Lee Germon says cricket has a problem, and it’s because of guys that look like him. But that’s changing because of passionate people, like him.
HRM spoke to Lee Germon, fromer New Zealand cricket captain and current Cricket NSW CEO, about combating racism in sport and his goal to improve inclusion in one of Australia’s favourite past times.
Germon will be taking part in a panel at AHRI’s Diversity and Inclusion conference, and has seen first-hand how racism in sport has impacted players and spectators alike. Throughout his career he’s learned a lot about how organisations can create culturally inclusive environments, and how taking a deliberate approach can lead to success.
Hear more from Lee Germon and leading D&I experts, such as former Socceroos captain Craig Foster, about combating racism in sport at AHRI’s Diversity and Inclusion Conference on 21 May in Sydney.
A wide world of sport
After retiring from cricket in the late 90s, Germon moved into the corporate sector and later into the professional sports industry.
“My first real leadership role was when I stepped into the CEO role for Tasman Rugby Union,” says Germon.
“I think my most eye-opening experience was seeing integration of cultures in rugby and how that was very natural, compared to cricket where it almost doesn’t occur.”
Germon believes part of this is because of the diversity at the top of the rugby world, whereas in cricket, the majority of the CEOs were white men.
In his time running the Tasman team, Germon learnt a lot about different cultures, particularly working with Polynesian players.
“For example, when I was negotiating a contract with, say, a player from Tonga, the price that we ended up agreeing on was not the amount of money that he was getting because often he would send money back home.
“So a player being paid $100,000 a year might only see $30,000, because he was looking after his family as the main earner. Examples like that helped me widen my cultural awareness.”
In 2017, Germon was appointed general manager of the Sydney Thunder cricket team, relocating to Australia and settling in the cultural melting pot that is Western Sydney. However, he was surprised at the lack of recognition of First Nations people in Australia.
“One thing I really struggled with here was almost a non-acceptance of the importance and the relevance of Indigenous people, especially being the oldest living civilization in the world.
“I think it has improved in the last four years, but it still amazes me how unaccepting parts of Australia can be.”
“I think it has improved in the last four years, but it still amazes me how unaccepting parts of Australia can be.” Lee Germon, Cricket NSW CEO
Nothing happens by chance
Within two years of coming to Australia, Germon was appointed as CEO at Cricket NSW, where he set to work expanding the sport’s diversity and inclusion initiatives.
He says his success in bringing in new initiatives, such as the 2019 announcement to improve inclusion of transgender and gender-diverse players, is only possible because of the motivated people within his organisation.
“There’s always this [argument] around how strong a point sporting associations or organisations should make in terms of societal issues. But the one thing I know we can do is make our sport as inclusive as possible.”
Germon says previous inclusion initiatives have often failed because of an organisation’s attempt to copy over policies that worked for one group.
“We need to offer bespoke opportunities for each group. What may have worked for the men’s cricket team can’t just be replicated for women. We need to look at what they need.”
He recommends taking a deliberate approach to diversity and inclusion, particularly when you’re in an environment that hasn’t traditionally been seen as welcoming to people from culturally diverse backgrounds.
“We haven’t really hit that natural cohesion in cricket, so we need to be deliberate, we need to plan it. It’s about [taking a] long-term view.”
“I think the reason cricket hasn’t attracted more multicultural players in Australia is because the administrators have all been white men. There hasn’t been a deliberate inclusivity approach until recently.”
According to Germon, taking a deliberate approach means putting diversity and inclusion at the top of the agenda. It should be raised at board meetings and plans should be communicated to all employees.
“Basically from top to bottom, all the way through, there should be this acceptance that you have a responsibility for inclusiveness. Whether you’re a corporate citizen or a sporting citizen, you need to work at it.”
Putting words into action
Cricket NSW is currently finalising its reconciliation action plan (RAP), and Germon says the entire process has been a learning experience.
The RAP has identified a number of ways Cricket NSW can improve its recognition of Indigenous and Torres Strait Island people but Germon’s not afraid of the challenge ahead.
Read HRM’s guide to building a RAP here
“I think what this has really shown me is that we have got such wonderful opportunities. We’ve got a list of key actions out of the reconciliation plan to really help get us going.”
“We’ve got people from across all areas of Cricket NSW working together on a common objective, which is so strongly aligned with the purpose of inspiring everyone to play cricket.”
At the end of the day that’s why Germon does what he does – for the love of the sport.
“It’s not about inspiring just this person or that person. For me, it’s about general inclusiveness. It’s making everyone feel welcome in our sport.”