Olympic summer sports introduce new governance self-assessment tool

Photo: Alberto-G/Flickr

New tool from ASOIF allows international federations to assess their own governance. Photo: Alberto G/Flickr


By Stine Alvad
An ASOIF task force has designed a new governance assessment tool to help Olympic summer sports to “promote and ensure a culture of governance”. But the new tool risks weakening IOC’s promises of independent control, says Play the Game’s international director.

At the International Federations Forum in late 2015, Francesco Ricci Bitti, president of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF), declared that, in the light of the past years’ corruption scandals, the international federations would work actively with the IOC on putting a greater focus on governance in the international federations (IFs).

“The objective of this undertaking is to ensure that the state of governance within sports institutions can be readily assessed publicly and monitored on an ongoing basis. […] to promote and ensure a culture of governance within all sport Federations,” Bitti said at November’s IF Forum in Lausanne.

A 'Governance Task Force' was established then, consisting of representatives from sports as well as researchers within the field, and at the recent General Assembly of the ASOIF, the ASOIF member federations consented to a tool that the task force believes will allow sports organisations to assess their own governance.

The sports movement assesses the sports movement the best
The tool provides a list of five key principles each with a set of indicators by which the sports organisations will be able to measure themselves partly mirroring already existing tools such as the independent Sports Governance Observer and BIBGIS.

The five key principles are transparency, integrity, democracy, sports development & solidarity, and control mechanisms. The task force report recommends that these five key principles be “immediately embraced” throughout the federations.

According to the task force’s report, the best assessment of the state of governance in the IFs is made by the sports movement itself. The federations themselves are the most fit to understand the ‘complex environment’ that the sports movement exists in. This is further underlined by the fact that each federation is “free to adapt as much or as little [of the tool] as it deems appropriate for its organization”.

The report notes, though, that by strictly adhering to already existing governance standards, “most of the issues faced by the sports today could be avoided”.

Warnings of lack of independence
Jens Sejer Andersen, International Director of Play the Game sees some challenges with the introduction of this new tool, especially for the IOC who issued a “Declaration on Good Governance and clean athletes” in December last year announcing an independent audit system.

“The ASOIF self-assessment tool may as well serve to weaken the promises made by IOC President Thomas Bach of an independent audit of the governance standards. The IOC should react to ensure that this does not sidetrack the governance debate,” says Andersen.

“Only two out of nine members of the ASOIF task force are independent experts, and the federations are free to change the new tool as they please. They are even set free to hide any problems they identify."

Andersen finds that the Olympic federations have learned a lot from FIFA, but unfortunately taken the wrong lessons.

“Like FIFA, the other members of the Olympic family have decided that nobody from the outside can really understand them, and that is, therefore, best that they evaluate themselves. With this mistrust in the outside world, no wonder that the distance between the self-image of the federations and the public perception of them is growing by the day.”

Evaluation report planned
The ASOIF task force will be in touch with all member federations over the next year for an evaluation of the governance status based on the above-mentioned principles and their indicators.

This will result in a “comprehensive baseline report” that contains an overview of the state of governance in the Olympic summer sports federations based on this assessment tool. The report is planned for publication towards the end of 2016.

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