by Gerard Walz

The rules for running a business are many and varied. They have been formulated over time and designed to help protect the players – business owners, employees, suppliers, customers et al. They get twisted, they get changed or even interpreted given the specific times and they are used to keep business owners, employees, suppliers, customers etc “in line”.

A Cricket Test between antipodean Australia and the imperialist England was played at The Oval in 1882. It was The Test that spawned the legend of the fabled Ashes. It was the 1st Test that Australia had won on English soil, five years after Australia won the 1st Test between the two Nations in Melbourne in 1877, by 45 runs.

During The Oval Test, the legendary Dr WG Grace, (reputed to have once told a young bowler, “They didn’t come to see you bowl, lad. They are here to see me bat”), against the precepts of the Preamble to the Laws of Cricket, displayed quite ungentlemanly behaviour. He ran out, in very dubious circumstances, the young Australian debutant Sammy Jones, apparently by hiding the ball under his flowing beard. While young Jones went about “gardening” the pitch in the belief the ball was “dead”, had stepped outside the crease, and Dr Grace promptly removed the bails, with the ball, at the non-striker’s end and appealed to the umpire, who promptly gave Jones “Out”. (No English umpire who wished to continue umpiring would have given Jones “Not Out”, such was Dr Grace’s influence). Fred “The Demon” Spofforth, the Great Great Great Grandfather of Australian Fast Bowlers, exploded, marching into the English dressing rooms and advised Dr Grace, in very erudite Australian language, that his behaviour and observance of the Laws of the Game were not acceptable. The Demon returned to the Australian dressing rooms and uttered just five words, “This Thing Can Be Done”. He promptly went out and cleaned up the hapless Poms taking 7-44 off 28 overs to steer the Australians home to an eight-run victory.

“The Sporting Times” newspaper reported the following obituary on 2nd September 1882: “In Affectionate Remembrance of ENGLISH CRICKET which died at the Oval on 29 August 1882, deeply lamented by a large circle of sorrowing friends and acquaintances.

N.B. – The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia.”

It was front-page News. It was calamitous News. The Rules, NO, the Laws of the Game had been twisted by a person with a massive ego, but no one saw that the Laws had been twisted, all that was seen was that Game had been lost. No one reported that Dr Grace had twisted the Laws to suit himself and his desire to win. Sure, there was plenty of vitriol by the legendary English Press, (oh dear, NOTHING has changed since, has it?), but the players were savaged, not Dr Grace, much less the Australians being acknowledged for their victory.  He wasn’t singled out for attention, it’s probably fortunate that smartphones with cameras were still 130+ years from invention.

Twisting the Laws to suit one’s purposes has always been happening. The case law and tomes and tomes and tomes and…of legislation written over the eons of time are testament to that. The original Income Tax assessment Act 1936 in Australia was 138 pages long.

Now, its 1997 iteration is a forest-killer. Yes, it now incorporates international trading and tax treaties and necessarily so, as World Trade has grown and the Global Village has gotten smaller and communications are now instantaneous and can now be done via wrist watches, Dick Tracy would be well pleased. But for Control’s Agent 86, sadly, the shoe-phone never did take off as particularly functional, although we did have “bricks” for a while. But it is basically the disrespect of the spirit of the Law (vis a vis the Preamble of the Laws of Cricket) that has caused the plethora of verbiage trying to specifically define what-is-what in the legislation.

Don’t start me on the Corporations legislation. But here it goes, the Companies Act 1961 started out as an Act of 383 sections and 80 odd pages of “schedules”. The present Corporations Law of 2001 is best described as enormous.


Now, I understand that, like the Tax legislation, there have been big changes/developments/growth, call it what you will, in international trading and ownership of companies and Stock Exchanges in every corner of our World, regardless of political persuasion, as World Trade has grown and the Global Village has gotten smaller and communications are now instantaneous and now done via wrist watches…. but, if I can paraphrase a “sage”: “But it is basically the disrespect of the spirit of the Law (vis a vis the Preamble of the Laws of Cricket) that has caused the plethora of verbiage trying to specifically define what-is-what in the legislation.”

For goodness’ sake, there are now even more rules about the political football of superannuation – we have had “choice” for years, we have been told to consolidate our funds for years, but now there is more instruction about…. Yep, fund choice, now involving the ATO into fund choice and fund consolidation. Seriously, in about 1974, the Coalition in Opposition researched the pensioner/employed persons-ratio and found it was then 1 in 25 (or so) and they extrapolated it to the early 2000s and found it would be something in the order of 1 in 4. They figured that something needed to be done, BUT, did nothing significant other than give employees a token ofrare  $3,000 maximum tax-deductible contribution allowance. It took the RJL Hawke led Labour Party to actually enact compulsory superannuation contribution (now Super Guarantee Contribution) in 1991. How many changes can you think of since then that Superannuation legislation has gone through?

A part of the complexity of the Laws we have are as a result of the twisting the Laws and Rules and Regulations, much like Dr Grace. Our own “doctor” the late Kerry Packer, epitomises the Australian way, when he was quoted as saying in 1999 in his tax case “I pay whatever tax I’m required to pay under the law. Not a penny more, not a penny less.” Mr Packer was in the fortunate position of having plenty of money (mostly tax deductible, too) to throw at his tax issues and his attitude toward Laws and their “Preambles”.

I digress, the thing of business can be done, just as Fred Spofforth did 142 years ago. He played the game hard but fair and within the precepts of the Laws of the Game. The Laws of Cricket, all 42 of them, have basically survived 279 years since their inception in 1744. The first amendment was in 1774 when the maximum width of the bat, the forever controversial LBW law and a third stump were implemented. There have been a number (8) of changes over the years, “tweaking” the Laws (the clarifying of the infamous “Mankad” dismissal being the latest), however, fundamentally the 42 Laws of the Game have not turned into tomes of changes to take the “twisting” of the Laws into account. Certainly, “innovations” like the DRS (Decision Review System) have been implemented at the elite level of the Game where technology is imposed on the game and much more is at stake (i.e. professional livelihoods), but they only apply the Laws of the Game to the “decision” even though their very use is contrary to the preamble of the Laws of the Game, where players are required to “accept the umpire’s decision”.

If the rules are applied properly and fairly and in the spirit of their intent, business owners, employees, suppliers, customers et al can be successful, can prosper and contribute to the bigger Game of Life that we all play in.

“This Thing Can Be Done”

Over Bowled

Gerard is a Senior Consultant at Condon Advisory Group with over 40 years experience in Business Advisory and Management Accounting and CFO.