Conference themes

Play the Game 2019 was the eleventh Play the Game conference on sport and society. The 2019 conference set up for debate a number of pertinent issues from the sports political agenda.

Read more about the conference themes

Athletes are raising their voices as never before to influence decision-making in sport. How can athletes better exercise their rights and responsibilities, and who should represent them: Unions, athletes committees, activist groups? The “take a knee” movement shows that freedom of expression suffers in sport, but are there limits to what athletes should express?

Athlete engagement will be a cornerstone at Play the Game 2019, but the conference will also be a hub for sports governance leaders from all around the world. Researchers from the (National) Sports Governance Observer projects will reveal new data on international and national federations. And representatives from the new International Partnership on Corruption in Sport will lay out their strategies for improving the Olympic movement.

Held only three weeks before the elections of a new WADA President, Play the Game 2019 will invite the main contenders to answer questions that decide the future of anti-doping. Has geopolitics become more influential than facts from blood samples in deciding the outcome of doping cases? Are WADA and other anti-doping bodies sufficiently independent? Should athletes and national anti-doping agencies keep quiet and let others do the politics?

As on previous occasions, a variety of stakeholders and key decision-makers from all corners of the anti-doping community will meet at Play the Game 2019 to discuss the actual state of affairs in anti-doping and how the present credibility crisis can be overcome.

US authorities have often taken the lead in confronting sport’s biggest scandals: From Salt Lake City to the FBI action against FIFA. In Brazil, France, Switzerland and several other countries, criminal investigators are unwinding webs of collusion and crime in sport.

In the US, college and professional sports are not immune to corruption. The opening of the sports gambling market may give way to new opportunities for criminal activity: what can be done to minimise the risks?

In Europe, the so-called Football Leaks have uncovered massive whitewashing, tax evasion, trafficking and other unethical practices, but are the big European clubs and their billionaire owners too big to take on?

Play the Game 2019 will gather law enforcement, politicians, sports leaders, investigative journalists and others with expertise on how to fight corruption and crime.

At regular intervals, the world is shocked by news of systematic abuse of girls and boys by adults who should protect them. The recent scandal in US gymnastics may be unprecedented in size, but children in great numbers have suffered sexual harassment for decades, across a variety of sports, and in many nations.

A common feature is that the abuse has taken place over years in a culture of silence and fear. Are there specific factors that make the sports environment especially prone to sexual abuse?

Also, physiological and psychological pressure is part of many young people’s daily sports practice. Evidence shows early specialisation is rarely effective in talent development, but ambitious parents and coaches may speak louder than data.

Play the Game 2019 will gather survivors, experts, sports leaders and others who can contribute to creating safer environments for athletes at all levels of sport.

Societal changes, technological developments, and an increasingly commercialised sport environment have changed the way in which people recreate. More people than ever live sedentary lifestyles, many nations report higher levels of clinical obesity across their populations, and the scourge of mental illness continues to affect millions of people globally.

Physical activity and sport can make a difference. However, developing programs and interventions that bring about positive change is a challenging endeavour.

The participation legacies of numerous mega-sport events, government-led policies, and the aspirations of wide ranging sport structures show that glossy brochures and good intentions are, on their own, simply not enough. Has sport forgotten to be playful, and is tough competition a turn-off for most of the population?

Play the Game will bring together researchers and practitioners from commercial, public and not-for-profit sectors to exchange best practices and failed attempts, and to explore opportunities for creative, culturally relevant and people-oriented strategies for change.

”Society’s Watchdog – or Showbiz’ Pet?” That question was addressed to the sports media at the 1997 Play the Game, and the dilemma persists more than two decades later. Investigative journalists have uncovered the biggest sporting scandals over the past decade, but the overwhelming part of the sports media forms part of a global entertainment industry. Can classic journalism survive in the age of the Internet?

Academics also balance interests: Sport is a growing field of research, but it often depends on funding from sport itself. How do academic researchers handle conflicts of interest?

A third group of story-tellers are organisations like Play the Game who claim to fight for integrity in sport. Who is behind them, and what are their goals?

Play the Game 2019 holds a mirror up to ourselves and our colleagues that wish to play the role of guardians of values in sport. How can we be trusted? Who will watch the watchdogs?

Play the Game 2019
Play the Game 2019