For a sports-lover like myself, the festive period provides a feast of matches, to either watch on TV or even better, to see live.
ven when I go to see a match live — and this Christmas I got to three Leinster games in the RDS — I like to record it to watch the pre- and post-match analysis. In interviews, players or managers rarely criticise the opposing team.
The standard routine is to praise the opposition, and analyse the match and identify areas of their own game that they feel they could do better.
In the past, copies of interviews that were critical of teams were pinned to walls in changing rooms, as motivation to seek revenge for what was said. Praising the opposition is a newer strategy to avoid giving opponents extra reason to try harder next time the teams meet.
But having a go at the opposition on the airwaves and in press releases seems to be standard practice by some farm organisations. It is proving detrimental, and its only purpose is to give the impression to farmers that their organisations are fighting hard for them.
Farming is struggling to present an image of itself that appeals to the general public.
Elite sports teams spend a large amount of time before a game analysing the opposition’s strengths and weaknesses, and producing a game-plan that they think will deliver a good result.
Just as importantly, after a game, they have experts to analyse their own performance.
All players and team leaders are expected to take ownership for how they have played.
Years ago I was involved in rowing, and I trained and raced with a great bunch of people, some of whom went on to become Olympians and world medallists.
Long-term goals were established early in the season. Every session began the same way, with a discussion on what we wanted to do to make the boat faster than the previous day.
When we got off the water we discussed what worked well, what didn’t, and how to make it better the next day.
I worked as a coach a few years later, and analysis of our competitors was vital, but the key focus was always on our own performance. Even in awful weather there was never an acceptance of compromising on good technique.
If you don’t analyse your performance, you won’t improve. It’s not good enough to say previous campaigns are in the past and should be forgotten about, and move on.
If you don’t know where you went wrong or refuse to acknowledge mistakes, they’ll more than likely be repeated, and will compound the previous bad decisions.
Similarly, if you don’t analyse the competition and the challenges ahead, eventually you’ll be found out.
As the conditions change, teams need to change too, and different tactics are needed. Teams that adopt only a defensive position get beaten as they tire from wave after wave of attacks from more organised opponents.
In 2022, farming was very much on the defensive, and lacked a co-ordinated focus to find a way to get back on the front foot.
January 2023 marks the start of the implementation period of the McConalogue CAP reform, which will run until 2027. Apart from a few small tweaks, the negotiations are complete, and farmers will have to adjust to the new normal for the next five years.
Unlike the country’s top sports-people, it’s unlikely that the farm organisations will get experts in to analyse their performances, to see where they must improve.
There is a real need for farmers to be well represented, and they are paying over €20m per year to the various farm organisations.
Change is needed, and a much more modern and professional approach is required.
All farm organisations need to review how they performed in the McConalogue CAP reform process. Admittedly, no farm org is going to publish a report identifying their poor performance, but internally, they need to realise that the world of lobbying has evolved, and what worked 20 years ago will not work any more.
The McConalogue Reforms have shown that there is no longer an army of farmers willing to march into Dublin. Tractor-cades are pointless PR exercises, and Irish politicians no longer fear farmer anger.
There is also a need to identify what the many organisations’ priorities are for CAP post-2027.
Failure to establish policy priorities early on in this next CAP reform process over the next five years will see in excess of €100m of farmers’ money fail to make an impression on the future policies proposed in Brussels and Dublin.
Continuing to lobby without real policy objectives will see farming pushed again into a defensive position while other groups set the agenda.
Angus Woods is a drystock farmer in Co Wicklow
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