Monday, December 31, 2012

Why Sponsors Will Not Lead FIFA Reform

Back in November I discussed the promising news that one big FIFA sponsor, Emirates Airlines, was raising questions about FIFA's reform efforts. Emirates has done its due diligence and now, courtesy of Andrew Warshaw, senior vice president Boutro Boutros explains what was found:
"What I said before about renewal is that we needed to wait until we had studied whether our brand was damaged because it's a big investment. You cannot invest unless you do a proper evaluation. We have now done a market research test and so far it would seem there is no negative effect on our brand or people's perception of it, whatever FIFA has gone through."
In other words, according to Emirates, whatever FIFA is doing it is not adversely affecting the Emirates brand, so the company has no need to look into the reform effort any further.

The brand-first approach taken by Emirates is of course not unique and provides a fine illustration why corporate sponsors will not be the ones to lead reform of sports governance, in FIFA or anywhere else. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Me on FIFA Reform on WWDB AM-860 This Saturday

On Saturday I'll join David Larkin from @changefifa to discuss FIFA reform on WWDB-AM 860. The show is 3PM ET and can be heard online here. I expect to join the conversation at about 3:25 ET.

It should be fun, I hope you can listen in!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Testimony of Jens Sejer Andersen before the EU Parliament

Above is the testimony given earlier this week by Jens Sejer Andersen, International Director, Play the Game and the Danish Institute for Sports Studies before the European Parliament. It is worth watching (or reading, PDF here) in full, as it provides an eloquent statement of the challenges and opportunities for improved sports governance.

Here is the advice Andersen gave to the EU policy makers:
It is high time for you to as politicians to react to what is happening in sport. Let me point to some actions you can take without compromising the autonomy of sport:

1) It is your right and duty to protect tax-payers' money. Sport is receiving massive public subsidies at all levels, from support to grass-root activities and local sports facilities, to investment in bidding campaigns for big events, grants to Olympic athletes, elite sport structures etc. Governments and other public authorities are entitled to set the necessary conditions to ensure not only that these grants are used exclusively for their purpose, but also that the beneficiaries live up to certain standards for democracy and transparency.

2) At the European level, you can uphold a permanent pressure on the European and international sports organisations, demanding that the ISL affair, the World Cup bribery allegations, the volleyball scandal and other major affairs are fully investigated, errors corrected and cases of possible criminal conduct taken to the courts.
3) You can define standards of governance for those sports organisations which seek formal cooperation with the European Union. Such work has already begun in the framework of the Expert Group of Good Governance in Sport established by the Council of Ministers, as well as in a number the Preparatory Actions financed by the Commission. One of these actions is run by Play the Game and the Danish Institute for Sports Studies and entitled Action for Good Governance in International Sports Organisations, in cooperation with six European universities and the European Journalism Centre. We will present an open tool to measure standards of governance in sport in April, and we invite you to join the launch event.

4) Another way of taking the debate forward could be to arrange a European or – even better – an international conference on all forms of corruption in sport. This call was sent to the IOC from 300 sports experts at the Play the Game conference in 2011 in Cologne, but so far the IOC has not listened.

5) You can insist on the issue of better governance in sport on at least two events in 2013, UNESCO’s fifth conference for sports ministers, Mineps V, in Berlin in May and our own Play the Game 2013 conference in the autumn.

6) Last, but not least, I suggest Europe should take the lead in creating an international clearing house on governance in sport, an institution that will permanently monitor and provide information exchange on how to prevent all kinds of corruption in sport.
Andersen's full testimony can be found here in PDF and here at Play the Game.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

FIFA Reform Split: Pieth Appeals to the Council of Europe

With the FIFA reform effort essentially over, it seems inevitable that there will be some fracturing of solidarity between FIFA and those which it empaneled to advise the organization on reform. A first sign of a split has emerged today with the AP reporting that Mark Pieth, chairman of the FIFA Independent Governance Committee, has appealed to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to assist in motivating FIFA reform. Sepp Blatter, FIFA president, was none too happy when Pieth was critical of the reform effort back in October, and he probably won't like this action either.

The AP reports:
An anti-corruption panel advising FIFA wants a European lawmakers' group to press for "urgent" reform at football's world governing body when it meets on Wednesday.

FIFA adviser Mark Pieth's request for support from the 47-nation Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) hints at obstacles ahead of completing promised anti-corruption and transparency reforms by next May.

"It would be most welcome if the committee of the Council of Europe could add its voice to those demanding urgent change," Pieth wrote in a Dec. 3 submission seen by The Associated Press.

