Sports Integrity: How much do the world’s youth really care?

Last month SIGA appointed the first members of its youth council in a bid to give youth a real voice in the sports integrity debate and a wider social change. But do the world’s youth care? And if they do, what is that they care about. SIGA youth council member Anđelija Milovanović opens the discussion with Anton Klischewski, vice chair of the Sports Integrity Global Alliance Youth Council.

Sport is one of the most important phenomena of the modern age and as such it reflects the numerous problems that characterize our society. As sports fans, we witness various events every day that call into question the basic postulates of justice, ethics and fairness. However, sport is also an adequate field in which it is possible to initiate a wave of changes that will affect society as a whole. The question is who are the actors of current and future changes and what is the role of young people in the whole process of the desired sports revolution, which could provoke the  status quo.

The COVID 19 virus pandemic has changed social reality, exposed some old ones and opened up new problems that individuals face with. As the bearers of the future value system young people want to participate in solving these issues. Anton Klischewski, vice chair of Sports Integrity Global Alliance Youth Council points out that it the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement in United States of America showed some path that we can follow when we talk about the possibility of protest in the process of fighting for human rights. However, there is no  clear model  in Europe that would provide its citizens  this opportunity.

“I hope this changes. We see that we need sports people to be part of social change. If we really want to make the world a better place, we have also to point out the problems in sports structures, and one of the key issues is related to human rights,” said Klischewski.

These problems are at the center of interest not only of sports stakeholders, but also more broadly, in all spheres of society. There is an intertwining of different individuals and groups in the process of resolving them and sport represents a stage on which this struggle can be more clearly portrayed. Sport also has some problems of its own whose roots lie in social structures. These problems are precisely related to sports integrity ​that are being compromised over and over again and according to  Klischewski  more funds are needed so that we can attack this issues more directly.

“We know about the problems related to match fixing.  Also, the issues related to conflict of interest are in the gray area especially in sports sponsorship. Just look at the betting integrity especially in the United Kingdom. We have a big campaign against gambling addiction and majority of sponsorship are related to the betting partners. This is therefore a conflict of interest, but it is also a gray zone which has never been much discussed. When we think about this further we need to address these gray zones more accordingly.”

In the era of the global pandemic, these problems have reached new levels. Thus, this struggle gained new dimensions, and in the whole process, young people notice the key problems and show a desire to get involved in the action of resolving them. However, according to Anton, it is important to pay attention on education related to integrity especially on the grassroots level.

“We need to address this through young people because they will deal with issues related to integrity in sport when they arise in the future. We need to find fair compromise on how we take the voice of younger generations  more seriously.”

Integrity in sports encompasses and indicates many things. There is a wide range of problems that can be classified in this group and among them are fair and honest athletes performances and outcomes,  positive conduct from all sports participants, good governance, financial transparency.  However, Klischewski in the center of his interest puts prevention of these problems .

“We always talk about what will happen in case of misconduct. For example if you conduct doping you will get ban for two, four years, but preventive measures are not at all enhanced not on grassroots not on elite level. We need to talk more about this because it is problem in society. Misconduct does not come just from the athletes but from the sporting structure of these high performances. We have to find good balance between ethical behavior, the Olympics, medals and glory.”

Considering the society in which they live, young people need to be brave to point out the problems that surround them. Their reality is accompanied by various challenges and they re-examine the value system that they carry. Each of their actions is evaluated and affects their future. Therefore, challenging certain sports structures is a great challenge and carries with it a great responsibility.

“Young people are not afraid to point out the problems related to integrity in sports, but sometimes they lack awareness and training on how to point them out correctly, there is still not enough initiative. I think that a general understandings of what these problems represent are needed, and then collective action.”

As in other spheres of life, so in sports, individuals and groups can only guess what the future holds for them. However, it is clear that the future of sport is tied to technology. The symbiosis that arose between technology and sports is one of the aspects that conditioned the commercialization of sports and the transition from amateurism to professionalism. The very meaning of sports has also changed, and as a direct consequence of the use of various technological achievements in sports, the limits of human possibilities have been moved. At the same time, the development of technology, in addition to the positive implications, has caused the emergence of some new problems, including in the field of its integrity.

“What is been done with big data? This is a big integrity issue because we do not now what is this  used for. The sports sector, as it is, is very autonomous from other industries and keeps this data for itself. It will be interesting to see in which direction this will develop.”

Youth in sports share certain common problems and are stepping into the future with the hope that at least some of them will be solved. Their ideas are diverse and they need space for adequate action. Mutual cooperation will open up different possibilities so that we can make the sport a better place.  For Anton fair sports for all is integrity of sports, because it goes in many different directions, from social development, economic development, but also ecological development.

“The more diverse the better. If you have a different set of opinions in the decision-making process it can only help. I hope that finally this will be our same aim, for youth leaders, and integrity leaders. To find common inclusive ground.”

Contact the author Anđelija Milovanović via moc.l1611023195labto1611023195ofdlr1611023195owedi1611023195sni@o1611023195fni1611023195