PtG Article 31.01.2007

Founder member of Play the Game withdraws from 2008

The National Olympic Committee and Sports Confederation of Denmark (DIF) has decided to withdraw from Play the Game from 2008. DIF is one of the founder members of Play the Game but withdraws because Play the Game has not yet succeeded in attracting permanent funding from the other Nordic countries such as it was envisioned at the beginning.

The decision was taken at a board meeting in January where board members discussed an extra economic donation to cover Play the Game's budget deficits for 2006 and 2007. The board voted for the extra donation and then decided to end its involvement with Play the Game when the first agreement period 2004-2007 expires.

Mostly for journalists?

Play the Game was founded in 2004 to work for democracy, transparency and freedom of expression in world sport and journalists, academics and sport officials are the main target groups for Play the Game conferences and sports political networking.

However, Kai Holm, president of DIF and an IOC member, sees Play the Game as an organisation that mainly benefits journalists and not the world of sport.

"We can host a conference like Play the Game - anyone can - but we can not see why we should be doing it. It could just as well be organised by the Danish Union of Journalists or the Association of Danish sports journalists," Holm told the Danish newspaper Politiken.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is also represented on the board of  Play the Game. The president of the Danish Union for Journalists, Mogens Blicher Bjerregaard, calls it incredibly sad that the biggest Danish sports federation does not want to continue supporting Play the Game.

"It is impossible for an initiative like Play the Game to get influence and power if it is not supported 100 per cent by by the sports community. I sincerely hope that none of the other organisations will follow DIF's bad example," Bjerregaard said to Politiken.

Play the Game will look for other types of funding

Neither the Danish Federation of Company Sport nor the Danish Gymnastics and Sports Associations (DGI) plan on withdrawing from Play the Game. And Søren Møller, the president of DGI, does not understand the reasoning behind DIF's decision.

"DIF says it wants to have a pro-active sports policy, fight corruption and work for democracy and transparency in international sport. The only way to prevent that votes are bought when events are awarded to host cities is to maintain a high level of public and media scrutiny. Play the Game plays an important role in ensuring a more critical press," Møller said to Politiken.

The Danish Minister of Culture who donates one third of Play the Game's annual budget has no comments to DIF's withdrawal, but sent Politiken a note stating that that the negotiations on Play the Game's budget for 2008 onwards have not started yet.

At Play the Game, director Jens Sejer Andersen is disappointed that DIF is withdrawing after only two years' existence and well before the process of seeking new funding is exhausted.

"Only the sports confederations of Norway and Iceland have been approached with direct applications to contribute financially, and both have stressed their willingness to cooperate in other ways than with money," Jens Sejer Andersen says.

Yet, Play the Game has succeeded in securing support in the amount of 200,000 euro from the Icelandic youth and sports federation UMFI that will co-host the next Play the Game conference next October.

DIF currently contributes 20 per cent of Play the Game's annual budget and that is an important but not crucial contribution to Play the Game's economy.

"We were able to organise our first three conferences without any help from DIF and will also be able to do so in the future. But the situation shows that Play the Game is founded on a very fragile basis. Therefore we will start pursuing other options in the near future and also address the Danish Parliament," Andersen says.