Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Break the shop window! Grassroots sport vs elite sport: competition and/or synergies

Break the shop window! Grassroots sport vs elite sport: competition and/or synergies
 Dr. Gilles Klein, 31st January 2017

 ANC 2017
 All bets are off! In Gabon, from January 14 to February 5, 2017, the African Cup of Nations is on. The punters can follow the 2016 team ranking: 1. DR Congo; 2. Ivory Coast; 3. Tunisia; 4. Senegal; 5. Egypt; 6. Morocco; 7. Nigeria; 8. Cameroon; 9. Burkina Faso; 10. Mali. Many countries, after the African Cup of Nations, will dream about entering the FIFA world championship.


“More countries might dream” said FIFA’s President when announcing the extended participation of 48 countries in the 2026 soccer world championship. But, what is better for the ANC participant countries? Is it to dream of taking part in the World cup or dream of developing soccer, and more generally sport, in their countries? Is it to inspire the population in front of a TV screen or to inspire Youth by giving them more access to sport?

Developed countries

For the countries which are leaders of the world championships the question does not arise. Indeed, in the more advanced countries, the national sport policy promotes high level sport. However, it is a far from exclusive area. Put simply, sport is developed according to six orientations. 1. The development of sport for all, especially for the more sedentary. 2. The organization of high level sport in order to participate at a high level in the major sporting events (MSE).3. The prevention through sport and the protection of sportspersons against the more negative aspects – doping, violence, discrimination and cheating. 4. The promotion and development of sport as a profession, occupation and employment. 5. The prestige of the national sport and the regulation of sport at an international level. 6. More generally, the promotion of a set of values: education, socialization, well-being through sport, the solidarity and connection between professional and amateur sport.

Developing countries

In contrast, the question certainly does arise for the developing countries, where high level sport often remains the only priority. More specifically, qualification for the major sporting events is the main objective of the national sport policy and risks jeopardizing sport for all and the other orientations namely, prevention through sport, jobs and employment, solidarity between elite sport and amateur sport etc. In making these choices, the basis of de Coubertin’s pyramid, that is the education of young people and training of the staff, remain areas, which are if not completely forgotten, are at the very least sidelined. The meeting of the sports economist, Wladimir Andreff[1], and the African ministers of youth and sports illustrates the problem.

W. Andreff

During UNESCO’s 1992  conference on sport in the developing countries, in Sousse, Tunisia, the sports economist Wladimir Andreff drew attention to the participation of the national sport teams in the major sporting events (MSE) – for example the Olympic Games or the soccer World Cup organized by FIFA – and the benefits for the countries, notably developing ones.


During his presentation, Wladimir Andreff, suggested redirecting all or part of the budgetary provision allocated to the MSE, notably to sport for all and to youth sport. More than about ten of the thirty or forty ministers of sports or their representatives took successively to the floor: “How a representative from de Coubertin’s homeland can make this kind of suggestion!”.

Shop window

"Do you want to break the shop window?" asked one of the ministers. For these high-level sports executives, there is no question of putting into doubt the budgets allocated to the national selections. This was the collective view until one of the African ministers spoke, pointing out that the words of Andreff were sensible. Several European ministers of sports or their representatives also supported the speakers’ words.


Since 1992, the situation has been probably improved in the African countries. However, a large number remain focused on the MSE. In that case, we must agree! Don’t break the shop window of sports in the African countries. Continue to accord priority to the national representation in the MSE. But how do you provide for the national selections? How do you select young talent? How do you educate all the young people that form the basis of the pyramid, the top of which is high level sport? The ministers should reread the conference on English education, delivered by Pierre de Coubertin on April 18, 1997 in front of the Society of social economy. In sport, all starts with young people and their trainers.

[1]I thank Wladimir Andreff for having reminded the context of this event.

Values of sport

That is the mission of the Intergovernmental Organization World Sports Alliance. In Rabat, in 2007, in the run-up of education to the Millennium development goals, the civil international society tasked our organization with educating the young people of our member states and training their staff to the MDGs through sport. For all of us, the question is not to dream of qualifying a team, but of increasing the number of spectators during the broadcasting of the MSE. In this blog, I will come back to two major issues. The first is to suggest solutions to tie sport development to economic development. The second is to help young people and their staff to have a better access to sport and its values.

Next -  Sport and the floating coffins of the Mediterranean: what jobs for the African unemployed graduates?

Monday, January 23, 2017

Let's take action! Creating a virtuous circle to finance youth sports

Let's take action! Creating a virtuous circle to finance youth sports.

