On March 24, 2018, at Newlands field in South Africa, Australian cricketer Cameron Bancroft was captured on camera tampering with the match ball with a piece of sandpaper in the middle of a test match.

It later emerged that the Australian team captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner were complicit in the plan. The cheating was a clear breach of the rules of the game – and the global reaction to Bancroft’s act was explosive.  International media seized on the story as commentators sought to unpack cricket’s arcane rules and its code of good sportsmanship.  From backyard barbeques to current and former prime ministers, everyone had an opinion on the story.

For the players involved, retribution was swift.  Smith and Warner received 12-month suspensions from Cricket Australia, whilst Bancroft received a nine-month suspension.  The coach of the Australian team, Darren Lehman, quit his post before he had even left South Africa.

But it didn’t stop there.  Within nine months, Cricket Australia lost four board directors – Bob Every, Chairman David Peever, Tony Harrison and former test cricket captain Mark Taylor – and saw the resignation of longstanding CEO James Sutherland as well as two of his most senior executives, Ben Amarfio and Pat Howard.

So, what happened between March and November?  How did an ill-advised action on the part of a sportsman on the other side of the world lead to this spectacular implosion in the leadership ranks of a $400 million organisation?

The answer lies in the idea of “organisational culture,” and an independent review of the culture and governance of Cricket Australia by our organisation – The Ethics Centre.

Cricket Australia sits at the centre of a complex ecosystem that includes professional contract players, state and territory associations, amateur players (including many thousands of school children), broadcasters, sponsors, fans and hundreds of full-time staff.  As such, the organisation carries responsibility for the success of our national teams, the popularity of the sport and the financial stability of the organisation.

In the aftermath of the Newland’s incident, many wanted to know whether the culture of Cricket Australia had in some way encouraged or sanctioned such a flagrant breach of the sport’s rules and codes of conduct.

Our Everest process was employed to measure Cricket Australia’s culture, by seeking to identify the gaps between the organisations “ethical framework” (its purpose, values and principles) and it’s lived behaviours.

We spoke at length with board members, current and former test cricketers, administrators and sponsors. We extensively reviewed policies, player and executive remuneration, ethical frameworks and codes of conduct.

Our final report, A Matter of Balance – which Cricket Australia chose to make public – ran to 147 pages and contained 42 detailed recommendations. Our key finding was that a focus on winning had led to the erosion of the organisation’s culture and a neglect of some important values. Aspects of Cricket Australia’s player management had served to encourage negative behaviours.

It was clear, with the release of the report, that many things needed to change at Cricket Australia. And change they did.

Cricket Australia committed to enacting 41 of the 42 recommendations made in the report.

In a recent cover story in Company Director magazine – a detailed examination of the way Cricket Australia responded in the aftermath of The Ethics Centre’s report – Cricket Australia’s new chairman Earl Eddings has this to say:

“With culture, it’s something you’ve got to keep working at, keep your eye on, keep nurturing. It’s not: we’ve done the ethics report, so now we’re right.”

Now, one year after the release of The Ethics Centre’s report, the culture of Cricket Australia is making a strong recovery. At the same time as our men’s team are rapidly regaining their mojo (it’s probably worth noting that our women’s team never lost it – but that’s another story).