In a recent European Parliament Culture and Education Committee hearing, “Playing by the rules: financial fair play and the fight against corruption in sport”, MEPs and experts debated the growing levels of debt among sports clubs, recent corruption cases and possible remedies.
The experts unanimously agreed that the EU should take the lead in promoting transparency and stepping up the fight against corruption, match fixing and betting, which are now serious problems not just in Europe, but worldwide.
The unrivalled success of sport as a global entertainment industry has come at a high price. The old amateur structures have not been able to defend the best interests of sport against an invasion of people who use sport as a vehicle for fast, unethical and sometimes illegal business practices. The most high-profile scandal is undoubtedly the International Sports and Media Marketing (ISL) and FIFA case, but during this hearing there were many more examples from across the world of sport; from volleyball to cricket.
In his presentation Jens Sejer Andersen, International Director, Play the Game, and organisation that campaigns for good governance in sport, made some very interesting recommendations. Here they are below:
1) It is your right and duty to protect tax-payers’ money. Sport is receiving massive public subsidies at all levels, from support to grass-root activities and local sports facilities, to investment in bidding campaigns for big events, grants to Olympic athletes, elite sport structures etc. Governments and other public authorities are entitled to set the necessary conditions to ensure not only that these grants are used exclusively for their purpose, but also that the beneficiaries live up to certain standards for democracy and transparency.
2) At the European level, you can uphold a permanent pressure on the European and international sports organisations, demanding that the ISL affair, the World Cup bribery allegations, the volleyball scandal and other major affairs are fully investigated, errors corrected and cases of possible criminal conduct taken to the courts.
3) You can define standards of governance for those sports organisations which seek formal cooperation with the European Union. Such work has already begun in the framework of the Expert Group of Good Governance in Sport established by the Council of Ministers, as well as in a number the Preparatory Actions financed by the Commission. One of these actions is run by Play the Game and the Danish Institute for Sports Studies and entitled Action for Good Governance in International Sports Organisations, in cooperation with six European universities and the European Journalism Centre. We will present an open tool to measure standards of governance in sport in April, and we invite you to join the launch event.
I think that those would be good first steps towards making sport more accountable across the world.