Pieth wrote that his group, including lawyers, anti-bribery experts and football officials, have already faced opposition since they began in January advising FIFA's ruling executive committee — and challenging its authority.

"Currently there is some resistance to even such key suggestions, including from European associations," the Swiss law professor told the PACE committee dealing with sports issues.
The meeting being refereed to is a hearing which I discussed here last week, noting the absence of Pieth on the panel. 

Pieth continues to escalate his criticism of FIFA, perhaps recognizing that the reform effort's legacy is tied up with his own. With reform apparently ending soon and with little accomplished, it would be completely understandable if Pieth wants to ensure that the blame for the stunted effort does not get placed on him.

In the submission to PACE he writes, according to the AP:
Pieth has been frustrated by Blatter's executive colleagues blocking his "fundamental suggestion" that audit chairman Domenico Scala should join them as an independent member. Instead, they allowed him just to observe during discussion of financial issues.

"A deviation from this compromise is unacceptable," lawmakers have been told by Pieth.
It is not clear what "unacceptable" might actually mean in practice, however, the strong language suggests that Pieth is transforming from a supportive facilitator to a frustrated critic. I would guess that we will hear more along these lines from Prof. Pieth.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Bizarre Ending to FIFA vs. bin Hammam

So the long-running battle between FIFA and Mohammed bin Hammam has apparently come to and end. In a statement released today FIFA says that bin Hammam has been banned from football for life, a judgment that -- apparently -- he appears ready to accept.

The judgment is absolutely bizarre because bin Hammam's ban is apparently based on the application of ethics provisions passed in 2012 to his actions conducted 2005-2011. The application of current standards to sanction past behavior was judged illegitimate by Sepp Blatter when he defended FIFA in the ISL affair, explaining that FIFA's kickbacks/bribes in that scandal were not then illegal under Swiss law.

Also bizarre is that fact that bin Hammam would, on the surface, appear to have a tailor made case for appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, where he already won a judgment against FIFA for its appaling lack of due process. Why he is not appealing speaks to the likelihood of skeletons in the closet or some other sort of incentive not readily apparent .

Here is the FIFA statement in full:
Mr Mohamed Bin Hammam, FIFA Executive Committee member and AFC President, has resigned from all his positions in football with immediate effect and will never be active in organised football again. This results from a resignation letter of Mr Bin Hammam addressed to FIFA and AFC dated on 15 December 2012.

In view of the fact that under the new FIFA Code of Ethics, the FIFA Ethics Committee remains competent to render a decision even if a person resigns, the Adjudicatory Chamber decided to ban Mohamed Bin Hammam from all football-related activity for life.

This life ban is based on the final report of Michael J. Garcia, Chairman of the Investigatory Chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee. That report showed repeated violations of Article 19 (Conflict of Interest) of the FIFA Code of Ethics, edition 2012, of Mohamed Bin Hammam during his terms as AFC President and as member of the FIFA Executive Committee in the years 2008 to 2011, which justified a life-long ban from all football related activity.
What FIFA has not released includes:
  • The specific charges against bin Hammam
  • The evidence against him
  • Michael Garcia's final report
There is obviously much here outside the public view. The only thing that is perfectly clear is that FIFA has a long way to go on issues of due process and transparency. FIFA's actions on bin Hammam indicate that not much has changed in how FIFA does its business.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Way FIFA Reform Ends

Kier Radnege reports from Tokyo that FIFA has laid out the remaining steps in its reform process. The work of the IGC and its chair Mark Pieth is apparently over:
All final decisions on the details of FIFA’s reform process will be decided by world football insiders; the work and influence of governance expert Mark Pieth is at an end writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

This is FIFA’s destiny after the governing executive committee, in Tokyo today, heard an update on the process from German exco member Theo Zwanziger.

The former German federation president heads a working group set up by the exco in September to consult the 209 member associations on reform proposals.

How much influence individual FAs may have is questionable; the group comprises ‘only’ the general secretaries and legal directors of the six regional confederations.

Reform advocates, critical of FIFA’s failure to match the pace promised by president Sepp Blatter at the 2011 Congress, will be concerned that assessment of the most delicate issues will be left to a small group of senior figures.
Zwanziger is among those scheduled to testify before the Council of Europe next week on FIFA governance issues. Hopefully he will address the state of reform and the CoE will follow up his testimony with some inform questions.

