Media Releases

  ICSS Europe CEO Renews Calls For Independent Alliance to Regulate Sport


London, 19 October 2015


by Emanuel Macedo de Medeiros


Ladies and gentlemen

Good morning.

Before I begin, I want to thank the organisers of Beyond Sport. Thank you for hosting such a great event and thank you for inviting me to speak about such a significant topic.

Given the appalling revelations that continue to rock the world of football and plunge FIFA in the worse crisis of its history, this topic could not be more critical and opportune

But words have still to be invented to define what’s happening, because “crisis” is hardly appropriate. And we haven’t seen yet the whole of it…

When governance and integrity reach such a shameful state, “crisis” seems indeed a too light and too short word.

Victim of insatiable greed, unscrupulous individuals, poor governance and lack of meaningful oversight, sports reputation is, sadly, at its lowest level.

If you open any newspaper, or go to any website – and head to the sport section, you are just likely to read about corruption, or match-fixing, or bid rigging, or money laundering, or tax evasion, or other criminal activity – as you are to read about a game, a championship, a world-class athlete or an amazing play.

Corruption and financial impropriety are seemingly so embedded in the culture of sport that we hardly even notice anymore – and they are too often swept under the rug, rather than recognised for what they truly are: lethal threats to the foundations of sport itself.

Sometimes, however, these issues get the attention they deserve.

Headlines around the world continue to be dominated by the FIFA scandal—no doubt the most public and egregious scandal sport has ever faced.

FIFA is its knees, its leadership has been decapitated, the world’s most popular game is under threat. And the saddest fact is, there seems to be no end in sight.

Ladies and gentlemen,

FIFA needs a fresh, clean, new start.

With new protagonists, new solutions and new mentalities.

A new leader will help. But a new leader will not make FIFA’s problems instantly disappear. In particular, a leader elected under the current Statutes.

To regain people’s trust and restore its reputation, the entire organisation needs to change. But to change dramatically! From top to bottom!

No legitimate match would be played in a closed stadium, or in the dark. And no legitimate sports body should operate without good governance, integrity and oversight.

The best sports take place in open fields, under the lights, in from of thousands. FIFA’s governance, commercial dealings and finance ought to be the same.

FIFA must open itself up to more outside monitoring and oversight. If not, then history is bound to repeat itself.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The problems and the need for long-overdue reforms obviously don’t stop with FIFA or with football.

Similar issues exist in other sports.

A number of them is suffering from an epidemic of match fixing.

Just last week, my organization, the International Centre for Sport Security, released a report detailing that nearly half of all games played in the Canadian Soccer League showed signs of suspicious betting activity.

And in the United States, the Justice Department and FBI have begun formal investigations into daily fantasy sites—which essentially function as hubs of unregulated sports wagering, and have recently faced questions concerning insider trading.

I could go on and on. Stories of illicit activity across sport are frighteningly common. Which leads me to the conclusion that these problems are not due to one bad apple. They are structural.

II. The Action We Must Take

For this reason, we need to focus our efforts on three areas.

Starting with Good Governance

Sport needs indeed an in-depth, serious governance reform. This implies:

  • Fair, democratic, transparent, clean elections;
  • Term limits for both presidents and executive committee members in all national and international federations and leagues;
  • Clear separation of powers between the different internal organs;
  • Meaningful stakeholder representation, not just in the decision-making processes, but in the decision-making structures;

Sports organisations need to move their work out from behind closed doors. They must adopt transparent bidding processes, and submit to monitoring and auditing of their financial transactions—including the so-called “development programs”, so that these programs (which are known vehicles of multi-million pound injections in the national associations) are effectively used to enhance football’s standards and not to buy votes or satisfy other improper interests.

As I stated in Geneva a month ago, at the FITS FORUM, these are not options. These are not conveniences. These are necessities!

