The price of principles

21052013bspalmeirasdnovacamisa130063An outspoken and fervent defender of administrative virtues like professionalism and sound financial management, it came as a bit of a surprise when Palmeiras president Paulo Nobre last week announced that he avoids setting deadlines “in order not to be held hostage to them”. A rather peculiar statement from a man coming from the financial world.

Everything in life has a deadline; the ultimate, of course, being death. Deadlines keep us focused, set priorities, have team members pull in the same direction. They also help when difficult decisions need to be made.

Nobre tries to implement certain changes (paradigm changes, even) to the economic life of S.E. Palmeiras, and there are a few principles in play. He seems to be sticking to them like glue – and they do carry strong logic – but they are also doubled-edged swords.

One of the principles is that Palmeiras might currently be weaker than we’d want to, but that the club shouldn’t ever settle for second best when it comes to revenues. The absence of a master sponsor illustrates this better than anything else, as Nobre has refused to sign anything but a major sponsorship deal. In the end, that major deal never materialized in 2013, leaving Palmeiras’ jersey clean. The principle might be dignifying, but should have been not only constantly evaluated but subject to a deadline. Comes a time when one needs to face the music, cut one’s losses. Had Palmeiras at a certain point in time accepted a sponsor a little less major, millions and millions of reais would be fortifying the club’s cash flow right now. It’s very hard to know when that certain point in time has come. A pre-established deadline certainly helps.   

Same goes for athletes who are offered a new contract with remunerated based on performance and results. Nobre s trailing new ground, at least in Brazil, but seems to be facing considerable resistance. True, the transfer market has not quite reached momentum, but fact is Palmeiras had a month’s negotiating advantage that has gone up in smoke.

Former president Belluzzo dreamt of a strong Palmeiras on the pitch, dreamt of triumphs and titles. He gambled big, he brought in expensive players. And he failed. Nobre certainly shares the same dream, but his approach is rather the opposite. Too much the opposite? Before long Nobre might need to loosen up a bit, or risk ending up with the spoils as more merited players follow the money thrown at them from elsewhere. Hardly a dream scenario in the year of the centenary, with the Paulista championship kicking off against Linense on 19 January… We have a month.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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