Earlier this year I assembled a mid-term "report card" on FIFA's reform effort. It is not looking like FIFA has done much to raise their final grades, and time is running out.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

FIFA Clears bin Hammam of Bribery Charges

In a stunning reversal, the new FIFA Ethics Committee has dropped its investigation of Mohammed bin Hammam's alleged role in bribing Caribbean Football Officials while campaigning for the FIFA presidency in 2011.

The Guardian quotes from Michael Garcia's (FIFA new independent investigator) internal report:
Garcia's decision to close the investigation in to the Caribbean allegations is contained in his confidential report to Fifa. It states: "This investigation focused on events that took place at the CFU meeting in Trinidad and Tobago in May 2011.

"With respect to the events at the CFU conference, the investigation uncovered no new material proof beyond the substantial evidence presented during the proceedings that culminated with the CAS [Court of Arbitration for Sport] decision vacating Mr Bin Hammam's ban.

"Accordingly, the Investigatory Chamber has closed this matter consistent with the CAS Panel's guidance regarding newly discovered evidence."
Back in July I discussed the CAS bin Hammam decision in some depth.  CAS vacated the FIFA decision not because they judged bin Hammam to be innocent -- they actually suggested that he was probably guilty. Rather the CAS strongly rebuked FIFA, noting that it was FIFA's own actions and unwillingness to carry on a proper investigation that led to the weak case that it brought before the CAS (PDF):
FIFA disabled itself from pursuing a proper, thorough and complete investigation of Mr. Bin Hammam’s role in the matters that give rise to these proceedings. In effect, the paucity of the evidence is connected to FIFA’s own decisions.
Specifically, CAS alleged that FIFA prematurely terminated an investigation into the role of Jack Warner in the affair and Sepp Blatter, FIFA President, refused to participate. CAS explained:
[T]here was apparently no requirement to close those FIFA Ethics Committee procedures, as it is plain to it that FIFA would continue to be able to exercise jurisdiction over acts occurring whilst Mr. Warner was a FIFA official. Mr. Warner is at the heart of the events of May 10 and 11, and there is every possibility that if the FIFA investigations of Mr. Warner had continued at least some of the missing facts that have hampered the work of this Panel – facts that go to the heart of the gaps in the events - might have been clearly established, one way or the other. . . the Panel notes that Mr. Blatter declined to answer its questions concerning the circumstances of Mr. Warner’s resignation and the termination of disciplinary proceedings against him, as well as the relationship between these two events.
FIFA's decision to drop further investigation of bin Hammam in effect clears him of the charges of bribery against him. This despite the fact that the CAS judged bin Hammam to likely be guilty of those charges.
This outcome raises the question of whether bin Hammam is due any compensation from FIFA or if FIFA should suffer any sanctions as he was in effect railroaded out of the FIFA presidential election and suspended from football based on claims that FIFA now says that it cannot substantiate according to the due process standards of the CAS. The main beneficiary of FIFA's ineptitude (to be generous) was Sepp Blatter, who ran unopposed for the FIFA presidency once bin Hammam was out of the way. This outcome is a big black eye for the new FIFA investigative capability, and suggests that in practice little has changed in the organization.

FIFA continues to suspend bin Hammam under separate charges of financial mismanagement of the Asian Football Conference during his presidency -- allegations which came to light after the 2011 FIFA presidential election. No doubt, fresh off his surprising victory on the bribery charges, we can expect bin Hammam to fight these charges as well. Who can predict what will happen next? Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Bad Optics

USA Today reports that University of Wisconsin athletic director, and legendary former coach, Barry Alvarez will receive a $118,500 bonus on top of his "normal" $85,000 per month salary to coach the Badgers football team in the Rose Bowl. The President of the UW Board of Regents explained:
"We weighed the factors involved, including the unique circumstances that developed less than a month before the game, the challenges of the job, the marketplace and his strength as a coach and concluded that this is a reasonable arrangement"
 The key word there is of course "marketplace."

How do UW-M faculty stack up?

The annual salaries in 2011-2012 of UW-M faculty are:
  • Full professor - $114,700
  • Associate professor - $87,400
  • Assistant professor - $75,900 
Alvarez's one-month extra pay is more than the average full professor makes in a year, and Alvarez already makes about the same per month as the average associate professor makes in a year.
One local observer put the situation into perspective:
Alvarez announced that he, the old coach with bad knees, would hobble off the bench and coach these young men in the biggest game of their lives. He's coached in the Rose Bowl before, winning three of them.

