ICSS and Sorbonne University call for World Forum for Sports Integrity

Foto: Play the Game

French Vice-Minister of Sport, Thierry Braillard at the podium at the ICSS-Sorbonne Sport Integrity Forum in Paris. Photo: Play the Game

Ambitions were high and international sport notably absent when a summary of two years of research into sports integrity by 70 academic researchers was launched in Paris.

PARIS: In the distinguished company of some of the biggest French names in world history such as Descartes, Pascal and Richelieu, the much awaited all-inclusive report on match-fixing, illegal betting and other forms of corruption in sport was partially launched Thursday 15 May by a research team at the University of Paris-Sorbonne and the International Centre for Sports Security (ICSS).

The historical Frenchmen appeared as marble statutes comfortably seated above the par-terre casting watchful eyes on almost 300 participants, a bigger number than when the International Olympic Committee was founded 120 years ago in the same wonderfully decorated setting of the Grand Amphithéâtre of the University of Sorbonne.

Whether any of the authors of the report will ever end as marble statues or pave the way for Olympic-size global organisations remains to be seen. The set-up left no doubt that the professional and personal ambitions of this project are sky-high, but the final 1,600 pages report documenting all sport’s illnesses and how to cure them, will not be published until September.

The conclusions are ready, however, and they point unmistakably to the need for political action now. Governments, law enforcement, betting companies and sports organisations must join forces in a more efficient way than now, the organisers said:

“We do not necessarily need a full-fledged international organisation, but we must have institutional mechanisms designed both with operational and normative functions,” said Evelyn Lagrange, law professor at Sorbonne and assistant editor of the Executive Summary published Thursday.

According to the Sorbonne experts, the road to an “International Integrity Platform for Sport” goes via a World Forum for Sports Integrity, which should gather all kinds of stakeholders in order to debate all kinds of corruption in sport. This call very much reflects the Cologne Consensus passed by participants at the Play the Game 2011 conference at the German Sport University Cologne.

Also, the ICSS-Sorbonne project leaders strongly encouraged all countries to support the European Convention against Manipulation of Sports Competitions, an instrument that will bind governments legally to prevent and combat match-fixing.

Also countries outside Europe are invited to sign the convention, but even if all countries in the world should sign this, this will not secure that the good intentions are translated into practice.

So in addition to the convention, the ICSS-Sorbonne experts have launched a set of “Guiding Principles to Protect the Integrity of Sports Competitions” with a number of recommendations to governments, sports organisations and betting companies, for instance:

  • public authorities should secure resources for investigations into sports manipulations
  • a sports betting tax with revenues going primarily to protecting sports integrity
  • central collection of information regarding sports betting
  • limitation of the most risky bets
  • sports organisations should display better governance
  • sport should harmonise disciplinary sanctions in the field
  • financial fair play-rules like those of UEFA should be considered by many other organisations
  • betting companies should secure the legality of their operations
  • betting companies should comply with international standards to combat money laundering

Bound to generate debate
The Executive Summary of the ICSS-Sorbonne project was only released Thursday, and Play the Game will return with further coverage when there has been time to study the summary.

It is however easy to predict that the report will generate debate.

The fact alone that the work of the ICSS is supported almost exclusively by the state of Qatar, and that this has enabled the ICSS to outsource a research effort involving 70 researchers over two years at the cost of several million euros, has already raised an eyebrow or two in the field of sports science.

Now everybody will be able to evaluate the results, and judging from the first reactions there will be both words of welcome and fierce resistance.

From the international sports community the reaction seems to be silent indifference, as so often before.

Remarkably few representatives from sport were present in Paris to confirm that this was indeed as historical event as the hosts would like it to be.

Perhaps the explanation can be found in the closing remarks by Thierry Braillard, the newly appointed Vice-Minister of Sport in France.

He said he wondered why in his many years with close relations to sports leaders he had rarely heard about issues like doping, corruption and match-fixing:

“Perhaps these difficult issues are for sport and sports media what the thunderstorms are for the weather forecasts. When a scandal happens, everybody talks about it and only about that. But it lasts only briefly, and then it is forgotten. This is not a working method to recommend.”

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