The bad luck of the draw

Today’s human risk lesson comes courtesy of UEFA, the European football ⚽️ association — the de facto self-appointed ‘regulator’ of the sport. Yesterday, the draws for the knockout stages of the Champions League, UEFA’s flagship competition, took place. Not once, but twice, because the first draw contained three separate errors.

Bizarrely, UEFA explained that “following a technical problem with the software of an external service provider that instructs the officials as to which teams are eligible to play each other, a material error occurred in the draw for the UEFA Champions League Round of 16”.

Reminiscent of the 2017 Oscars ceremony where the wrong envelope was handed out for the Best Movie award, this is a simple human error made on a very public stage. A few observations:

1. Blaming a service provider’s software is an utter abdication of responsibility — just because you outsource something doesn’t mean you’re not responsible. Own your sh..;

2. Using software to do basic computations — that even *I* can do — counter-intuitively can increase rather than decrease risk as it gives a false sense of comfort & we tend to assume machines can't make mistakes;

3. People may cause risk, but they can also help manage it by spotting when things go wrong if you let them. The official hosting the ceremony spotted one of the errors, but there appears to have been no protocol for that eventuality — where was the backup plan that would've prevented the need to re-run the ceremony?;

4. Unlike the Oscars, there is no element of secrecy required — the draw is the ‘reveal’ — so there's even less of an excuse to get this wrong;

5. These 'ceremonies' seem to always focus more on 'glitz' than risk management, yet what people remember is when you get it wrong, not the pointless attempts to build 'excitement'. Most people aren't watching it anyhow, so why not focus on doing the draw competently rather than putting on a pointless 'show' that will largely be watched by sports journalists?

6. When the 'off-pitch' process becomes the story, something has gone badly wrong. This was entirely preventable & no lessons seem to have been learned from mistakes at comparable events.

7. Admitting you've made a mistake is better than ignoring it. If they hadn't re-run the draw, the integrity of the competition could've been questioned.

More on the detail in the Sky Sports News report below.

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