Conference themes

Play the Game 2015 is the ninth Play the Game conference, and like at previous conferences, a vast number of issues of critical importance for world sports are up for debate. 

Play the Game 2015

- Global sport: Reform or revolution?

Theme descriptions

  • The revolt against global events: A perfect storm for sport?
  • Governments vs. fixers: Will the rule of law beat the law of the jungle?
  • Good governance in sport: Setting standards, raising bars
  • A new World Code against doping: Anybody willing to comply?
  • The deadly disease of inactivity: Is the world ready for a cure?
  • Transfers and trafficking: The human cost of broken dreams
  • College sport in the USA: Unprotected amateurs in a billion-dollar business
  • Open forum

The revolt against global events: A perfect storm for sport?
Popular protest over major sports events has grown as never before. Millions took to the streets in Brazil in opposition to the FIFA World Cup, and a handful of cities voted against bidding for the 2022 Winter Olympics. Countries all over the world invest loads of money and prestige to host global sports events, but there is increasing doubt about the return on investment.

Yet, some countries – like Qatar, Russia or Azerbaijan – seem willing to invest almost whatever it takes to secure a place in the global limelight. In search for a positive image worldwide these countries also find that their shadowy sides are exposed and cause controversy.

For those wishing reform in sport, this could be a perfect storm. The IOC has launched the ‘Agenda 2020’ package saying it wishes to change, and intergovernmental organisations such as UNESCO and the Council of Europe are calling for more social, financial and sporting sustainability.

Play the Game 2015 will address the current debates on major sports events and see if and how the global events can positively impact the world and the societies that host them. The Colombian city of Medellín will be highlighted as a case study of how an event strategy can be linked to social, sporting and educational progress.

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Governments vs. fixers: Will the rule of law beat the law of the jungle?
When Play the Game first highlighted the threats of match-fixing in 2005, hardly anybody listened. Today, the fight against criminal gamblers is on top of the international agenda in sport. At a record speed, the member states of the Council of Europe have signed a binding convention against manipulation of sports competitions. But how many countries outside Europe will join in and secure a global effort? And what other challenges do governments and sports organisations face to win this battle in the long run – if ever? Is it true that organized crime is already involved in 25 percent of professional sport?

Play the Game 2015 follows up on the first ten years of match-fixing debates and analyses the next moves to be made on one of the most dangerous battlefields in sport.

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Good governance in sport: Setting standards, raising bars
Good governance is the key to solving all contemporary challenges to sport. In themselves, transparency and democratic decision-making will not cure all ills. But without good governance, all other cures are bound to fail. Corrupt and mismanaged sports organisations cannot be effective and credible partners in the fight against doping, match-fixing and other kinds of fraud. And they cannot deliver the growth in physical activity that people and governments demand worldwide.

With a few exceptions, sports organisations seem unable to reform themselves fundamentally. FIFA has failed, and many others did not even try. But will increased pressure from governments help the reformers? Can governments intervene without damaging the freedom of association enjoyed by sports governing bodies?

Play the Game has been a leader in the sports governance debate for almost two decades and will once again gather the world’s most eminent experts, activists, whistleblowers, journalists, politicians and sports officials so we can inspire and qualify sport to improve its governance while protecting association freedom.

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A new World Code against doping: Anybody willing to comply?
After some years outside the spotlight, international track & field and its world governing body has been hit with double force by doping allegations: The IAAF is accused of protecting dopers while also blackmailing them. Russia has been singled out for double standards, but is it fair to pick at one country in a world where every nation tries to favour their own golden assets? How can doping control ever be efficient if managed by countries and federations that have vested interests?

Play the Game 2015 will discuss the potential of the new World Anti-Doping Code to protect all athletes, in elite sport and in the fitness industry, against the pressure to enhance their performance with illegal drugs.

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The deadly disease of inactivity: Is the world ready for a cure?
A few weeks after Play the Game 2015, governments from all over the world are expected to sign a new joint global agreement on sports policy: a completely revised UNESCO Charter on Physical Education, Physical Activity and Sport. On top of the agenda is the right of every human being to have access to sport, play and exercise. Science tells us that inactivity is more deadly than obesity, and governments look for remedies that can protect them against exploding health budgets.

We know that an active lifestyle is an essential part of the cure, so why do governments hesitate to support the infrastructure, the human skills and the association life that can inspire people to move? Are sports organisations and other stakeholders able to make attractive offers to people of all age groups, abilities and interests?

Where should we invest to best enhance physical activity – in sports clubs, in parks or in bicycle lanes? Should sport be judged mainly by its contribution to health or does it offer more important qualities to society?

Play the Game 2015 will provide you with the newest data on trends in sports participation and physical activity, share best practices from around the world and inspire innovation for sports leaders and practitioners worldwide.

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Transfers and trafficking: The human cost of broken dreams
Millions of less privileged children and adolescents– and their relatives – believe that a career in sport can lift them out of poverty. Unscrupulous agents and clubs in the sports industry thrive on an endless supply of muscle and talent, leaving young and inexperienced individuals as social waste in big cities. Talented children are fair game, for sale at tiny amounts at an increasingly young age.

International and national sports federations insist that rules and protections systems are difficult to implement. The protection of sporting youth largely depends on the willingness of clubs, investors and agents to volunteer information, and the sports transfer market is believed to be a heaven for tax evasion, whitewashing and corruption.

How can the exploitation of children in sport be avoided? How do we monitor the transfer of human beings and turn professional sport into a responsible labour market?

Play the Game 2015 sets out to create an overview and seek solutions to strengthen the rights of athletes regardless of age.

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College sport in the USA: Unprotected amateurs in a billion dollar business
Tens of thousands of students from more than 1,200 colleges in the USA invest four years of their life as the main assets of a multi-billion dollar sports business – but the athletes receive no money and are deprived of a number of basic human and labor rights. Frequently, the only reward is a college degree, and even that is too often worth less than the paper it is written on. Fictitious teaching, school exercises made by tutors, foul play at exams are part of a reality that boosts sports performance, but undermine the full intellectual and personal development of the students.

Play the Game 2015 gives insight into the crisis in the US sports model and also asks what the European and North American sports models may learn from each other, if both are in need of reform?

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