players, this means sponsorship contracts, endorsements, prize money and yes, global stardom.

Games on TV still command high ad dollars

This week, dozens of professional video game players will descend on Toronto during NXNE, an annual music and arts festival, to compete in different games for prizes of up to US$1,000. Not a bad payday, perhaps, but still chump change in the eSports scene.

For example, Dota 2, a popular battle arena game published by Valve, recently handed out US$20 million to its top players during its finale.

What does this mean for traditional sports? And sports TV viewership?

The lasting broadcast success of sports leagues games can be explained by the fact that they are meant to be shared happenings and are best experienced live. As such, they have been resilient to disruptions within the media landscape and somewhat spared by the advent of on-demand streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.

The ability to capture a sizeable number of “eyeballs,” long enough and at a precise time, is the reason why professional sports leagues still command huge TV rights and advertising dollars.

In the past few years, the “Big Four” North American sports leagues have all struck new deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Shifts in sports culture

Some leagues like Major League Baseball, and their once subsidiary Advanced Media division (MLBAM), have long embraced technological innovations to enhance audiences’ experience.

Meanwhile, media and telecommunication giants have been slower to catch on.

In 2016, John Skipper, then president of ESPN, referring to cable TV packages said: “We are still engaged in the most successful business model in the history of media, and see no reason to abandon it.”

This attitude, at the time, was not only symptomatic of a lag or inability to adopt technological innovations, but also raised concerns about the company’s future.

But the decline of the traditional linear broadcast, and the risk of losing relevancy in this digital, broadband and tech savvy media landscape is inevitable, and forces these media giants to question their traditional business models and to focus on online audiences.

Along with this shift, a new, popular and expansive trend for the new generation has emerged – eSports.

Whether eSports are actual sports or not is a whole other debate; however, the emergence of the global video game competition field demands attention and strategic investment.

Why eSports is doing so well

As a spectator sport, video games generate viewership at least on par with professional leagues.

Take, for instance, 2016’s League of Legends tournament that drew 36 million viewers, five million more than the NBA Finals, in front of a sellout crowd at the famous Bird Nest stadium in China.

eSports events regularly draw sellout crowds like major professional sports leagues. Photo credit Ubisoft.

eSports mimic traditional sports leagues principles: Exciting content, likeable stars, catchy team names, slow motion highlights, intense competition and an uncertain outcome.

These video games attract audiences as they are no longer simply designed to be played, but increasingly to be visually pleasing for audiences.

Age-wise, compared to traditional sports that struggle to diversify their audience demographics, eSports have successfully attracted younger viewers.

The fan base is pretty young, with 61 per cent of fans falling in the 18-34 age range. Young men, in particular, are a desirable market for many advertisers.

eSports attracts advertisers

The economic outlook for video gaming sports is staggering. According to NewZoo, eSports “on its current trajectory is estimated to reach US$1.4 billion by 2020.” And a “more optimistic scenario places revenues at US$2.4 billion.”

Companies like Red Bull, Coca-Cola and Samsung, all usual suspects when it comes to advertising and young people, are flocking to eSports.

In recent years, eSports has made efforts to monetize across traditional revenue streams, such as merchandise sales, subscriptions plans, ticket sales and broadcast rights. It is, once again, taking a page straight out traditional sports leagues’ playbook.

So, what can established leagues and media giants do? Given the choice between fighting eSports or joining them, many appear to have chosen the latter. Recall ESPN resisting change in 2016. Then fast forward to their recent strategic investments in the digital platform BAMTech, once MLB Advanced Media, in order to launch ESPN streaming services.

As a result, Disney, the 100 per cent owner of ESPN, now has a say in League of Legends streaming because its publisher Riot Games had signed a seven-year US$350 million dollar broadcast deal with BAMTech.

FIFA just partnered with Electronic Arts on a online tournament that drew 20 million players and 30 million viewers. Also hoping to create platform synergies and to reach new audiences, Amazon acquired Twitch in 2014, the leading game streaming service.

These examples show that eSports are not just popular with gamers, but also among sports leagues and media giants. Both stand to learn from each other. No wonder Activision’s CEO said that he wanted to “become the ESPN of eSports.

This popularity also opens up more opportunities to compete on the professional level and earn huge endorsements, prize money and salaries just like LeBron James, Serena Williams, Danica Patrick or Sidney Crosby.

In fact, higher education eSports programs are already launching across the country and college scholarships are now commonplace, further acknowledging the economic viability and social acceptability of this phenomenon.

And with talks of introducing eSports in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, Canada’s “Own the Podium” program may soon have to follow suit.

In any case, it turns out that our parents were wrong all along: You can stay glued to your console in the basement all day and still make it pro.