Corruption in Sport

New Zealand Sports Governance Strong from an International Perspective

"New Zealand leads the world in many areas when it comes to prevention of corruption in sports," concluded Josephine Serrallach, who attended a workshop on Corruption in Sport, organised by Transparency International at its Annual Members Meeting held this year in October in Berlin.

Contribution by a number of countries to the workshop highlighted the great differences in the behaviours of sports associations in relation to their response to corruption situations. Their responses range from match fixing and briberies to the lack of transparency and withholding of information, as in FIFA’s case.

Representing TINZ, Josephine presented the other end of the spectrum with specific examples of sports associations in New Zealand working on prevention. For example, the New Zealand Rugby Union demonstrates leadership and commitment to address corruption with its recent initiative to form an 'Integrity Committee' with the role of training its member unions and players about management of risks associated with the sport.

The engagement of Transparency International Chapters with sports associations is a relatively new activity for TI and there is currently work in progress in a number of countries. For example, Transparency international UK has developed a guiding document to prevent match-fixing In football at club level with the aim of safeguarding "the beautiful game". TI Greece is also actively producing leaflets on guiding principles for the use of football players. TI Spain has made a number of agreements with sports associations to reaffirm the commitment of eliminating corruption at all levels.

The IRB (International Rugby Board) has launched an anti-corruption website. The European Union has made good governance in sport a priority because there is a close link between a sport's organization governance and levels of corruption (integrity off the pitch and on the pitch).

The topic of corruption in sport has caught the attention of politicians, sponsors and fans.

It is good that they are finally paying attention with an estimated US$700 billion involved in match-fixing. The greatest threat for sport is manipulation of sport results to make money through gambling, heightened by the growth in electronic and internet gambling. The pressure to act against this wave is increasing and the question is how to prevent a tsunami.

Sports organizations are generally poorly prepared to cope with corruption. The lack of operational transparency and effective checks and balances has allowed the dark site of the sport to be cloaked in secrecy. Sponsors have been long silent, but are beginning to question the potential reputation damage to their brands.

With this climate, TI has started to advise sports organizations ( e.g. FIFA and the International Cricket Council) on how to build up integrity systems to avoid corruption. At the formal TI Annual Members Meeting (AMM) held 19 October 2014, a resolution was passed by the 95 country chapters and 32 independent TI members calling on FIFA to publish the report produced by its Ethics Committee, known as Garcia Report, which up to now has been kept secret.

In summary, based on a comparisons at the Berlin TI meeting, it appears that New Zealand sports organizations have better governance and a more ambitious focus on prevention and building strong integrity systems in sport than other countries. The international research about the costs of corruption emphasised the importance of remaining vigilant here as well as achieving the goal of ensuring that New Zealand sports are corruption-free at all levels, whether participating locally or internationally.


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