You could hear the sigh of relief from Badgers nation. Barry to the rescue. Bucky was smiling.

So far so good, and then Alvarez, smiling wide, took the step that carried him right into the muck of the biggest mud hole around.

He met with the UW Athletic Board and afterward said, "I'm not doing it for free. I'm getting paid 1/12th of the coach's salary, which is fair."
Greed, inequity, special treatment, lack of proportion. Did someone say "college football"?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

How Can FIFA be Held Accountable?

I have just put the finishing touches on the revision to my paper, "How Can FIFA be Held Accountable?". It comes in at 10,300+ words, and there was a lot left unsaid. The paper was about 18 months in preparation and benefited from many helpful comments, including detailed comments from 2 reviewers, making me very impressed with SMR.

The paper will soon appear in the peer-reviewed journal Sport Management Review. Here is the abstract:
Abstract. The Fédération Internationale de Football Association, or FIFA, is a non-governmental organization located in Switzerland that is responsible for overseeing the quadrennial World Cup football (soccer) competition in addition to its jurisdiction over other various international competitions and aspects of international football. The organization, long accused of corruption, has in recent years been increasing criticized by observers and stakeholders for its lack of transparency and accountability. In 2011 FIFA initiated a governance reform process which will come to a close in May, 2013. This paper draws on literature in the field of international relations to ask and answer the question: how can FIFA be held accountable? The paper’s review finds that the answer to this question is “not easily.” The experience in reforming the International Olympic Committee (IOC) more than a decade ago provides one model for how reform might occur in FIFA. However, any effective reform will require the successful and simultaneous application of multiple mechanisms of accountability. The FIFA case study has broader implications for understanding mechanisms of accountability more generally, especially as related to international non-governmental organizations.
I am happy to share a pre-page proof copy with anyone who is interested -- just drop me an email. If you have seen an earlier version there are some small changes and the paper has been brought up-to-date. But the bottom line remains the same. In answer to the question posed by the title, the answer is:

Not easily.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Council of Europe to Hold Hearing on FIFA Governance

UPDATE: 19 Dec, the CoE released a short press release on the hearing, in which it quoted Gvozdzen Flego (Croatia, SOC), Chair of the PACE Culture Committee: "We are committed to encouraging the reforms which should give this world body the transparency and sense of responsibility that it lacks."

The Council of Europe has scheduled a hearing on the governance of FIFA as a follow-up to its recent report and Resolution on "Good governance and ethics in sport."  Here is the full agenda as found on the CoE website (PDF):
Wednesday 19 December 2012, 9am - 12.30pm, Office of the Council of Europe

7. Follow-up to Resolution 1875 (2012) on Good governance and ethics in sport
[AS/Cult/Inf (2012) 12] - Programme of Hearing
Hearing on “FIFA governance” with the participation of:
  • Mohammad Bin Hammam, President of the Asian Football Confederation
  • Jérôme Champagne, former FIFA Deputy Secretary General
  • Jean-Loup Chappelet, Professor and Dean at the Swiss Graduate School of Public Administration,(IDHEAP), Lausanne
  • Sylvia Schenk, Transparency International
  • Lord David Triesman, former Chairman of the English Football Association
  • Theo Zwanziger, member of the FIFA Executive Committee
Of note is that the list is comprised of those calling for reform of FIFA in one way or another, including several very vocal critics. Interestingly, no one from the FIFA IGC is testifying, which may or may not be a significant omission (FIFA IGC chair Mark Pieth was identified as a possible participant in this hearing by the CoE in October -- PDF -- for whatever reason there will be no IGC representation)..

The Council has itself recently been very hard on FIFA. In a rejoinder to a FIFA response to its report on good governance, the Council did not mince words:
  • Mr Blatter is the President of FIFA, but he is not FIFA and he should not confuse what is in his own interest with what is in the interest of the organisation he is supposed to serve.
  • Asking FIFA to improve its governance, the transparency of its accounts and to take steps to shed light on the scandals which tarnish its image is hardly interference; it is just common sense.
  • Lastly, the independence of sport – to which we remain committed – should not become a defence for those who abuse their authority. It is wrong to have accusations without proof, but it is our duty to ask for the truth to be sought and established.
Hopefully the hearing will include written testimony that is made public. If so, I'll be sure to discuss here. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Mark Pieth Again Criticizes FIFA and Swiss Government

On the heals of yesterday's largely positive assessment of FIFA reform by Michael Hershman, a member of FIFA's Independent Governance Committee, today Mark Pieth, FIFA IGC Chair offers a much less optimistic assessment in an interview with  Here are a few key excerpts.

