Welcome to Transparency International’s new ‘Corruption in Sport Initiative’

There are few people on earth that are unaware of the magnitude of sport as a global industry, with revenues larger than China’s military budget or the nominal GDP of more than two-thirds of the world’s countries. Almost all of us play a part in it as participants, spectators or tax-payers. And yet, despite its rude financial health, sport’s relevance as a symbol of fair play today hangs in the balance.

Image: Copyright, Istock / nanoqfuIn short, the management culture of sport has failed to keep pace with its growth, moving from the back to the front pages for all the wrong reasons: cash-for-votes, botched investigations into bribery allegations for major events, omertà in the face of systemic doping, spiralling costs for white elephant stadia, and the infiltration of organised crime into low-risk, high-reward match-fixing.

This blog post is part of a series
drawing on articles from the
Global Corruption Report: Sport.

The scale of these scandals, and the often dismissive responses of sports organisations, has shaken people’s trust. When the chief of world football is met by a crescendo of jeers from supporters from the Olympics to the World Cup to the Asian Cup, and he believes it is because he is a ‘star’, it is clear that there is a serious problem.

Transparency International (TI) is committed to fair play and protecting sport’s positive role, and has recently engaged on governance reform processes in FIFA and the International Cricket Council (ICC), and on match-fixing prevention programmes with European professional sports leagues. However, to date there has been little comprehensive, centralised research on the root causes of corruption across sport, from governance to major events to match-fixing and beyond, and what is to be done. Nor have the voices of key participants, from athletes to supporters to governments to sponsors, been presented side-by-side.

We are therefore very happy today to launch the Transparency International Corruption in Sport Initiative. The Initiative provides a space for new analysis, commentary and recommendations by leading voices in the field of sports governance to strengthen transparency, accountability and participation, and showcase the work of TI national chapters and the wider anti-corruption movement in tackling corruption in sport.

We begin today with a number of key framing articles that set the scene for understanding corruption in sport. These include Jean-Loup Chappelet’s (Swiss Graduate School of Public Administration) contribution on the autonomy of sport and government oversight as “necessary bedfellows in the fight against corruption”, Roger Pielke’s (University of Colorado) introduction to understanding sports governance and Martin Müller’s (University of Zurich) introduction to the role of major events (usually built on mega-promises with mini-outcomes). Kevin Carpenter (Hill Dickinson LLP) asks why countries have taken so long to act on match-fixing, while Sylvia Schenk (TI Germany) then sets out how the anti-corruption movement can effectively lend its expertise to the traditionally inward-looking ‘sports family’ by mapping the experience of TI Germany as a leading TI chapter on sports corruption.

The Initiative is also supported by a high-level Expert Advisory Panel, and contributors from a range of organisations and institutions. In an interview, Advisory Panel member and International Director of Play the Game Jens Sejer Andersen discusses how corruption in sport and sports governance became a hot topic.

We hope that you enjoy this first iteration of the Corruption in Sport Initiative. We will be regularly rolling out new content linked to sporting events, and we would encourage you to join our mailing list for updates and new additions. As this is a work in progress, comments and suggestions for improvements are also warmly welcomed!

The final content of the Initiative will be compiled and updated as part of TI’s next Global Corruption Report: Sport.

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