It is probably fair to say that everybody with a passion for sport is concerned and saddened to see all the continued headlines about corruption, doping, match-fixing and other integrity issues in sport. Not only do such headlines take away attention and trust from the beautiful game. As a result of what is widely seen as sport organizations no longer being fit for purpose, fans, athletes, sponsors, governments and sport organizations are also starting to acknowledge the importance and urgency in bringing about change in the way that sport is governed.
In this process, challenging questions call for answers. For instance questions such as what kind of governance issues pose the greatest risk to specific sport organizations and what evolving good sport governance practices look like or ought to look like. Based on the perspectives and frameworks offered in the first article in this iSportconnect sport governance series, this article offers some answers to these questions through an interview with David Grevemberg CBE, CEO of the Commonwealth Games Federation. A previous article did the same through an interview with Marisol Casado, President of the International Triathlon Union and IOC Member. Subsequent articles will do so too through interviews with Poul-Erik Hoyer, President of Badminton World Federation and IOC Member and Giovanni Malagò, President of the Italian National Olympic Committee.
The strategic importance and urgency of good governance in sport
There are several reasons why more and more sport leaders consider good governance in sport as a challenge of strategic importance and urgency, as opposed to just regarding it as the nice thing or the right thing to do. Most importantly, a sound platform of good governance is the foundation for building trust, growth and performance into the future.
David Grevemberg CBE describes the case for good governance in sport in the following way: “I think sport has operated in a fairly exclusive manner for a long time. We have thrived on our authenticity. We have benefited greatly from some of the privileges that have been given to us. The world has become more social. Sport has become more social. There has been a real movement towards greater democratization in everything that we do. Greater exposure and transparency is demanded. We are experiencing a global cultural shift in how we work as a society. Sport is a fantastic manifestation of that. People want products and initiatives that meet their style and are absolutely sincere. If you are not able to connect with that, trust diminishes. We are at a point of reckoning that we need to adapt our culture and governance systems to be able to respond to these changing times.”
As far as the case of the Commonwealth Games Federation is concerned, David adds that “any diverse family, which has history and different perspectives and interest, has conflict. Most international sport federations are now reassessing what their value proposition is in terms of the value they add, and what their values are in terms of their beliefs. In getting a very diverse group of nations and group of sports together for a common purpose and a common goal, we are absolutely focused at the Commonwealth Games Federation on living our values and also having common areas of impact. Our values are humanity, equality and destiny, and our desired impact is on peace, sustainability and prosperity. To get everyone to live and breathe those common and universal principles is a challenge, but people are certainly onboard and moving in the right direction. We have had some very honest and courageous conversations along that journey. There are several champions of good governance in our movement right now. For instance, Brian Lewis, President of our federation in Trinidad and Tobago, is leading a Caribbean wide process of governance and integrity change.”
Evolving good governance practices in sport
While the media is mostly focused on cases of bad governance in sport these days, there are actually quite a few remarkable cases of evolving good sport governing practices too. Such cases offer great inspiration and learning, as sport governing bodies gear up for modernizing the way they are governed. Examples of the governance leadership that the Commonwealth Games Federation is showcasing include:
- Integrating human rights into sport event bidding and host delivery processes
- Integrating good governance into its strategy
- Supporting the launch and development of a new Sport Integrity Global Alliance
David Grevemberg CBE describes these examples in the following ways:
A) Integrating human rights into sport event bidding and host delivery processes
“The reason, why we decided to bring the human rights NGO community and our future Commonwealth Games organizing committees together, was that we wanted to identify human rights issues and challenges that we need to universally protect through the hosting of our major sport events. We also wanted to identify areas within the human rights field that we could actively promote, build awareness about, take an advocate position on and create action around on the journey of hosting an event. We saw this as much as a must to do, as it was an opportunity to differentiate and have a positive impact. Human rights at its very basis build peaceful societies. In the coming years, we are hosting events in The Bahamas, in Gold Coast, Australia, in Belfast, Northern Ireland and eventually in Durban, South Africa in 2022. It is absolutely critical to ensure that we are creating the impact that these major sporting investments, largely coming from the public purse, are actually living the values of society.”
B) Integrating good governance into its strategy
“The Commonwealth Games Federation has been very focused on just running great games for some time. It has done a fantastic job. At this point of time, we have moved from strictly having an event focus to becoming a global movement. We have fundamentally changed some of our ambitions, some our targets in terms of the impact we want to have and also new measures of accountability and what we consider real legitimacy in terms of being a good international sport federation. We obviously need to continue to run our great games. We obviously need to work in great partnership with public, private and third sector institutions. We ultimately want to have a legitimate brand. In order to do that, it is all inter-dependent on having a fantastic governance model and a great culture in place within the organization to be able to put the pieces together; both at a strategic level but also very much at a managerial and operational level. Being one of the best-governed and well-managed sport federations in the world is one of our ambitions. Some of the things we are doing to that end include stripping down our constitution and looking at where we can improve in terms of how we interact and practice good governance, how we make decisions and how we project that and communicate those decisions on a regular basis and continue to review them and grow and evolve as a movement.”
C) Supporting the launch and development of a new Sport Integrity Global Alliance
“The Sport Integrity Global Alliance is an alliance of like institutions and agencies and individuals that comes together on a regular basis to discuss a number of really relevant issues related to sport governance. No one body has exclusivity on upholding or executing universal principles of good governance. By sharing best practice, intelligence, having honest conversations and being vulnerable, we are able to hash out some fundamental principles and forge cooperation to move things forward by using common language, having a common understanding and by setting out some common ambitions for something we all love, which is the world of sport.”