Thursday, 1 December 2011

CASE 366 - The business and corruption of sports

If sport was a largely informal affair a century ago, it has morphed into a full-fledged industry with merchandise, huge sponsorship and TV deals and huge salaries – total costs, including infrastructure, of the 2006 World Cup in Germany are estimated at upwards of € 6 billion. With such increasingly huge sums in play, whether in terms merchandising, sponsorship, betting or athlete salaries, the seduction of and vulnerability to corrupt behaviour has grown. The sport world has responded slowly and, to date, inadequately. It is as serious a threat as doping; only it has the potential to inflict much greater damage on the sport world and the communities, representing billions of people globally, that support it.

Football scandals in Germany, Brazil, Italy, Belgium and China are evidence that the problem is real and it is global. This means that international sports associations such as FIFA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) must lead the way in terms of systematic enforcement of a zero-tolerance policy on corruption.

FIFA is currently trumpeting the introduction of an Ethics Commission as well as the creation of a commercial firm called Early Warning System designed to detect irregularities in game scoring. These are laudable efforts, but the phenomenon runs deeper than match-fixing. There is a need to address the conflicts of interest that are part and parcel of a familial network of athletic officials that spans the globe. While statements have been made and ethical codes adopted, what is missing is rigorous enforcement and follow-through, including the systematic ejection of tainted officials.

The issue of corruption in sport is more visible in Switzerland as it hosts about 30 per cent of international sport associations, including FIFA, the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), and the IOC. While the problem has many facets, TI Switzerland has chosen to focus its attention on the transfer of players. Based on its findings and on the Independent European Football Review, which defines the parameters of a European Union sport policy, the chapter is organising a roundtable with representatives from FIFA, UEFA, athletic agents, team managers, sport lawyers and players themselves to advance the dialogue on reducing corruption in sport.

Also check out - CASE 144 -The Dark Side of FIFA & The IOC

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