03 Dec 2013

Lending a hand to teach good governance practices and to stress integrity in sport

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By Jill Pilgrim, a sports lawyer and co-founder of Precise Advisory Group

Traveling the world and meeting new people is one of life’s special treats.  Traveling the world to share one’s accumulated legal and business experience working within the worldwide sports industry is the ideal work experience.  Thus, I am grateful to the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA®), Interpol and the Federación Colombiana de Fútbol (FCF) for providing me a platform to present on the topic of good governance practices for sports associations, at the recent FIFA/INTERPOL Integrity in Sport National Workshop in Bogota, Colombia. IMG_20131123_104654_878

Those of us who follow soccer – football/futebol/fútbol/Fußball/futbola/football – South America is the center of the universe for the best players in the world of this long-practiced sport.  Therefore, the knowledge that the lords of soccer, just like soccer officials around the world, are working hard to keep the sport pure is important news.  The group of high-level soccer and sports officials and administrators who attended the Bogota Workshop was  enthusiastic about learning everything they could about those scoundrels who are seeking to sully the reputation of soccer for their own financial gain.  Much factual and anecdotal information was shared about the real and potential initiatives to corrupt players, sports officials and referees and sports administrators around the world for the financial gain of bettors on sporting events. The use of technology by criminal enterprises seeking to infiltrate and influence the course of sports competitions, as well as its use to detect and monitor irregular betting activities was explained in the context of FIFA’s Early Warning System was discussed in detail.  While the consensus appeared to be that high-level attempts to corrupt participants in soccer within Colombia have not been detected, there were those in attendance at the Bogota Workshop who were aware that corrupt elements were present within the sport and gaining momentum.

The essence of my pIMG_20131122_115535_605resentation to this austere group was to highlight best business practices for sport administrators, and remind those in charge of Colombian sport to be vigilant in applying these practices, if not already in place.  I stressed the need for leaders to be the catalyst for, and set the example for, integrity within each sport organization — the soccer officials association, a soccer club, the national soccer federation or the Sports Ministry.  Integrity of leadership and upper level management is an important foundation from which to build integrity within an organization. Organizational integrity, along with loyalty to the integrity of one’s sport, are significant deterrents to corrupting outside forces.

Of course, an organization cannot just be concerned with the integrity of its leadership.  Everyone from the janitor to the President, to the referees, players, family members, law enforcement officials, sponsors and even spectators and restaurant owners near a stadium must know that they play an important role in preserving integrity within a sport.  Thus, identifying and engaging and listening to all the stakeholders of a sports association, sports club or affiliated organization is essential.

Integrity and good governance don’t just happen.  Like every important value system, whether that system is religious, language based, corporate culture, or an aspect of national identity, the principles and practices of integrity must be reinforced, repeated and learned over and over again.  Thus, having a well designed strategic implementation plan, and updating that plan at regular intervals, is essential to winning the battle against corrupting influences in soccer, or any endeavor worth preserving.

To help your organization learn more about good governance practices and integrity in sport, please contact Precise Advisory Group at jillp@preciseadvisory.com.

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