Sports Governance Observer

The Sports Governance Observer is a benchmarking tool that enables sport leaders to improve the governance of their federation by scoring their performance on four different dimensions: Transparency, democratic processes, internal accountability and control, and societal responsibility.

The tool builds on 57 principles of good governance measures scored through 309 indicators through a yes or no system.

Play the Game has published reports about the state of governance in international sports federations in 2015, 2018 and 2019 (find them below).

In 2022, Play the Game has begun the benchmarking process of governance in four international sports federations:

  • Badminton World Federation
  • Union Cycliste Internationale
  • World Athletic
  • International Biathlon Union

Learn more about the project

The foundation of the SGO tool was developed in 2012-2013 in the project  ‘Action for Good Governance in International Sports Organisations’ (AGGIS)  supported by a grant from the European Commission under the framework of the EU Preparatory Actions in the field of sport.

AGGIS provided a theoretical foundation and empirical evidence for a tool for benchmarking governance standards in international sports federations. 

The work was continued in the following years by Play the Game/Danish Institute for Sports Studies and KU Leuven where Dr. Arnout Geeraert from KU Leuven developed the tool by adjusting the indicators and adding a grading system for each indicator.

Based on the tool. Arnout Geeraert analysed the governance of 35 international Olympic federations and published the results in the first ‘Sports Governance Observer’ study.

Over the following years, Arnout Geeraert developed the SGO tool further.

The original idea of grading the degree of adherence to a governance principle was exchanged in favour of a dichotomous system with yes and no indicators. The new tool builds on 57 principles of good government measured through 309 indicators.

The project was funded by Play the Game/The Danish Institute for Sports Studies in cooperation with KU Leuven. 

So far, there have been three reports about the state of governance in international sports federations. 

In 2015, Arnout Geeraert authored the first ‘Sports Governance Observer’ study which was a comprehensive and independent analysis of international sports governance in 35 international Olympic federations.

In 2018, Arnout Geeraert authored the 'Sports Governance Observer 2018' that analysed the state of governance in five international sports federations:

  • The International Football Federation (FIFA)
  • The International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF)
  • The International Swimming Federation (FINA)
  • The International Handball Federation (IHF)
  • The International Tennis Federation (ITF)

In 2019, Jens Alm authored the 'Sports Governance Observer 2019' that analysed the state of governance in six international sports federations:

  • The Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI)
  • The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG)
  • The International Ski Federation (FIS)
  • The Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB)
  • The International Biathlon Union (IBU)
  • The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF)

Here you can download the overview of all the dimensions and indicators in the Sports Governance Observer tool.

The overview explains each indicator, where you can find the data you need, and how you evaluate the information if you are carrying out your own benchmarking exercise.

Download the overview here

Do your own benchmarking

Play the Game has launched an online version of the SGO tool that allows anyone to benchmark an international sports organisation and compare the results with other results from our database.

Go to our theme page 'Do your own benchmarking'

Go directly to the SGO tool

Reports from the project

Boot stepping on money & football. Foto: Thomas Søndergaard
PtG Publication October 2015
Sports Governance Observer 2015 - The legitimacy crisis in international sports governance
Man voting. Photo: GettyImages/seksan Mongkhonkhamsao
PtG Publication November 2018
Sports Governance Observer 2018. An assessment of good governance in five international sports federations.
Man snowboarding. Photo: Pexels
PtG Publication October 2019
Sports Governance Observer 2019. An assessment of good governance in six international sports federations.

News about the SGO project

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PtG Article 23.11.2021
Play the Game launches online versions of governance benchmarking tools
PtG Article 14.10.2019
Will the Sports Governance Observer bring changes to world sport?
PtG Article 10.07.2015
Most sports federations fail to meet basic principles of good governance

Theme pages about governance research

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Benchmarking sports governance

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PtG Theme

Do your own sports governance benchmarking