Department of Law, Uppsala University
Restoring Trust in Sport is an anthology, containing 14 chapters written by 24 contributors. The editor, Catherine Ordway, has seemingly pulled a hefty weight as she has her name to five chapters, including the introductory first chapter and the concluding last. The authors represent a variety of backgrounds, there are practitioners and academicians, both senior and more junior. The introduction makes a point of the authors forming an international and interdisciplinary cadre, but a little less than half of the authors are based in Australia. The approach is nevertheless international, and most continents are represented by at least one author (South America being the exemption, and one author based in the US with a PhD from UK).
The starting point for the studies is what is called the transdisciplinary approach, applied on a variety of case studies. The studies are divided into two parts, “International responses” (4 studies) and “National responses” (8 studies), with two introductory chapters. The case studies are each representing a certain scandal, supposedly causing harm to the trust in sport. As the title indicates, the anthology consists of case studies on corruption in sports, and suggested solutions to improve things. The cases are collected from all around the world, and from a variety of sports. According to the transdisciplinary approach, the studies are supposed to be structured after a certain line of questions: What was the wrongdoing? How did that impact on trust? What was the response from the responsible authority/sport organization in attempting to ‘restore trust’? Did it go far enough? Are there other recommendations going forward?
The first question is a legal question, whereas the second and third are empirical. The fourth question is in a way the most important, in that it aims at the purpose of the book, to come up with a solution to regain trust. It also encapsulates the presumptions of the project, that trust is important for sports and that it’s lost through scandals or wrongdoing. Trust is defined, alongside corruption (the occurrence of corruption in sport is analyzed in an own chapter prior to the studies).
That sport is regarded as important is obvious though, the very first sentence in the foreword states that “Sport is a microcosm of society”, and later on the thought of sport being reduced to merely entertainment is rejected.
That sport is regarded as important is obvious though, the very first sentence in the foreword states that “Sport is a microcosm of society”, and later on the thought of sport being reduced to merely entertainment is rejected. The presumption that trust is harmed by scandals and that it can be restored is not discussed in itself in the introducing chapter (dealing with the method of the project), but it is nuanced in the concluding chapter (relating to the Covid-19 pandemic). Still, the starting point could very well be discussed, and is so in the chapter investigating a match fixing scandal in sumo. It gives rise to the thought that trust in fair competition is really only important in sport if sport is the object of gambling or other financial interests – which in turn seems to lead to the somewhat disturbing effect that trust is only important in relation to a phenomenon threatening it.
It could very well be argued that development and pushing boundaries is an integral part of sport just as much as trust and fairness – thus, “wrongdoing” cannot be measured without taking development over time into account. Anyhow, the presumption is part of the project, and it is not altogether fair to criticize something for what it is not. Moreover, even if sport is nothing but entertainment, the strive for fairness is in the very notion of that form of entertainment. We know that corruption, doping, and cheating is ever existing in the circus of sports – but it is not part of the game, and it must be contested (I do think that the remark that we now no longer are naïve and thus know that corruption in sport exists in itself may be a little naïve). Restoring Trust in Sport fits well into that ambition, at a somewhat academic level (while the contributions still give valuable insights into the practices at different levels). It is of course more of a starting point (this is not the even the end of the beginning…) and, in the concluding chapter the editor list quite an extensive list of topics for future research to be done in order to restore and uphold trust.
The project sets out in an ambitious manner, and the ambition is followed up in the studies. Many of them are co-authored, and they have extensive reference lists. Many of the references are internet sources, which of course is fine and gives a certain accessibility to the material that would not have been the same if books must be ordered (it is not very likely that most readers, at least not from Nordic countries, would find much of the references at the local library). As is often the case with anthologies, it may be that some chapters are read in more detail and with greater interest than others. It is, however, probably more due to personal preferences on the reader’s side than on quality of the chapters in question. Moreover, that it lends itself to be read in a pick-and-choose manner is a strength of the form of the anthology as opposed to a monography. As an anthology, it still strives for unity. Not only the method used is common (even though different authors allow themselves freedom in relation to it), each study sets to answer a list of question. They are, however, not the same as listed above, which may be a little confusing. These questions are listed in a grey box at the end of each chapter and give an impression of the contributions being reports from a questionnaire rather than essays presenting results of individual studies. As the latter seems more in line with the actual content of the chapters, the grey boxes could just as well have been left out altogether.
Well, if the critique in a review of a book is directed at the unnecessary presence of grey boxes, it is probably a good book. And it is; it is ambitious, the chapters are well written, and it is an ever-urgent topic. As I write this, there is not only Olympic Games coming up, but also a match-fixing case in Swedish football being handled in the penal court system. A then top-league player in Sweden was convicted in the court of appeal for deliberately taking a yellow card in a game, an act for which he according to the prosecutor had received a certain amount of money. The player has also been banned for four years from football by the FIFA. The player has appealed to the High court, where the case is pending. Whether or not a conviction is relevant for loosing or restoring trust in sport may be debatable – and for that debate, Restoring Trust in Sport could serve as a useful source of knowledge and inspiration.
Copyright © Mikael Hansson 2022
Table of Content
Part I: International responses
Part II: National responses