The 2016 Rio Olympic Games saw almost half of the world’s population catching at least a minute of the summer games, demonstrating the tremendous reach and influence of sports around the world. As the next generation of athletes come to the fore and continue to push boundaries and break records many thought were impossible, the pull of sports continues to grow. One goal shall always remain constant however, that is the spirit of sports and the ethics of fair competition.
To a degree, elements of corruption has always existed in sport, it is only in recent years however that we are seeing heightened awareness and punishments for unethical practices – with FIFA marking a turning point in the history of global enforcement (for both the sports industry and beyond). Here are some of the world’s biggest sports corruption scandals especially in the last decade and possible enforcement actions to come.
1. Salt Lake City Winter Olympics - 2002
The 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics bid scandal involved bribery allegations against members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Salt Lake Organising Committee in awarding the rights to host the games. These allegations resulted in six members of the IOC being expelled. This expulsion is believed to be the first of its kind in the history of the IOC, as the cash payments, gifts and privileges received by the members from the organising committee were confirmed. Today, many believe that this was the case that started the ball rolling for regulators to begin looking seriously at corruption within sporting organisations and one that also provided the US Department of Justice (DOJ) the fundamentals and the experience to investigate FIFA in 2015.
2. FIFA Corruption Scandal - 2015
The year 2015 saw football’s governing body, Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) engulfed by allegations of prevalent corruption within the 112-year-old organisation, when several top executives were indicted for fraud and corruption by the US Department of Justice. The now well-known scandal involved bribery and corruption allegations against FIFA officials, sports marketing groups and broadcasting corporations for television rights to broadcast the World Cup and other international football tournaments. The amount involved – a reported $150 million. These allegations have also cost the careers of the two most powerful men in football – Sepp Blatter (FIFA President) and Michel Platini (UEFA President). 25 other FIFA officials and 5 marketing and broadcasting executives have also been charged by the DOJ. Questions have also been raised into the bidding results of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in Russia and Qatar respectively. The US federal judge overseeing the wide range of corruption activities involved in this scandal announced that a trial for eight defendants could begin as early as September or October 2017.
3. International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) - 2016
The doping scandal involving the IAAF was a result of a whistleblowing act, when the IAAF’s blood tests results for athletes competing in major competitions were leaked. Almost a third of medal winning athletes were found to have suspicious blood test results. Despite members of the IAAF being aware, these athletes were allowed to continue competing. This scandal can be best summed up by Russia’s alleged state sponsored doping situation, where athletes paid bribes and senior figures extorted money to cover up doping acts. A vicious cycle ensued when those who were aware of such behaviour, did nothing to stop it. As a result, at least 100 Russian athletes were banned from the 2016 Rio Olympics, and large corporations such as Nestlé and Adidas have pulled the plug on multi-million dollar sponsorship deals with the IAAF.
4. World Tennis - 2016
In tennis, widespread corruption in the form of match fixing was unveiled in 2016 – involving top ranked players and matches at Wimbledon. Leaked documents have led anti-corruption investigators to believe that the sport’s authorities have covered up the magnitude of the problem with some of the suspects still in the game today. In 2007, an examination of 26,000 matches were provided to tennis’s governing bodies, with enough evidence within to call out those involved, but nothing was done. On February 11th 2016, four tennis umpires were reported to have been suspended by the Tennis Integrity Unit in an anti-corruption investigation, and on May 6th 2016, anti-corruption investigations ensued with the French Tennis Federation raided by the French financial prosecution service amid alleged corruption and ticket trafficking. With scrutiny starting to build against unethical practices in the sport, it is not surprising that more punishment for corruption will unfold in the tennis world.
Protecting the integrity of sports
For spectators in the world of sports and beyond, corruption teaches us important lessons on the values of ethical conduct. Increasing media attention on the issue of corruption means that more scandals (not just in sports) will not only come to light, but enforcement actions will be meted out to those who do not play by the rules. Protecting the integrity of sports remains a collective goal for athletes, governing bodies, businesses and communities – as we look forward to a more “ethical” era in sports.
In our whitepaper “Corruption in Sport – A Game Changer for Enforcement”, we look at FIFA as a case study to examine how corruption has persistently existed in organised global sport, and the possible repercussions on the wider business community beyond football. The full whitepaper can be downloaded here.
By Darren Cher, ethiXbase