SIGA meetings close with SIRVs ratings prioritised and a commitment to build US alliances

By Paul Nicholson in New York

March 28 – The SIGA (Sports Integrity Global Alliance) meetings closed in New York with a meeting of the integrity group’s general assembly and a commitment to grow the association in the US.

It had been a packed – often manic – two days of meetings as the ambitions of the group were matched by the determination to address the multiple integrity issues in world sport with an affirmative action agenda shoehorned into an action-packed conference schedule.

Perhaps the key highlight for SIGA and a mark of the speed of its progress was the announcement of the British Standards Institute (BSI) who will develop a ratings system that will measure how fit-for-purpose sports governing bodies are.

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 need for some form of integrity measurement of organisations was echoed across a number of sessions but nowhere was it more resonant than on the panel tackling the issues of sponsorship and partnering with sports bodies that have generated a toxic reputation for themselves.

The potential for reputational damage to brands is still a very real fear as they work out where to put their marketing dollars, even four years after the FIFAgate scandals and arrests of 2015 that forced major sports sponsors to rapidly readjust their thinking.

Michael Robichaud Senior Vice President, Global Sponsorship Marketing, at MasterCard led the call for the ratings system on a panel that included Panasonic brand marketers as well as Daniela Castro Executive Director, Pact for Sport, in Brazil, an organisation formed by athletes fed up with the corruption within sport in their country and which has brought pressure to bear on commercial sponsors and supporters to force sports administrators to clean up their act.

It was a movement borne out of the corruption in Brazil surrounding the preparations for the 2014 World Cup and that led to the civil unrest of 2013 when Brazilians took to the streets in major cities to protest.

What next? More indictments?

While SIGA forums generally try to steer clear of naming and shaming, preferring generally to pursue a more shiny and solution-oriented approach, the reality can’t be avoided and as ever FIFA is the big example pointed to.

A panel of leading investigators lifted the lid on the FIFA investigation, giving an insight into a tax evasion case that began with the arrest of FIFA executive committee member and Concacaf vice president Chuck Blazer and climaxed with the May 2015 arrests in Zurich of the not-so Magnificient Seven FIFA administrators and ‘alumni’. It was a set of indictments that eventually grew to 42 individuals.

The sentencing is still on-going.

So is the investigation according to the former investigators who all told Insideworldfootball that further indictments could not be ruled out – both in terms of a clean-up of the existing investigations as well as new cases, including cases from within FIFA’s current and ‘reformed’ administration. The watch phrase for those prone to corruption activities is that if the fraud is in dollars then the US will likely come knocking.

Something for the children

An issue that took up a lot of discussion time and still was only able to scratch the surface of the problem was child and athlete protection, human trafficking, and general safeguarding. A panel that featured FIFPro’s Theo van Seggelen gave the impression that there is almost too much too do in this area.

But there is a lot of ‘doing’ taking place and ADFP Global, the NGO backed by former FIFA presidential candidate Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan, showcased his vison with CEO JF Cecillon and communications director Shimon Cohen demonstrating the power of, and the passion for, positive football supported activism and how they work with projects like War Child in the Central African Republic.

One suspects it is a far more meaningful and fulfilling activity for Prince Ali than being mugged  off by national federation football presidents wanting to know what he could do for them personally and how much that meant. Chapeau Prince Ali.

A Tsunami coming?

It is still biggest the single threat to the integrity of top level of sport worldwide and a panel on match-fixing showed just how far off the pace the US is in getting to grips with the issue in real terms.

With the relaxation of laws around online sports betting and US states rushing to license operators for the tax dollars they will bring, so will come the matchfixers.

Even in markets where matchfixers are known to operate, still less than 10% (probably less than 5%) of suspicious betting patterns end up being investigated by sports bodies, regulators or law enforcers. It is pretty much a sanction-free crime, and with more than a trillion dollars (much of it laundered) sloshing through the legal and illegal betting markets, it makes the FBI’s romp through FIFA look like a game of hide-and-seek in Macy’s toy department.

Time for the US

SIGA is clearly getting heard in the US. With alignments like the hook-up with the US President’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition, and academic and leadership initiatives with institutions like George Washington University, the world’s biggest, but generally closed, sports market is beginning to participate in the global sports integrity dialogue.

“We are excited about this foray into the U.S. The presence of so many delegates in our Sport Integrity Forum, coming from a wide range geographies, is confirmation of the shared values and commitment to stand up for the values that matter most in sport. To continue to stand up for good governance and integrity. And, to prevent and fight corruption, so that we can ensure a trustworthy future for the industry we all love,” said SIGA’s always-mercurial CEO Emanuel Macedo de Madeiros.

“We will spare no effort to bring about the much-needed cultural change and long-overdue reforms. We’ve already made substantial progress through our work in Europe and other parts of the world. Now, it’s time for SIGA AMERICA’, this is just the first step.”

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