Dr. Gilles Klein, 23rd January 2017

What is the current situation of youth sport at the start of the 21st Century? We have international sport NGOs engaging in a race for gigantism and increasing commercialization, at the risk of omitting the core missions of sport. Investigation after investigation of intergovernmental organizations showing the decline of physical education and youth sport. We have ministers of youth and sport who, from one world summit to the next talking about taking action, yet nothing ever comes of it. Experts who in their written articles ask for a reduction in the gap between political promises and daily realities.


Instead of noting, evaluating, measuring, claiming we need to take action: we need to create a self-financing intergovernmental sport organization that will contribute to physical and sport education for young people, to train their staff and to finance the construction of sports infrastructures, mainly in countries that currently lack them.

Ten years of efforts

Things are easier said than done. The path from the initial vision in 2006 to success is a long one. Regarding the sport diplomacy, with Sylvie Delpech, co-founder of the General Secretariat, and then with several collaborators, we did not make it easy for ourselves structuring the organization. Several of the main problems were in the creation of the General Secretariat, the conception of the structure and institutions, the headquarters of the organization and the field offices, the education and training programs, the creation and maintenance of diplomatic relationships with the Ministries of sports of the thirty three Member States and of the ninety Candidate States, as well as maintaining relationships with six hundred experts in sport sciences and with major sport organizations etc.


In this blog I will be exploring and going into detail on specific aspects of our approach as well as highlighting some avatars of our experience. But, let us start at the beginning - who are we, what is our project, what is our model?


We have reported on our efforts in the course of thirty-two conferences, eighteen academic articles, fifty eight press articles or press releases. However, it is the presentations given to the international sport organizations which better explain our project, our model and clear the way for the future: in December 2013, in Doha, Doha GOAL’s Forum and in September 2015, in Doha, MINEPS V follow up meeting organized by UNESCO and ICSS. These interventions could be summarized as follows:


The Intergovernmental Organization – World Sports Alliance (IGO-WSA) was founded in Rabat in 2007 with the support of the international civil society (AICESIS, UN-NGO-IRENE) and the United Nations. Its aim is to educate the young and train national sports trainers in human development issues (education, fairness, health, gender, environment) all the while also contributing to the economic development of its Member States (partnerships, reduction in poverty).


In partnership with its 33 Member States, the IGO-WSA creates synergies between central and local governments, major companies and the business world in order to negotiate and conclude meaningful and productive partnerships. These initiatives can be the engines for access to the practice of sports for all in developing countries.

Two programs

Two programs have been conceived which are now being implemented: a youth education and training of trainers program, developed by the World Center of Excellence for Physical Education, Sports, Leisure – MDGs, founded under the auspices of the United Nations; a program of construction of the infrastructure for youth sport and national sports institutions.


An original and inclusive socio-economic model co-ordinates several kinds of development: economic, human and sports. With the support of the Sports Ministers, partnerships are negotiated and concluded between Heads of States, companies and investors. These partnerships create synergies between the stakeholders interested in supporting human development (education, health, resources) and sports development (sport education and training, infrastructure).

Lessons to be learned

A number of conclusions can be drawn from this experience about how to support the national sports policies in a globalized world, more generally about how to contribute to national development through and for sport.

Seven engines

We identify seven engines of an integrated approach to a sustainable development of sports in the developing countries.

  • Sport is the source of a virtuous circle that mutually reinforces sports policies, social policies and economic growth.
  • Sport is an engine for multilateral co-operation with States encouraging international investors and creating synergies between the stakeholders of national development through and for sport.
  • Sport is an engine for pragmatic policies adapted to national and local circumstances.
  • Sport is an engine for State proactivity connecting national policy-makers all along a jointly responsible and decisional chain.
  • Sport is an engine for national development creating opportunities for economic development through sectoral partnerships.
  • Sport is also an engine for human development, its three components and their indices.
  • Finally, sport is an engine for social development: the positive channeling of youth, the fight against discrimination, the creation of job opportunities and the resolution of social tension.

For the foreseeable future, the IGO-WSA faces six challenges, as tools for a renewed program: sustainability, infrastructure, education, fairness, employment and training.

Next: Break the shop window! Sport for all vs elite sport: competition and/or synergies

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Out of bounds! Young people, forgotten of international sport governance

Out of bounds!  Young people, forgotten of international sport governance

Dr. Gilles Klein, 4th January 2017

Sport- In brief
Dr. Gilles Klein
Around 770 B. C., in Olympia, the Greeks laid its foundations. Around 1830, in the Public Schools, the English invented it. In 1894, at the IOC meeting in Paris, the French organized it. In 2016, in Zurich, FIFA consecrated its shift against a backdrop of the globalization of sports economics and commercialization.

