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(Limited) Human Resources

An article penned in the Financial Times this week took a closer look at “probably the most thankless” of all management jobs in business.

Perhaps this will come as no surprise to many, but the group that author Stefan Stern is talking about are the often-maligned professionals in human resources.

HR are supposed to be “the bridge between senior leaders and rank-and-file staff, but often end up receiving flak from both,” points out Stern, author of management book How to Be a Better Leader and a visiting professor at the University of London’s Bayes Business School.

Their central position between two sometimes conflicting sides has led to serious discontent among HR professionals, according to the article, with several recent surveys pointing to “high levels of burnout and unhappiness within the profession.”

While employees often think of HR as nothing more than a shield to protect a firm’s upper management, those at the top become equally disgruntled any time the department has to get involved in relations between management and staff.

Part of the problem, according to professor of organisational psychology Rob Briner, is that HR has been too easily swayed by “fads or flimsy ideas” in recent years.

“People are cynical about HR and management because they keep being asked to do stuff, and then five years later they are told to do the opposite, and five years later told to do the opposite again,” he says. 

That leads employees – sometimes justifiably – to come to the conclusion that those in HR don’t know what they’re doing.

So what is the solution to this age-old question?

“A good place to start would be to focus on more effective interventions that will be appreciated, and noticed, by the organisation,” the article suggests, by focusing on what the problem is to the business and how it can best be resolved.

While that might sound obvious, there are plenty of real-world examples where such changes have helped to make staff and management alike much happier in their work.

Readers – especially those working in HR – are encouraged to view this article in full to see how the profession can save itself… from itself.

Not so lucky now

A story in the Irish News this week showed us how punters in the Republic of Ireland have responded to the prospect of particularly strict betting limits being introduced.

When Ireland finally launches its regulated online gambling market, part of the regulation introduced could include a stake cap of €10 on all game types, as well as a cap on winnings set at €3,000, according to the article.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, gamblers south of the border are less than thrilled with the prospect, with as many as three quarters suggesting they would seek out alternative forms of betting if the caps were introduced, according to a survey conducted on behalf of Lottoland.

The rules could therefore “push punters across the border into Northern Ireland to place bets,” according to the article, although it seems likelier many would simply place their bets with offshore operators from the comfort of their own homes.

And according to industry stakeholders, that could be a dangerous prospect.

“New measures look set to undermine the stated objective of harm prevention in the new Gambling Regulation Bill and will only lead to the proliferation of black-market gambling, with punters flocking to Northern Ireland to avoid the win caps,” said VP of Lottoland UK and Ireland, Mike Kirwan.

While his company has been calling for greater regulatory oversight of gambling in Ireland for some time, Kirwan said he believes the “arbitrary stake and win caps” would not properly address the dangers of problem gambling.

Of those surveyed about the possible changes, 60% said they disagreed with or were unsure about the introduction of caps.

With a similar story already playing out for online slots in Germany and now the UK, how many more European jurisdictions will we see consider these kinds of measures in the future?

Trouble Down Under

The Guardian this week brought us the details of a debate raging Down Under, on whether a streaming service offering Premier League games to Australians is breaking local gambling laws.

The problem arises from pitchside advertisements for gambling firms appearing across English stadiums, as showing advertising for unlicensed operators is prohibited in Australia.

That was the root of a complaint made to media watchdog the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) against streaming service Optus Sport, which owns the rights to broadcast Premier League matches in the country.

Investigative journalist Jack Kerr made the complaint, alleging that “gambling ads featured in every single minute of a Premier League match between Aston Villa and Manchester City broadcast in December.”

In theory, that is prohibited in Australia, however there is an exemption in the law if the ads appear as “an accidental or incidental accompaniment to the publication of other matter”.

As the main event are the EPL matches themselves, then, it can be argued that streaming firms should have the right to broadcast those matches in Australia, even if gambling ads can be seen throughout.

“These ads are neither incidental nor accidental,” Kerr argued, however. 

“Their prominence clearly demonstrates this. Doubledecker digital billboards that wrap around the venue and which promote a product that Australians can access cannot be considered as ‘incidental’; they are there to grab viewers’ attention and lure them in.”

In Optus’ defence, the streaming firm pointed out that sports rights agreements usually require services to transmit the original feeds in full, without editing.

That means the service has no choice but to show the ads, rather than replacing ads from gambling firms with virtual advertising or another solution.

The case has yet to be ruled on by ACMA, but many in the gambling and sports media sectors will be watching this one very closely. 

If the result goes against the streaming firm and its rights to broadcast British football are brought into question, there could be a lot more complaints where this one came from.

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