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Sport and Corruption: Game on!

From allegations of match-fixing in football and cricket to a FIFA executive accused of corruption, barely a week goes by without some kind of headline-grabbing story of corruption in sport. This is tarnishing the image and role of sport.

Sport should reinforce the message that integrity matters, particularly with young people. But to do this, it must remain corruption-free. This week we publish an updated Working Paper on Sport at a time when key areas where sport is vulnerable to corruption are in focus: match-fixing, ethics in sport and the bidding for and hosting of big sporting events.


The Council of Europe opens its new Convention against Manipulation of Sports Competitions for signature on 18 September. Transparency International recommends that more countries outside Europe should sign up to the convention because it includes commitments to investigate and sanction all match-fixing, it fosters cross-border cooperation on cases, and it highlights the need for investments in prevention, including the provision of comprehensive and continuous education on the issue.

The Council of Europe convention hits the right buttons: it mandates a legal framework that regulates betting and punishes match-fixing; it calls on sports organisations to focus on the problem and commit to regular education to prevent match-fixing.”

– Robin Hodess, Group Director, Advocacy and Research, Transparency International

Staying on Side: How to Stop Match-Fixing

Transparency International and six of its European chapters were part of an 18-month pilot project, Staying on Side: How to Stop Match-Fixing, in partnership with the European Professional Football Leagues and the German Football League to develop and test education materials in six European countries. It developed materials and recommendations, some of which are embodied in the new convention. Click here for more information.

Ethics and good governance

On 19 September the first World Summit of Ethics in Sport conference brings together different sport stakeholders, including athletes, sponsors, academics and politicians, at the headquarters of FIFA, world football’s governing body. This has raised eyebrows because of FIFA’s reputation and numerous ethics scandals. Read the blog here.

But FIFA is far from the only sporting organisation that needs to reform. Transparency International’s key recommendations for governance in sport organisations include:

  • A zero-tolerance approach against corruption – with adequate and proportionate responses in all potential cases – to show that corruption is not welcome in sports.
  • The enforcement of codes and guidelines to ensure ethical behaviour, including on conflicts of interest. We recommend using Transparency International’s Business Principles for Countering Bribery.
  • An independent non-executive or a lead director on governance issues to preside over a governance committee.
Sports organisations should adopt best business practices. Term limits for top jobs and independent oversight should be the rule not the exception.”

– Robin Hodess

Major sporting events

Both FIFA and the International Olympic Committee are reviewing their criteria for hosting major events following claims of corruption during the bidding for World Cup 2018 and 2020, and the ballooning costs associated with hosting Olympic Games. UEFA, Europe’s football governing body, avoided this type of controversy for its 2020 European Football Championship, which will be held in 13 different countries in cities that already have football stadiums. UEFA will announce the cities on 19 September. Nevertheless, its evaluation report of the bidding cities did not include a corruption risk assessment.

Our recommendations for organising major sporting events include:

  • All parties to the bidding and awarding of major sporting events should commit to include stakeholder engagement systematically, including civil society.
  • Both bidders and those who award major sporting events should make internationally accepted and binding standards on fundamental rights (for example, human rights) and anti-corruption a prerequisite for any event.
  • Sporting event organisers and hosts/organising committees should develop an anti-corruption strategy; a good reference point is the UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s strategy for the delivery of sports events, particularly for matters of construction and procurement.

Starting in January 2015, Transparency International will publish a series of articles as part of its Global Corruption Report: Sport. This will bring together the leading research and ideas on where we are and where we need to be in the fight to keep sport clean for the good of everyone.

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