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Volume 23 No. 8
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What is the role of business in restoring integrity in sports?

Similar to laws and regulations in business, without rules, the game of sport is dead. Think about it. Throwing a ball is just throwing a ball — until you devise a method for determining a winner, specify which ball to use, and draw a line from which to launch it. That’s when it becomes a sport.

Of course, wherever rules exist, there are people who’ll attempt to cross the line. It’s not a new phenomenon. During the past year especially, news headlines have been dominated by scandalous allegations of doping, match-fixing, bribery, tax fraud and cheating. There’s no evidence that dishonesty runs more rampant today. However, while increased coverage and scrutiny can encourage honesty, it also can serve up constant reminders that the sports we love may not be meritocracies. With every legendary athlete and storied sports organization that falls from grace, our trust erodes a little more.

We know sports can play a critical role in uniting racially and economically diverse countries and cultures in the common pursuit of athletic excellence, driving economic progress and development along the way. For those bridges to be built, though, athletes, fans and sponsors have to trust that the system isn’t rigged. In turn, athletes and sports organizations must have the integrity to adhere to agreed-upon standards and live by both the spirt and letter of the rules. Void of conviction and honor, sports cannot thrive as honorable professions or as profitable business models.

Is it too late to restore integrity to sports before corruption wins the game?

Absolutely not. But, those who govern athletics cannot act alone. Business must join forces in a shared effort from multiple sectors — including government, law enforcement, academia and civil society — to restore trust and inspire real, lasting change. As leaders, we must take the lessons we have learned in the global business landscape and apply the same processes and guidelines to sports.

This is why in April, more than 40 groups representing varying sectors gathered in Madrid, under the umbrella of the Sport Integrity Global Alliance, a new, independent coalition dedicated to salvaging the reputation and credibility of sports. SIGA recognizes the urgent need to collectively generate new ideas and drive reforms in the areas of governance, financial integrity and betting.

The organization intends to influence and help strengthen good governance across the whole of the sports industry through better regulations, stronger oversight, more stringent monitoring, and by holding organizations accountable to codes of conduct with very clear, unambiguous consequences for bad acts and actors.

Addressing these issues in an industry as diverse as sport will require immense coordination and hard work from people willing to put aside their own interests to achieve common goals that benefit. Our two organizations, Deloitte and The International Centre for Sport Security, have signed on as passionate and committed supporters of SIGA — and ask that others do the same — because we believe it is possible to restore honor, integrity and glory to sports. Our athletes, and their fans, deserve no less.

In this age of transparency, all business leaders have an incentive to proactively and unequivocally support the establishment of best practices and international standards to preserve the integrity and viability of sports institutions that give us entertainment, a sense of pride, avenues to break barriers and national economic prosperity.

SIGA offers a starting point for creating a framework to reform sports and return it to an era when clubs, leagues, associations and other stakeholders relished in the pure joy of the competition. Let’s join together to ensure the rules mean something so that the games — and athletes’ accomplishments — mean something.

James “Chip” Cottrell is a U.S. partner with Deloitte Advisory and Emanuel Medeiros is the CEO of The International Centre for Sport Security Europe. Both serve on the executive council of the Sport Integrity Global Alliance.