Dec 19, 2019

Good Governance in The Sports Industry | Oluwatobiloba Adesemowo

Bad governance has been a major setback which has affected major corporations and organizations from accomplishing their potential hence reducing their effectiveness and efficiency; unfortunately sports organizations and companies are not left out of this setback. In order to curb this setback of bad governance among corporations, various committees have been set up to provide workable solutions. Among these committees was the Cadbury Committee which was set up in the year 1992 and played major role in the development of corporate governance although the efforts of other committees cannot be shelved. In the Cadbury Committee’s Report, corporate governance was defined “as a system in which companies are directed and controlled.”

It is worthy of note that the united nations made a very important move in 2014 during the 69th regular session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York when it recognized the independence and autonomy of sports. In the words of the International Olympic Committee (IOC)President Thomas Bach; “sport is truly the only area of human existence which has achieved universal law, but to apply this universal law worldwide, sport has to enjoy responsible autonomy. Politics must respect this sporting autonomy.”[1] Due to this autonomy, it will be pertinent to regulate the administration and governance of sport organizations since majority of them will not be subject to national or locals laws in order to be free from governmental influence.

In many parts of the world, sports bodies are to a large extent autonomous from government in the way they organize themselves and their sport rules. One of the causes of governance failures in sport may be the slow evolution of what were primarily voluntary institutions founded in the 19th century into professionalized bodies and regulatory systems adequate to govern the modern, commercial world of sport of today. However, it is not the only explanation: many entirely voluntary sports bodies have governed well, and there are plenty of professional organizations where widespread abuses have taken place. However, as the IOC and representatives of governments have acknowledged several times the right to autonomy has to be earned: when governance is perceived to be poor, external intervention by governments, law enforcement agencies and others becomes more likely.[2]

There have been scandals since the earliest days of sport but sports governance first attracted serious scrutiny as a discrete topic in the 1990s after work by academics, investigative journalists and campaigning organizations such as Play the Game.[3] There have been corruption charges against various sport leaders although some of them have their charges dropped while some are still under investigations. Currently, we have the FIFA General Secretary FatmaSamoura is currently in Egypt at the headquarters of the confederation of African football trying to ensure stability in the continent’s football governing body. While some commentators are not in support of this move by FIFA, other commentators opine that it’s a good one to ensure that CAF adopts good governance, a major need for its progress.

Some sports organizations such as FIFA, UCI and IAAF have made significant changes to their constitutions in recent times, introducing term limits and involving more independent people in aspects of decision-making. However, the pace of progress across the sports sector as a whole is slow, The Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) subsequently developed a governance assessment tool for International Federations. There are now several different theories of governance. In recent years the specific topic of sports governance has attracted a fair amount of interest from academics and institutions. A number of principles of good governance have been produced, such as the IOC’s Basic Universal Principles of Good Governance of the Olympic and Sports Movement (2008), the EU’s Principles of good governance in sport (2013), and the Universal Standards of the Sport Integrity Global Alliance. 

 The EU’s Expert Group on Good Governance has defined the principles of good governance in sport in the following terms: “The framework and culture within which a sports body sets policy, delivers its strategic objectives, engages with stakeholders, monitors performance, evaluates and manages risk and reports to its constituents on its activities and progress including the delivery of effective, sustainable and proportionate sports policy and regulation.”

In addition to the various good governance codes which have been published, governments and regulatory bodies in many countries have put in place standards of governance for sports organizations. For example, UK Sport and Sport England produced a Code for Sports Governance. Tracey Crouch MP had stated that"It is vital that our domestic sports bodies and organizations uphold the very highest standards of governance and lead the world in this area. We want to ensure that they operate efficiently and successfully while being transparent and representative of society. We have been clear that we will expect them to adhere to the new Code for Sports Governance if they are to receive public funding in the future.”[4]Working with partners in eight European countries, Play the Game created a benchmarking tool for assessing governance in national sports federations, resulting in a report published in November 2018. A new initiative which started in 2017 called the International Partnership Against Corruption in Sport (IPACS) brings together stakeholders including the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the IOC, a number of national governments, the Council of Europe and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Taskforces are addressing the issues of corruption in procurement, integrity in the selection of hosts for major sports events, and compliance with good governance principles.[5]

It is very evident that sports governance emanating from good corporate governance is taking a great force among sports organization in the sports industry which cannot be over emphasized. Organizations have started developing codes of sports governance with promotion of the principles of sports governance and violators of these principles are being brought to book. It will be interesting to see how menaces such as corruption, bribery and lack of integrity is being flush out through the development and promotion of good sports governance. 

Oluwatobiloba Adesemowo
"Tobi is a tax and sports lawyer. He is currently a management strategist at Lagos Tigers Football Club. He is also a tax associate at SIAO partners. During his leisure, he loves to research on sports and tax related issues."

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[2] last accessed on the 2nd Nov.2019
[3] Ibid
[4] last accessed on the 2nd Nov. 2019
[5] Ibid