Play the Game 2017 opens with record participation
More than 450 participants will discuss challenges to world sports in the coming days during Play the Game 2017 in Eindhoven. Although it is no longer taboo to speak about the murkier sides of sport such as corruption and doping, the law of silence still rules in many sports, sounded the warning at the opening of the conference.
With around 450 participants, Play the Game 2017 beats all prior participation records, when the 10th edition of the world communication conference on sport and communications puts the biggest challenges in global sports up for debate in the Dutch city of Eindhoven.
At the centre of the conference are classic Play the Game themes like doping, match-fixing and corruption in sport, but themes like innovation and new trends in sports such as esports have also found their way in to the programme, that features more than 200 speakers.
Play the Game 2017 takes place in a period of time, when more and more media, governments and sports organisations have had to face those problems that have been following sports for many years and on many levels.
”The many questions that were regarded as taboo just ten years ago, are now all over the international agenda,” said international director of Play the Game, Jens Sejer Andersen, in his opening speech, in which he drew lines back to the first conference in 1997.
“In spite of the many changes we have seen since 1997, the key challenge remains unchanged. We have to keep breaking the silence, wherever and whenever it blocks us from understanding reality and from finding solutions for a better life in sport and physical activity,” Andersen said.
He warned that the most sensitive issues are still met with silence in large parts of international sport. As examples, Andersen mentioned death threats from previously high-ranking South American and Russian sports leaders against whistleblowers like Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of the Moscow doping laboratory, whose testimony played a big part in exposing systemic doping in Russia.
”The IOC, guardians of human dignity and of a harmonious society, has reacted as in so many cases before: With silence. […] Don’t they care? Do they secretly support such a tone? Or are they just as afraid of their personal security as any Russian whistleblowers?”
Good governance as the backbone
In her speech at the opening of the conference, Snežana Samardžić-Marković, Director General of Democracy at Council of Europe, stressed that good governance is the backbone of any institution and organisation wishing to be credible, effective and safe from corruption.
“Sports are by no means excluded from the logic. Governments have expressed their wish to see good governance principles at work in the sport sector. Such is also the expectation of athletes, sport lovers and citizens in general. More and more clubs and federations are introducing measures to improve transparency, participation, and accountability. There is a momentum to be seized, but my message is that we have to speed up,” Samardžić-Marković said.
She also mentioned the importance of securing sport as a safe environment for both adults and children as a priority for the Council of Europe, including preventing sexual abuse of children taking part in sport.
The Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport has supported Play the Game 2017 with 100,000 euro, and the conference has also received large support from other local partners including the city of Eindhoven.
At the opening, Eindhoven alderman, Wilbert Seuren, told delegates about how the city had had to reinvent itself when, in the 80’ies, Philips closed its Eindhoven factories and the city lost close to one third of all jobs.
The reinvention included prioritising innovation, technology and sport, and Seuren emphasised that today, the city has a very active population with close to 70 per cent engaging in physical activities at least once a week. The city is also home to a wide range of sports activities, including a vibrant urban sports environment.