On FIFA's willingness to adopt conventional standards of corporate governance:
The real challenge is that some of the executive committee people are not elected by congress but by the confederations and then sent to serve on that committee. The challenge is whether we will be able to force the institution to do due diligence on these people – this is something they do in every major multinational firm.

We also believe there needs to be a stronger element of independence in the executive committee, like on a company board you have independent directors; this is a huge step for them.

That’s where we are really struggling at the moment. They are basically making the argument that if you were a government would you want external people to sit in. They see themselves more as a government than as a multinational corporation.
On the Swiss government's appetite for supporting reform:
In the past I’ve always dealt with organisations which have been under some kind of state control or supervision. The difficulty here is that we are in absolute self-regulation, as so far the Swiss regulator – the Federal Sports Office really doesn’t deserve the name regulator – hasn’t done anything to regulate .

It’s only with this new report [on corruption and match-fixing] coming out that it’s starting to take its share of the responsibility.
The bottom line:
Taken together, all these sports organisations represent a substantial risk for Switzerland’s reputation.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

FIFA IGC Plays Good Cop, Bad Cop?

Michael Hershman, member of FIFA's Independent Governance Committee, has given an interview to Play the Game, in which he gives a largely positive assessment of the progress being mae by the FIFA reform effort.  PTG writes:
Hershman, a corporate and governmental compliance expert with the Fairfax Group, told Play the Game that the signs so far have been encouraging since they outlined recommendations earlier this year: “There have been some major changes made in the governance procedures at FIFA, including the appointment of independent heads of the ethics committee and investigatory chamber,” he explains. “This is the first time I am aware of in the history of FIFA that independent parties have been brought in to head up such critical functions.”
Hershman cautions, as has the IGC more generally, that past corruption allegations have not been sufficiently investigated by FIFA, but is confident they will accept the recommendation to limit the terms of members of the executive committee, as well as of the President himself. With the new system of selecting World Cup hosts, which will involve every member nation rather than just those represented on the executive committee, Hershman believes “we will see a greater level of confidence in the future when these host countries are selected.”
Not long ago I interviewed Hershman here, and he made similar comments.

Hershman's largely positive comments contrast markedly with the more cynical and resigned comments made by Mark Pieth, IGC chair, at the EASM conference in Denmark in September. At the time I wrote:
Pieth repeatedly defended his role on the IGC, explaining that if you know anything about the challenges of politics, things are "five times worse" inside FIFA, with many interests and coalitions working to block reforms. He said that his experience in pressing for reforms has been that, "at some point there is a wall, and they tell me to go away."
Not it could be the case that Pieth and Hershman are playing a sophisticated game of good cop, bad cop with FIFA. When I interviewed Hershman he even suggested that Pieth's approach at EASM was part of a strategy of keeping pressure on FIFA. Maybe. On the other hand, if the Fairfax Group gets a big FIFA contract sometime after the IGC disbands, then we will know that there was another game going on. The IGC remains a curiosity.

The Least Thing in Indianomix

Vivek Dehejia, of Carleton University in Ottawa, and Rupa Subramanya, of the WSJ, have a new book coming out this week titled Indianomix: Making Sense of Modern India” (Random House). In it they cite an analysis performed here on The Least Thing. Here is an excerpt from an excerpt, published in the WSJ:
From astrology to tarot, human history is littered with our attempts at better predicting the future. More recently, these include more scientific (or at least apparently so) methods like polls and expert predictions. Philip Tetlock, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, is most famous for a 20-year study in which he tracked the predictions of hundreds of experts in many different fields spanning the range from business to international relations and then compared the actual outcomes to the predictions. He published his results in a landmark 2005 book called Expert Political Judgement: How Good Is It? How Can We Know. In the study, he found that the predictions of experts were no more accurate than if you’d just tossed a coin instead. In fact, sometimes tossing a coin would give you a better prediction than listening to an expert. As Tetlock colourfully puts it, even a monkey throwing darts at a dartboard would do better than most experts. You could probably do even better than the monkey, but that would be just by mechanically extrapolating a trend from today into the future. (The simplest form of extrapolation is what’s known in mathematics as ‘linear extrapolation’. Basically, if you have two points, you put a straight line through those points and make a prediction assuming that the next data point will also lie along that same straight line.)

