Sports Governance Observer: A new tool against corruption in sport



Sports organisations who want to curb corruption and mismanagement in their own ranks, will soon have a tool developed by experts at their hand: The Sports Governance Observer.

At a seminar attended by over 100 sports organisation leaders and experts in Brussels on April 8, the Sports Governance Observer was launched by a group of experts from six European universities coordinated by the Danish-based sports democracy campaigners Play the Game.

The Sports Governance Observer is a measurement tool by which anyone with basic insight into his or her own sports federation can check the performance of the organisation within four dimensions: Transparency, democratic processes, checks & balances and solidarity.

“Better governance in sport is essential if the sports organisations are to be taken seriously in the fight against the many forms of cheating and corruption that are surfacing these years, and if they are to be trusted as promoters of positive social and educational values for our youth,” says Jens Sejer Andersen, international director of Play the Game and coordinator of the Action for Good Governance in International Sports Organisations (AGGIS).

Over the coming months the tool will be refined, and the first complete survey based on the Sports Governance Observer is to be launched at the 8th international Play the Game conference in Aarhus, Denmark, from 28-31 October 2013.

AGGIS is carried out by the universities of Loughborough, Leuven, Utrecht, Cologne, Ljubljana and Lausanne as well as the European Journalism Centre. The group has worked on the new tool and an extensive report on sports governance since early 2012 and is co-financed by the Sports Unit under the European Commission.

A test survey carried out by AGGIS among 35 international federations governing Olympic sports based on 2012 data showed among other things:

• Only 3 of the 35 surveyed international sports organisations (9 pct.) have a truly independent ethics committee. Only one of these committees have a clear mandate to carry out independent investigations

• Most sports federations have elite athlete representation. 28 organisations (80 pct.) have an athlete’s commission, but only 4 (11 pct.) have a seat for athletes on their organisation’s board.

• With regard to executive body members, there is preponderance of male officials. Only 12 pct. of the executive members of all international sports organisations are female. 15 of the 35 analysed organisations (43 pct.) do not have female representatives within the executive body and only three organisations (9 pct.) have a female president.

• Only 8 out of 35 organisations (23 pct.) have regulations regarding the number of terms allowed in office. A federation president stays in office for an average of 14 years.

At Play the Game’s seminar today, four similar projects presented their contributions to better governance in sport, and it was welcomed that also representatives of the Olympic movement and the international federations took part in the debate.

“Corruption and undemocratic governance are such widespread problems in sport, that no organisation can handle it alone. It is important that as many stakeholders and different points of view as possible are engaged. Public pressure and internal reflection must go hand in hand to bring about the necessary changes in the sport,” Jens Sejer Andersen says.

The new tool, the full report and expert video interviews can be found at

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