Regulating the regulators: sports governance in 2016 and beyond

Dispute Resolution Festive Forecast: today, we look at sports governance and the increasing focus on the composition and potentially conflicting objectives of sports regulatory bodies.

22 December 2016
Bauble in the snow

Blink and you missed it in 2016 as we rolled from one cup final or major championships to another, riding a rollercoaster of skills, high drama, record breaking performances and sportsmanship. 

Tucked amongst 357 (and counting) days of unforgettable sporting drama however were tales of scandal and disrepute. The year had only just begun when one of the world's most famous sportswomen, Maria Sharapova, was announcing a positive test for Meldonium and football had barely registered back on the radar after Rio 2016 when Sam Allardyce was resigning as England Manager 67 days into his tenure. 

Eye catching as such stories were, 2016’s biggest sports governance stories featured the bodies charged with overseeing the participants rather than the participants themselves. To begin with, we watched the continued fallout from the FIFA corruption investigations and the WADA Independent Commission's Part 1 report into state sponsored doping in Russia which implicated not only the Russian Anti-Doping authorities but also the IAAF. Part 2, published earlier this month, provides further evidence to corroborate the Independent Commission’s key finding of a “systematic and centralised cover up and manipulation of the doping control process”. 2016 also witnessed an enquiry into the UK Anti-Doping Agency's handling of its investigation into a medical doctor’s alleged doping practices and a war of words between the IOC and WADA regarding the participation of Russian athletes in Rio. All of this against the continued backdrop of questions over the authority and independence of sport's supreme arbiter, the Court of Arbitration for Sport, raised by Claudia Pechstein in the German courts. 

2017 promises to continue that trend not just as the current investigations reach their conclusion but also as the consequence of our demand for increased scrutiny over the independence, composition and procedures within the organisations we entrust with regulating sport. Once questions are asked of a regulator in one sport, so attention inevitably turns to others. 

Whilst having an increasingly bright spotlight cast on their inner workings may be uncomfortable for sports bodies at first, it is likely to be welcomed in due course. The grassroots of sport and its appeal are enduring but its increased commercialisation has brought with it new challenges. What was fit for governance a decade, even 12 months ago, may no longer be fit for tomorrow. By questioning the status quo, sports governing bodies will ensure that they stay ahead of their regulatory game.

If you would like to discuss anything raised in this article further, please contact Jeremy Dickerson or James Pheasant. Our team of sport specialists advises on a range of regulatory issues including anti-doping, integrity and general sports governance issues.

Dispute Resolution Festive Forecast

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