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The Royal Dutch Rowing Federation (KNRB) (A): Corporate Governance for Competitive Performance of Dutch Rowing

Published 08 Sep 2021
Reference 6441
Industry Sports
Region Global
Summary

The case series presents the governance and leadership challenges and opportunities the Royal Dutch Rowing Federation (Koninklijke Nederlandse Roei Bond, or KNRB for short), which is a not-for-profit top sports federation. The series presents eight years of the KNRB’s history starting with the aftermath of the Bejing 2008 Olympics, then reviews the preparation to the London 2012 Olympics and concludes with the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympics. The much improved results obtained by the rowers in Rio confirm that, by that time, the KNRB was back to effective functioning and great performance. A detailed account of how an organizational turnaround is led by the board, let alone by the board of a major sports federation, is rare. Given the problems faced by major sports federations over the last decades the case shows that these problems indeed have their roots in governance failure.

Teaching objectives

The series demonstrates that the relative decline of Dutch rowing ultimately was the consequence of ineffective governance conditions within the KNRB and its Board. It also describes the significant challenges faced in halting the decline. Performance in a top sports federation is straightforward to measure: the athletes’ performance at the major competitions is an unusually objective benchmark. The case series narrates the experience and governance contribution of one of the rowing federation’s leaders, Frans Cornelis, a passionate rower and senior executive at one of Holland’s iconic companies (Randstad). His professional and personal achievements lead him to join the KNRB Board of Directors with responsibility for Sponsoring. Through a dramatic turn of events, he eventually becomes Chair and is tasked with turning around the KNRB. The case series presents and allows a discussion of the turnaround he led as Chairman of the Board. It shows how a board can be a transformational force for the organization it oversees.

Keywords
  • Corporate Governance
  • Sports Industry
  • Not-for-Profit Association
  • Royal Dutch Rowing Federation (KNRB)
  • Board of Directors
  • Supervisory Board
  • Board Dynamics
  • Organisational Performance
  • Board-led Corporate Transformation
  • Board Chairmanship
  • Q32021