Out of bounds! Young people, forgotten of international sport governance
Dr. Gilles Klein, 4th January 2017
Sport- In brief
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.
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.
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.