Proliferation of proceedings, straying by the management of sport organizations, need for urgent reforms, reduction of physical education and sport policies for youth motivated our choice: in 2007, in Rabat, to found an intergovernmental sport organization which is not only self-financed, but also able to finance youth sports, without omitting its functions dedicated to health development, social integration and promotion of equality fostered through the momentum established by the Millennium Development Goals.


As a recurring theme, the governance of the international sport organizations hits the press columns. Proceedings involving international sport governance are multiplying. We note the most recent ones: FIFAgate, the IAAF’s cover-up of doping practices by the Russian athletes, the ATP's laxity surrounding match-fixing. These matters follow other incidents: the ICU cover-up of EPO in cycling, as symbolized by Armstrong, after the Festina affair. Without forgetting the challenges to the award of major sporting events: Sydney 2000 Summer Games, Qatar 2022 football world championship.


What does this mean? The major sport Non-Governmental Organizations (FIFA, IOC, ICU, ATP, etc.) tend to blur the line between two domains within the management of sport -football, cycling, etc. The first is its administration which assumes the exercise of rigorous management. The second is its commercial exploitation for achieving success in the sports administrated. But, inexorably, one observes the drift of the administration and the priority given to the commercial exploitation.

The sports market which is growing is sharpening appetites: USD 45 Billion in Sports Sponsorship, as much as USD 35 Billion in sports competitions broadcasting rights. But the commercial strategy, which has become systematic, runs the risk of forgetting the essential: the health and social functions of sports. Although they focused on trade and management, these NGOs are not entirely blameless.

We identify three deficits. A management deficit: a Football World Championship valued at USD 6 Billion is allotted by 25 persons, the Olympic Games by 92 voters. A democratic deficit: the Presidency and executive management of NGOs do not report to the licensees of the federations who are the true stakeholders of the organization. A political deficit: the decisions of the leadership of NGOs are free of any regulation by the States represented. These three deficits facilitate the clientelist drifts, the aggressive lobbying through the allocation of grants and all kinds of benefits. The succession and repetitiveness of the crises in the management of major sports NGOs show that it is no longer only avatars. The evolutions of sports, their growing financialization, their worldwide universalization do, in fact, raise a governance problem.

A challenged legitimacy

The problem can be formulated as follows: Either the NGOs' action is truly efficient by contributing to the economic, human, social and sport development of the countries hosting the events they organize; or these NGOs focus on the development of their own business, engage in a race towards ever more enormous deals and an increasing commercialization, assuming the risk of forgetting the core missions of sports. It is legitimate to tip the balance in favor of the first proposal. A global movement crystallizes around pleas for the reform of governance reaching the end of road.

Forgotten Youth

Governance straying, major events, broadcasting rights? Spot the mistake. In this debate on International Sports Governance, children and youth are the important missing players of International Sports Governance.

They are left on the sidelines of the politics of the major sport organizations and, more often than not, from media coverage and literature. For forty years, this battle for physical activity for youth was mine. For twenty years, conscious of what gradually occurred to me as a critical paradox, I addressed it in my academic works and publications. On these issues, I was led to advise the governmental and intergovernmental leaders.

After the fall of the Berlin wall which consecrates the universality of the neo-liberal model, even more after the 2008 crisis, most of the States adopted the standards of the "New Public Management" introduced in the 1980's. In all sectors - health, education, justice, etc. - quantified targets are introduced within the management of public records. Profitability is emerging as a norm. One after the other, the occidental States, in particular the European ones, are sliding towards an Anglo-Saxon neo-liberal model.

One of the effects, underlined by the intergovernmental organizations - United Nations, UNESCO, for example - is the decline of physical education and sports for youth in public policies. A socio-economic context leading to a contradiction: The more the populations' demands and needs increase - sedentariness, overweight, obesity, social integration, promotion of equality -, the more public support decreases. The compulsory physical education which accompanied the Welfare State has relinquished ground in the face of the policies of rigor and austerity. We must invent other solutions. Innovative solutions, even more needed in the emerging and developing countries.

Take Action

Must we wait for the end of the governance crises of the International Sports Organizations? Must we wait for the sport governance reforms and the renewed legitimacy? Must we wait until the youth is invited to enter playing field of international sports governance? After long consideration, we chose to take action. In 2007, we founded an intergovernmental sports organization, which proposes a socio-economic model, to engage the States, to find new solutions for the funding of youth sports, to promote health education, social integration, equality, to develop the training of sport staff, to build sport infrastructures for youth in the countries that lack them and to separate the educative missions from the commercial issues.

Next: Take Action! To create a virtuous circle to finance youth sports.