PtG Article 07.07.2016

IAAF launches far-reaching reform proposals

The world governing body of athletics responds to its deep credibility crisis by launching a reform package to be adopted in five months at a special congress.

If athletics leaders around the world are willing to open the reform package that was launched on Wednesday 6 July by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the emblematic Olympic sports discipline may actually be able to rid itself of some of the mud it has been showering in over decades of mismanagement.

Although there is still no visible end to the legal proceedings and public debates about the current doping and corruption affairs that have attracted undesired global attention on the sport since German ARD aired their first documentary of state supported doping in Russia and related blackmailing from the former top of the IAAF, the world federation now plays a card that has the potential to soften the sceptics.

On the occasion of the European Championships in Amsterdam, the new IAAF President, Lord Sebastian Coe, and a working group on governance reform led by lawyer Maria Clarke from New Zealand, have launched a series of proposals that can fundamentally transform the organisation.

According to Lord Coe, the proposals “address not just the well-publicised and uncomfortable challenges we have had to confront in the last year but the need in future to be a sport that is responsible, responsive, accessible and transparent. A sport that is attractive to, and understanding of, the world that young people inhabit – and a sport attractive to global sponsors”.

To this end, the athletics president asks his colleagues to act speedily. The intention is to adopt the reforms at a special IAAF congress on 3 December, so that the changes can have effect from 1st January 2017. The reforms should be rolled out in full by the end of 2019.

In the Sports Governance Observer Report 2015 published by Play the Game, the IAAF ranked 8 among the 35 Olympic federations, although its score was a meager 52.5% of the basic indicators of good governance. Now the IAAF may soon place itself in the forefront among the federations:

“If approved, these reforms can make the governance structure of the IAAF much more solid. Everything depends on how these broad issues will be implemented in practice,” says the author of the report, Dr. Arnout Geeraert from KU Leuven.

“However, there is one issue not addressed in the package: It would be good to make the allocation procedure of the World Championships more transparent and objective.”

Except for this vital issue, the reforms cover a wide range of fields such as financial and operational systems, ethical compliance, governance structure, among others.

They aim at a more equal and transparent distribution of powers, so the President will in the future have to act on a mandate from other bodies, such as the Executive Board, the Council and the Congress.

They introduce integrity and eligibility checks for all persons of IAAF organs. A new “Integrity Code of Conduct” will re-organise existing rules into one set of regulations, and an independent “Disciplinary Tribunal” will hear and decide on all breaches.

Another new “Independent Athletics Integrity Unit” will be given the daily management on all doping and non-doping integrity matters. External oversight with the IAAF will be considerably strengthened through audits of finance, integrity and governance.

The fact that two out of seven Executive Board members will no longer be elected, but appointed in order to complement the skills among the elected members, may also contribute to external oversight – although it is not clear who will have the mandate to appoint those two independent members.

Transparency initiatives will extend also to publishing remuneration of IAAF officials plus decisions, reports, etc from all governing bodies.

As a soft tool to strengthen the democratic dialogue and community within the organisation, the IAAF also introduces the idea of holding a Convention every two years together with the IAAF Congress.

More information


Read an IAAF press release on the reform package

Read the IAAF proposal for governance structure refrom: A New Era

Read more about the Sports Governance Observer 2015