There are innumerable examples of what Tetlock has in mind. Here’s one from March 2012. A much publicized paper by economics professor Dan Johnson of Colorado College and Ayfer Ali created a complicated statistical model with many variables to predict how countries would do in the medal tally of the winter and summer Olympic Games. They have a very large data set spanning games from 1952 to the present. The authors find some interesting correlations between variables, such as the intuitive ideas that rich countries win more medals than poor countries and that countries with snowy winters do better in the winter games. Where they falter is when they claim that their statistical model can provide ‘surprisingly accurate predictions’ of medal tallies in future games. But as Roger Pielke Jr, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder, showed, the interesting correlations that Johnson and Ali found didn’t translate into good predictive power. In line with Tetlock’s research, Pielke showed that the naïve assumption that a country would win as many medals next time as last time performs better than the complicated statistical model.
The analysis that they refer to was published here last summer. Further background can be found here. If experts cannot offer skill in predicting sporting outcomes -- closed systems with simple rules, and small number of actors -- then the prospects for offering skillful predictions in more complicated settings are slim indeed.
Fortunately, we'll always have Paul.

Monday, December 3, 2012

UCI Armstrong Investigation off to an Impressive Start

The International Cycling Union has announced an investigation of its role in the Lance Armstrong affair. The NY Daily News reports:
The International Cycling Union has appointed a British judge, a British lawmaker and an Australian lawyer to investigate the role the sport’s governing body played in the Lance Armstrong doping scandal.

UCI officials announced on Friday that judge Phillip Otton will chair the three-member panel that includes Tanni Grey-Thompson, a member of the upper chamber of Britain’s Parliament who has won 10 Paralympic gold medals in wheelchair racing, and attorney Malcolm Holmes. The panel is scheduled to meet in London for 17 days in April and issue a report by June 1.

“The appointment of these three eminent figures demonstrates clearly that the UCI wants to get to the bottom of the Lance Armstrong affair and put cycling back on the right track,” UCI President Pat McQuaid said in a statement.

UCI had asked Court of Arbitration for Sport board president John Coates to recommend candidates for the panel. McQuaid said the cycling federation had no part in choosing the three officials, who will determine the parameters of their investigation. The panel is expected to look into the relationships between Armstrong and McQuaid, who was elected UCI president in 2005, and his predecessor, Hein Verbruggen.
The panel (chaired by Sir Phillip Otton) and the investigation's terms of reference are both very strong, with a sweeping mandate. Here are the subjects of the investigation:
1. Whether the allegations against the UCI set out in the Reasoned Decision are well founded.

2. Whether, between 1998 and 2012, the UCI realised that Lance Armstrong and the USPS Team were collaborating to avoid detection in the use, possession, administration and trafficking of performance enhancing drugs and methods, and: (i) if the UCI did realise, whether it failed to respond appropriately; and (ii) if the UCI did not realise, whether it ought to have done so, and what steps (if any) it should have taken to inform itself of the actions of Lance Armstrong and the USPS Team in order to act appropriately.

3. Whether, and if so, to what extent the UCI’s anti-doping policies and procedures between (i) 1998 and 2005 and (ii) 2005 and 2012, were inadequate or were not enforced with sufficient rigour; and if so, whether the UCI was at the time aware, or ought to have been aware, of such inadequacy or lack of enforcement.

4. Whether there was, between 1998 and 2012, any reliable evidence or information in the possession of or known to the UCI regarding allegations or suspicions of doping by Lance Armstrong and the USPS Team; and if so, whether there was any failure by the UCI to act appropriately in regard to such information.

5. Whether, when Lance Armstrong returned to racing in 2009, there was a failure by the UCI to detect signs of doping by him, and whether it was appropriate for him to return to and continue racing.

6. Whether payments were made by Lance Armstrong and the USPS Team to the UCI, between 1998 and 2012, and if so whether it was appropriate for the UCI to have accepted such payments, or to have accepted them on the basis (explicit or implicit) upon which they were made.

7. Whether the UCI inappropriately discouraged those persons with knowledge of doping by Lance Armstrong and the USPS Team from coming forward with such knowledge, and whether the UCI should have done more to encourage such persons to come forward sooner.

8. Whether the UCI adequately co-operated with, assisted in and reacted to the USADA USPS Team Investigation.

9. Whether any persons previously convicted of doping, or voluntarily admitting to doping, or supporting riders in doping, should be able to work within the world of cycling in the future; and, if not, how such a prohibition could and should be enforced.

