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Posts Tagged ‘Craig Walsh’

Assessing the value of a sport – example: Penrith Panthers.

In General Mish-Mash on February 29, 2012 at 2:47 pm

How do you measure the value of the game, the team, the club … what do they really bring to their community? Once you measure it, how do you illustrate it, what words describe it, how do you get others to believe in it?

These are questions we asked ourselves regularly.

The first response to such an inquiry is often to look towards the bean-counters for answers, sometimes it is suggested that it is a question of brand value and it’s discoverable through market (or marketing) research. Once an answer is found (if it is), it is handed to communicators and marketers to get others to buy into the equation.

Overwhelmingly those asking this question about value seek answers that are numeric, easily understood, and easily sold.

But I remember watching Ryan Girdler signing autographs one day.

An hour after all the players had left he still had a queue in front of him. He stayed until the last person. Every single person on that queue was given the attention they needed to feel special. The very last person was a little boy … and when his poster was signed, Ryan took off his cap, patted him on the shoulder and said, “Would you like my cap? It’s yours!” . 

The look on that boy’s face was priceless … and so was the look of satisfaction that Ryan had. It was simple thing, a brief, shared moment – paying homage and respect to the effort they had each put in. A timeless moment, expressing something far too complex and precious to be assessed using the methodology of accountants or auditors. (Ryan may have forgotten that moment as he had many of these moments, I doubt the boy has, and it is indelibly stamped in my memory.)

In 2008, we decided to take a different approach to this perplexing question of assessing and expressing the value of our game, club.

We handed the question over to an artist! About as distant from econometrics as you can get.

Why? Well, artists historically have been about expressing value and values in unique and often confronting ways, ways that either engage or challenge or both. We wanted both – engagement and to have our paradigms challenged. (Well, I wanted that challenge for us … )

Craig Walsh was the artist selected for this project. The following notes on value were written for the exhibition of Craig’s work. The work was called Heads Up. To take a look at some of the images, view the promotional video, and hear the artist talk about the work – click here – or click on the image below  new window will open).

This photo gives you an idea of the scale of the images created … and further below is the article on the Panthers written for the exhibition:

An idea of scale - there were 17 images of this size in the exhibition.

VALUE? WHAT IS IT, WHERE DO WE FIND IT, AND HOW DO WE MEASURE IT?

The general practice, when questions of value arise, is to hand over to some sort of assessor whose fundamental metric is symbolised by the dollar sign.

Measuring the value of the Penrith Panthers Rugby League team in our community is the launching point for this work.

We have handed over to an artist!

The financial impact of our game, our club, and our team on our community is an important measure. Its importance sometimes masks a lack of depth and dimension. It is desperately inadequate for assessing the real value of anything.

Even modern accountancy’s “triple bottom line” cannot give a rounded and complete picture. This is true even for the most discrete and simple activity, let alone the game of Rugby League … or a Rugby League game!

To truly measure value we need to extend out palette beyond the red and black inks of the ledger. The assessment tools and indicators we use need to exist beyond the shadows cast by financial symbols.

What if, during a game, we monitored fans and measured the changes in heart rate, the drip rate of beads of sweat, the rate of flow of tears, the glances of unspoken camaraderie, the grieving time (this is being written after a big loss) or emotional altitude reached in celebration of an important win?

Can we measure the depth of admiration in the eyes of the young autograph-hunting fan … or the extent to which that look increases the sense of self-esteem and responsibility in the young, rookie player. Indeed, even in the “old” hard-heads on the verge of retirement and those already confined to play their game through legendary tales.

At Penrith Panthers what sort of emotional thermometer is applied to our players, administrators and educators alike when they witness the graduation ceremony of students in the Panthers on the Prowl program? We can count the number of young children who earn their membership of The Prowling Panthers fraternity. We should be able to collect and weigh the tears of joy from proud parents and the decibels emitted by the sighs from grateful teachers. These are far more valuable than the result on the screen of any imaginable calculator.

This work by Craig Walsh measures the value of our game in ways that have not been attempted before. There is certainly evidence of that stoic Aussie mask, filtering the raw emotion, camouflaging the vulnerable and uncut treasure.

Craig has found a transparency, allowing us all to enter and count for ourselves the jewels in each of these images and each of these individuals.

The scars, the pores, the imperfections, the eyes, the discolouration, the emotion, the entire collection of minutiae evident in Heads Up are all measures of the impact of the players on each other, and they allow us to project as to the impact of both the players and the game on the community.

(By the way, by “players” I mean those players who take the field and those players who take their places in grandstands and on the hills of the stadium.)

These images have an infinite number of dimensions and potential interpretations. They cannot be reduced to caricatures, they are not images of super-heroes nor are they stereotypes representing a particular class or region.

They are human. Exceptionally high in value and warranting attention.

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