PtG Article 08.03.2012

Play the Game’s International Director honoured as Sports Writer of the Year

Jens Sejer Andersen, founder and International Director of Play the Game, was honoured yesterday when he was elected Sports Writer of the Year by the Association of Danish Sports Journalists.

The many years of fighting for transparency and good governance in international sports organisations were honoured yesterday, when the man behind Play the Game, Jens Sejer Andersen, was awarded the title of Sports Writer of the Year by the Association of Danish Sports Journalists (Danske Sportsjournalister), his main achievement in 2011 being his role in the earnest and critical international coverage of the corruption scandals surrounding FIFA.

Andersen was awarded the title for his work on supporting and creating debate focussing on the shady sides of international sport such as corruption, doping, match-fixing and exposing the often outrageous disproportion between the expressed values and the actual governance of international sports organisations. He was also acknowledged for his work on organising the international Play the Game conferences, which since 1997 have been a ‘home’ for discussing the ‘homeless questions in sport’. 

A primary argument for electing Andersen as Sports Writer of the Year was his contribution to the critical sports journalism as a source, an inspiration and a creator of networks for journalists across the world through Play the Game, which he initiated in 1997. 

A unique initiative

“Cooperation, development and networking across borders was something new but also necessary as international sport became increasingly internationalised and commercialised in the late 1990’s. These seminars were a boost to Danish sports journalists and the journalistic side of the sports coverage where we moved beyond the daily reporting and focus on matches. Equally important – and impressive – is it that the Sports Writer of the Year has continued down this road. He has had the perseverance to keep going and that is why we today have Play the Game, where he is the initiator and driving force. The ability to stand firm and to keep evolving has made Play the Game a factor in sport and journalism – an international forum for reflection, discussion and development that we can hardly go without. It is unique,” said Steen Ankerdal, member of the board at the Association for Danish Sports Journalists when he handed out the award – represented by a golden pen a cheque for 3000 Danish kroner (500 US dollars).  

When Andersen thanked the Association for Danish Sports Journalists for the award, he stressed the fundamental values underlying Play the Game: 

“There should be no problem in suggesting that qualities such as democracy, transparency and freedom of speech should permeate sport. It should come naturally to the big sports organisations that profess to the democracy of membership and owe their raison d'etre to the hundreds of millions of athletes. And it should come naturally to the mass media who better than anyone knows of the importance of democracy and freedom of speech.”

But reminding sports organisations and the mass media of their democratic obligations has not been frictionless. 

“Sometimes I have even had the impression that it was outright unpopular and that the vast majority of sports managers and media people would prefer to be left in peace so they could concentrate on their important tasks without being bothered by irrelevant questions and demands of an open and democratic debate,” Andersen argued.

Being awarded the title of Sports Writer of the Year Andersen therefore sees as an encouragement to keep up the fight for more transparency and democracy in the sports organisations and to help his colleagues exploit “the goldmine of journalistic opportunities” that exists in the tension field between sport, culture, business and politics.