10. Whether the UCI had a conflict of interest between its roles in promoting the sport of cycling and in investigating or making adverse findings against Lance Armstrong and the USPS Team.

11. Whether the current doping controls of the UCI are adequate and compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code of the World Anti-Doping Agency, and whether those controls can be improved.
The report is due June 1, 2013 and a hearing will be held in London in April. That really does not leave very much time for an investigation of this magnitude. There is, understandably, a lot of skepticism -- Paul Kimmage, an investigative journalist, has doubted the worth of the effort

However, if the investigation is anywhere as comprehensive and as sound as the USADA's "reasoned decision" then it stands a good chance of setting a very important precedent in the governance of sport, including the jurisprudential role of the Court of Arbitration for Sport in such controversies that go beyond anything covered by national or international laws. Of course, if the investigation does not live up to these high expectations, the fallout will likely be severe.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

An Interview with Simon Kuper

Simon Kuper, co-author (with Stefan Szymanski) of Soccernomics and award-winning columnist for the Financial Times, has a new book out in the United States -- Ajax, the Dutch, The War: The Strange Tale of Soccer During Europe's Darkest Hour. I interview Kuper on the book below. First, a quick capsule review.

The book is not really a book about soccer, but a book about people in remarkable times viewed through a lens of soccer. I found the book engrossing for this reason. Almost everything you read about World War II is (understandably) about the war itself: the battles, the leaders, the Nazis, the Holocaust. But for most Europeans of the 1930s and 1940s -- most non-Jewish Europeans, Kuper tells us -- the War was taking place against the backdrop of normal life. Sport is a part of that backdrop. How the war influenced and often remarkably did not influence soccer (mainly in Holland, but Kuper also discusses Germany and the UK in some depth) provides a canvas on which Kuper has written a truly unique history.

One other aspect of Kuper's book stands out for me and that is the ephemeral nature of the material he works with. In an afterward Kuper lists many of those whom he interviewed who have since passed away. World War II is quickly fading into history, though legacies remain. Kuper has written a book that helps us keep touch with that history through some of the last voices left who can tell us what happened based on their actual experiences. Ajax, the Dutch, the War is highly recommended for those interested in history and people first, soccer second. That said, no understanding the history of modern European football will be complete without reading this book.

Now, on to my interview with Kuper.
RP: In your book you observe that the day that Germany invaded Russia, 90,000 people attended the German league final. You ask “What were they thinking?” You also observe “how little the game was disrupted” during the War in Great Britain. What do you take from the apparent resilience of soccer?
SK: The main thing I learned is that the war didn't occupy most of people's attention most of the time in most of Europe. Yes, if you were Jewish or otherwise in imminent danger, then your life was the war. But in most of western Europe, most people just didn't live like that from 1939-45. I was very struck by another story that I tell in the book: at a racecourse in England in June 1940, the announcer tells the crowd that France has just surrendered. It's pretty clear that the UK might be next; Germans could start arriving any day; much of the British army is trapped in France, at Hitler's mercy. But the racing just continues! What the book showed me was that the notion we have of people's states of minds in much of Europe in this period just isn't right. Many of them weren't living the war at all.
Of course the book is also a story about the power of soccer. In 1920, soccer was still a pretty small-time upper-class pastime in most of Europe. By 1940 it's a kind of essential of life.
RP: Elsewhere you write of Holland, “If people don’t stop playing sport when their country is occupied by Nazis during World War II, when do they?” Yet, sport is generally absent in our scholarly histories (and not just in WWII). What can we see looking at history through a lens of sport in society?
SK: What sport gave me was a kind of window onto ordinary life, away from high politics and great battles. Sport is what lots of people, particularly of course men, are doing and thinking about. It's a great banal activity. Walter Benjamin talks about this sort of thing: about how the observer should look in all directions, not just upwards towards high culture and politics. That's what I was trying to do in the book.
RP: Throughout you express considerable disappointment about the differences between the Dutch history as it is told and the somewhat less romantic reality -- in places you seem even angry. Is this a fair reading of your views? Was this disappointment developed as you researched the book? How have your views evolved since?
SK: Yes I was angry. It was while researching the book that I realized that a lot of the stuff I had been taught at school and through popular Dutch books and movies in the 1970s and 1980s, the whole story of a country where everyone was in the Resistance, was false. I had been lied to. That was shocking to me because I'd always had - and still have - a lot of faith in the Dutch system. I mean, this wasn't the USSR. In the intro to the US version I describe driving through California with a friend of mine who tells me I shouldn't be surprised, all countries lie about themselves. He's quite right and during the writing of the second, British version (the first version of the book was in Dutch) I came to terms with my anger to some degree and was able to write more dispassionately. But not totally dispassionately. This is a subject I feel emotionally involved in. It's my most personal book so far.
RP: You compare soccer in Holland before World War II to the status of ping pong today. Today, soccer has achieved something that politics or economics has not – a true European union. How did this happen and what does it tell us about both Holland and broader Europe?
SK: It's true that in Europe we play soccer against each other all the time, and some teams, like Chelsea or Manchester City, are positive European unions in miniature. And people all over Europe (and the world) support e.g. Barcelona and Man United. Even when European countries play against each other, in world cups or Euros, we accept the same set of rules, and mostly these matches now pass off in a friendly atmosphere; even Germany is no longer anyone's enemy. So I think soccer has done a little to create a shared European cultural sphere. Soccer is one of the new transnational communities that lots of people belong to: e.g. on Twitter people from all over the world will support a particular club, and will discuss together the latest incident in big soccer, e.g. the Clattenburg affair. So soccer - despite the nationalist carnival of the world cup - does help break down national boundaries.

