PtG Article 05.10.2011

A welcome home for sports bodies or a haven for the corrupt?

Why are so many sports governing bodies based in Switzerland?

Speaking as part of Play the Game’s “Change in Sport Day”, Anne Schwobel of the Swiss-based anti-corruption organisation Transparency International told the conference that a total of 47 sports organizations were based in the small European nation of Switzerland. While its attractiveness is partly due to the low tax rates for sports organisations, she explained, it offered other advantages too.

These, she said, included limited immunity from prosecution under unfair competition and corruption laws. NGO's enjoy enhanced legal protections when it comes to their internal decisions, such as the allocation of a sports event to a given nation or city, she pointed out, and due to this lack of legal jurisdiction no official investigations can be conducted.

She expressed her disappointment that the so-called Buechel Report, which was due to be delivered in December 2011 and could have led to changes to the current law, has been postponed by a year. Proposed by Swiss MP Roland Buechel, the report demands that Swiss-based sports organisations detail to parliament which measures they are taking to counter corruption.

Schwobel called for enhanced internal and external audits in governing bodies, as well as random financial inspections, and a new system in which important financial decisions must be approved by at least two people.

Champagne: Trusts Blatter

Former Director of International Relations at FIFA Jerome Champagne spoke of his hopes for world football in the next century. He bemoaned what he described as a “loss of trust” in the football world, and a decline in the certainty of the sports results. He also bemoaned the widening economic disparity between clubs, a decline of loyalty and a new “oligarchy of the wealthy”.

The delicate balance between amateur and professional football, and national and club football was very much in danger, he said, due in part to what Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz described as the “triumph of greed”.

However, Champagne then surprised many in the audience by declaring his “full confidence” in FIFA President Sepp Blatter - who he “knew personally” - to deliver the much-needed reforms.

While FIFA came in for much criticism across the world, he claimed that it did a more effective job than other global bodies such as the United Nations’ emissions reduction conferences. The allocation of responsibilities between the FIFA President, the Executive Committee, and the national football associations should be reshuffled, he agreed.

Call for Integrity Agency

Jean Loup Chappelet, a Professor and Director at the Swiss Graduate School of Public Administration spoke of the extent to which sports can be governed. He examined the limits of the scope for appealing against decisions of bodies such as the IOC and FIFA  through the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and national and EU courts. 

He bemoaned the limited opportunities that exist for appealing against the decisions of sport’s governing bodies, and suggested that a new World Sport Integrity Agency should be created.

The laws on good corporate governance and corruption should apply to sport too, he said.