SPORTS LAW AT THE CROSSROADS

SIGA to announce partner for game-changing SIRVS ratings at NY Forum

By Paul Nicholson

March 14 – Next week will see a big step forward in the initiative to raise sports bodies’ governance standards when SIGA announce the firm that will develop and operate its ratings system.

Called SIRVS (SIGA Independent Rating and Verification System), the ratings will be a game-changer for sports organisations, providing a scorecard of how they are managing themselves in an increasingly integrity conscious sports world.

The purpose of SIRVS is to assess and rate a sporting organisation’s level of implementation of and compliance, in particular against SIGA’s Universal Standards. For the ratings to be meaningful they will need, said SIGA “to be rigorous, impartial, objective and strictly independent”.

The plan is for SIRVS to be published on an annual basis. The practical use of SIRVS for international federations and national sports governing bodies will be to be able to show to sponsors, broadcaters and commercial partners exactly where they are on the sports governance curve – both at an international and national level. In order words, that they are fit for purpose. For many it could prove a challenge.

“There has to be a serious step forward in how we view and rate the governance of sports,” said Emanuel Macedo de Medeiros, CEO of SIGA who conceived SIRVS. “I have said it many times: We are all sick of waking up in the morning and reading about another scandal in a sport I love. It ruins the game and people’s trust in it. Sport is big business. It must be governed and operated with  the highest integrity standards. No-one buys old rhetorics, home-made self-assessments remedies and lip service. People have had enough, and are not seeing any meaningful progress. SIRVS is the ultimate test and the solution the sporting industry has been waiting for. Here it is!”

The push for a rating mechanism is supported by some of sport’s biggest global sponsors. Michael Robichaud, Senior Vice President, Global Sponsorship, Mastercard, said: “We believe that from a sponsor’s perspective, preserving sport integrity is integral to protecting our investments and reputation. Today’s consumers are more demanding and as a global business that has a vested interest in the sports industry, we expect the same accountability as our consumers from the sports we sponsor.’’

It is a point echoed by Babar Rahman, Head of Global Marketing, Sponsorships and IFE & Connectivity, Qatar Airways: “We sponsor passion. Reputational risk keeps us awake at night. For brands, sponsorship is no longer about putting your logo up. It is about protecting your brand.

“There is currently nothing out there for sponsors to evaluate their investments. We are SIGA Founding Members and Qatar Airways is excited about SIGA’s Rating System.We will use this tool when carrying out our due diligence.”

Ultimately SIRVS will provide the equivalent of an integrity ‘kitemark’ for sports bodies as they market themselves to sponsors and global business who have become increasingly demanding on governance issues in order to avoid the kind of reputational damage through the governing body scandals that have riddled the sports world, and in particular football globally, over the past four years.

The firm winning the contract to define and administer SIRVs will initially spend a pilot phase working with 5-10 sports organisations to devise an initial framework for the measurement system. The next stage will see it opened up to SIGA members who will be SIRVS rated, before the ratings are then pushed outwards to rate sports bodies non-solicited, though it is anticipated they would have to co-operate.

Crucial within the SIRVS methodology will be assessment of the culture of the organisation – the ultimate test of the governance of a sports organisation and its individuals. Sports bodies often have multiple rules covering all eventualities, but they have also been found to have multiple ways of circumventing them.

Suzanne Hayden, former Senior Adviser to the United States Departments of Justice and Treasury, said: “Sports integrity is the foundation for all games, players and organizations.  Its ripple effect, formed by transparency, good governance and financial accountability impacts those far beyond the pitch and lasts long after the game is over…”

Hayden has been part of the three-person independent jury assessing applicants to run the SIRVS system. At its core the system will have SIGA’s Universal Standards providing a framework from which the measurement system will be devised.

“SIRVS, with its rigorous measurement of compliance of universal integrity standards, offers a unique opportunity to those organizations to serve as beacons in sports integrity.  In so doing, they will meet the expectations of their public and serve society, generally.”

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