The first world communication conference on sport and society

In June 1997, 109 sports journalists and researchers from 34 countries gathered in Vingsted, Denmark, for the conference 'Sport, Media and Civil Society' to engage in a newly emerging debate about affairs in international sports politics.

They discussed doping in professional cycling, the way sport was turning into showbiz, and the conflicts of interest that came along with globalisation.

They formed the Sports Intelligence Unit, an international network.

The Sports Intelligence Unit

The Sport Intelligence Unit (SIU) network was founded at the first Play the Game conference in 1997 and mainly served as a communication network for conference participants. The SIU activities were built into Play the Game when it became an independent institution in 2004.

The Sports Intelligence Unit was a voluntary, independent network for individual sports journalists and sports researchers. SIU regarded the free flow of information and an open public debate as essential for democratic development.

SIU saw neither sport nor journalism as standardizable commodities accessible to the highest bidders on the market. On the contrary, sport and journalism should stay easily accessible goods, being manifold expressions of the cultural richness of mankind.

The purposes of SIU were:

  • to defend freedom of expression in sports - at all levels, under all circumstances and in any place in the world
  • to promote a free flow of information and stimulate public debate on the economics, politics and culture of sports
  • to further international contacts and exchange between journalists and researchers working on the above-mentioned matters
  • to raise the level of sports journalism through the internet and printed publications, seminars, meetings etc.

Membership was open for any individual media professional or scientific researcher interested in the history, sociology, medicine, psychology, economy, politics, culture or other vital aspect of sports. Membership was free of charge.

Members were obliged to:

  • accept giving the necessary data for a public membership list
  • be prepared to support and advise each other to the widest possible extent, when help for national or international research is required
  • do their best to provide the SIU editors regularly with brief summaries of important national or international news, articles, TV and radio programmes, sports events relevant to SIU purposes etc.

Quotes from delegates 

Below you will find qoutes from conference delegates at the first world comminication conference on sport and society.

"In my 40 years in Olympic and other reporting I have never experienced such warm-hearted and valuable exchanges between young and old international colleagues."

Neil Allen, senior sports editor and reporter, The Times and London Evening Standard, speaker at the first world conference.

"The seminar at Vingsted was really an eye-opener. To those of us in the developing world it was wonderful."

Anthony E. Amoah, Graphic Corporation, Ghana, participant in the first world conference.

"By uniting journalists from the North and the South, the organisers have created space for a thorough reflection on contemporary sport, its context and the way it is regarded by the media."

Jacques Secretan, Telex, magazine of Swiss Federation of Journalists, participant in the first world conference.

"There were remarks about lack of pauses. That merely expressed the fact that the lectures were so good that people felt a need to discuss rather than just attack the coffee and talk about the weather."

John Idorn, senior sports journalist, Denmark.

"Thanks for the superb organisation of the seminar in Vingsted."

Professor, Dr. Roland Renson, Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium

"Thanks for keeping us alive in the networking spirit after our successful seminar in Vingsted."

Stephen Rweikiza

"Sports journalism with world class."

Dansk Presse, magazine of the Danish Assocation of Newspaper Editors

"A resounding success."

Sports Editor Ip Ting Wah Shan, Le Mauricien, Mauritius

"Journalists were stunned by the revelations from the 17 lecturers."

Pamela Batenga, journalist, The New Vision, Uganda

"I was surprised by the high level of your organizing skills and I really appreciated the positive atmosphere at the seminar."

Gintaras Jakavonis, journalist, Lithuania