If we, as a community—working with sponsors, broadcasters, partners and, of course, fans— can push sports organisations to adopt these principles of good governance, then we can rest far easier, knowing that those in charge of the sports we love are operating with integrity.

Of course, good governance only protects the game off the field. We also need to take steps to ensure that corruption does not affect the game on the field.

Match Fixing

Specifically, we need to do more to combat match fixing.

We must bring sports betting out of the shadows. In too many jurisdictions, sports betting is prohibited by law—which only drives it underground.

With one voice, we ought to call on governments around the world to regulate and discipline the sports betting market.

But that’s just the first step.

The fight against match fixing will only be successful if it is global. In a time when an organised crime syndicate in Southeast Asia, can operate a server in the Caribbean, to take wagers from bettors in the United States, and fix a game in Europe—having just one agency, or even a small collection of them, try to fight the problem in any other way is futile at best.

Match fixing, ladies and gentlemen, is a direct threat to the heart and soul of the game—and we need a global, holistic approach to combat it.

But, before any meaningful change can happen—whether in terms of match fixing, financial integrity or good governance—sport needs to radically change its mindset.

Autonomy of Sport

In particular, we need to rethink the concept of the autonomy of sport.

I have fought a lot to ensure that the autonomy and self-regulation of sport would be recognized.

But sport can neither be above, nor outside the law.

The autonomy of sport is neither unlimited, nor unconditional.

Sports organisations cannot use the autonomy of sport to shield themselves from proper regulation and oversight.

Sport is too much of an economic force, and too important to billions of fans around the world, to be allowed to continue to operate in this manner. All of our great institutions—universities, corporations, and governments—operate with effective oversight. Sport must obviously do the same.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I believe we can do, and must do more.

I believe every stakeholder in international sport needs to take a more active role in pushing for increased accountability and transparency.

II. Conclusion/A Global, Independent and Neutral Alliance

Thankfully, many of you here are doing just that.

Just last month, I saw many of you at the Financial Integrity and Integrity in Sport initiative – the FITS FORUM, in Geneva.

At the FITS FORUM, a broad consensus was developed.

  • A consensus around the need for a carry out a profound reform of the way sports organisations are governed.
  • Around the need for greater monitoring of financial transactions, and the need to establish an international financial clearing house to provide effective oversight.
  • The need to tackle opaque club ownership and sports increasing vulnerability to criminal activity.
  • The risks of third-party ownership of players’ economic rights, exacerbated by the increase of under-regulated offshore investment entities with ownership stakes in clubs.
  • Bid rigging and corruption.
  • And money laundering and tax evasion.

When I left the FITS FORUM, I did so with a renewed optimism about how we fight these problems, because I saw the amazing potential of a global, unified front to protect and secure sport.

The present momentum offers a unique opportunity for creating such an alliance. A “coalition of the willing” to bring about the much needed change and long-overdue reforms in a framework of collaboration.

A new, global, independent, neutral alliance, led by the sports industry and supported by key stakeholders across other sectors, ranging from governments to international institutions, NGOs and other key stakeholders.

A coalition that, based on a set of universally recognised standards can define, implement and monitor key reforms, principles and standards needed to bring real and lasting integrity and transparency to the sporting industry.

So, today, I urge you all—keep going, and keep building.

The tentacles of corruption have found their way into every sport and every continent.

But we can and we will get rid of it, if we think bigger, if we think broader.

The only way we can tackle these pressing issues is with a global body that will stand up for accountability, transparency and integrity, at all levels of sport.

And if we can do that, we will begin to see results almost immediately.

Because, as fans of sport, we know what happens when the world’s best come together on one team. We know that their focus, drive and dedication feed off one another to make even the loftiest goals, attainable.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear friends of sport,

Right now, sport faces a multitude of existential crises.

But if we join forces…

And if we stand up for accountability…

And if we fight for transparency…

And if we refuse to rest, until every last bit of corruption is flushed away and its reputation is restored…

Then, we can rewrite the rules, and change the game.

Thank you.