PtG Article 07.11.2005

Ways to address corruption in sport

Monday morning's plenary session at Play the Game did not limit itself to a review of crime and corruption in sport but also came up with a number of suggestions on how to combat it.

Bob Munro, of Mathare United, narrated how Kenya's top football clubs had got together to scupper the money-siphoning game of the African country's national federation and Argentine Mario Goijman spoke of how he had taken on the formidable Ruben Acosta, president of the FIVB, who is now facing a trial in Switzerland in March next year thanks to Goijman’s efforts.

John Githongo, of Transparency International, emphasised how institutional reforms could be brought about to stop the corrupt from accessing the funds they actually eyed, and Christine Oughton from the University of London recommended supporters' trusts, as in English soccer, to restore accountability to the professional game.

None of the speakers harboured any naïve illusions about the extent of the problem. Githongo, in fact, made it clear that more money flowing into sport would not leave it any less vulnerable than it was today to assorted unholy influences. But the pressure of the watchful breed Munro referred to as "unreasonable people" came time and again to be insisted upon as the key to a fairer, brighter tomorrow.

That both Munro, who had successfully taken on Kenya Football Federation chairman Maina Kariuki, and Goijman, unfazed despite the collective coolness to his cause of the world's self-servingly complaisant national federations of volleyball, told extraordinary tales of corruption set the tone for the day.

In a way, Munro's description of a manager filming a game scampering along the sidelines to obviate biased supervision anticipated Githongo's prediction, made later in the day, that local-level corruption would only increase in the years to come, helping crime syndicates take things over at upper levels unless resistance was well-thought-out and strong.

Munro's recounting of the clubs' long-haul fightback, the byzantine complexity of the situation  which called for the toughest of responses to be summoned and how those advocating reforms had been sought to be foiled was well-told, and well-received too.

The success of the solution Oughton suggested was predicated upon fans´ trusts coming by representation on club boards and she acknowledged that high-ups in the portals of power were wary of having to share these.

"They'll lump it if they can't bring themselves to like it" was the unstated but unambiguous verdict of the assembly.

Experts on corruption and sports governance at Play the Game, from left to right: John Ghitongo, Christine Oughton and Bob Munro.


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