Of course the European identity itself remains quite weak and isn't represented in soccer - there isn't and there never will be an EU team. I wrote in the FT on Saturday that "nobody ever ran out of the house drunk waving an EU flag". So it's not so much that soccer makes us all into EU citizens. Rather, it does something to break down national identities, to make them less significant. E.g. even at a world cup many Liverpool fans, say, might be more sympathetic to Luis Suarez than to Wayne Rooney.
Pictured above: English football squad giving Nazi salute in Berlin, May 14, 1938. English diplomats pressured the team to make the salute. Described in Kuper's book.

RP: You write that “World War II was becoming like the American Civil War” as it fades from sight and fewer and fewer from that era are still with us. Yet, an understanding of, say, US college football is incomplete without understanding the continuing legacy of the Civil War. Similarly, you make a case that legacies of the War still exist in Dutch football (and I presume, throughout Europe). Why is it important to continue to recognize these legacies?
SK: I think these legacies are now waning, as everyone forgets the war. For decades WWII shaped life in Europe. E.g. Germans had seen that inflation had contributed to the rise of Hitler, and so first the Bundesbank and later the European Central Bank (created in the Bundesbank's image) were very tough on inflation. The very EU project was an attempt by everyone including Germany to tie Germany into a united Europe to prevent a recurrence of world war. And because of memories of Auschwitz, overt racism wasn't tolerated in European political life until after 9/11/2001.
But now all that is lifting as the world war becomes ancient history. So I think those legacies of WWII in Europe are dying.
RP: What about scenes like have been reported from West Ham-Tottenham over the weekend or the bizarre attack of Tottenham fans in Rome?
SK: I think that in the antisemitic chanting at West Ham, or the attack on Spurs fans in Rome, the thugs are using Holocaust references chiefly to give colour, excitement, to a current soccer rivalry. I.e. they are much more interested in being anti-Spurs than in pursuing neo-Nazi policies. The talk of war/Holocaust makes today's match more thrilling, to these people. I think they seize on Holocaust rhetoric because that is the ultimate form of transgression in our society - it's the easiest way to be naughty, in other words. I don't think there's any genuine desire/plan there to have another Holocaust. It's horrendous behaviour but not actually dangerous, is my take.
RP: You write that “Foreigners know little about the Netherlands, and nothing about what is sung at its soccer matches.”  Today, what little Americans know about Dutch soccer might include that they play a rough game (whether accurate or not – many saw Nigel de Jong and his World Cup judo kick) and that Jozy Altidore plays for AZ Alkmaar. As more and more Americans become soccer literate, what should they know about Dutch soccer?
SK: The Dutch gave us the dominant mode in global soccer today: the Spanish passing game. It can be dated back to Cruijff's arrival to play for Barcelona in 1973. (I go into detail on this in the new Soccernomics, the one published earlier this year.) Barcelona and particularly Guardiola evolved Dutch total soccer of the 1970s, added modern pace and defensive nous; but as Guardiola says, 'Cruijff built the cathedral'. That was one of the ironies of the world cup final: Holland were beaten by their better selves, a Dutch-inspired Spain. It's something for us Dutch fans to be proud of: we don't play the best soccer today, but we helped create it.

Oh, there's a million more things I could say about Dutch soccer. I still love it. The only team I really support in soccer is Holland - except perhaps in that embarrassing world cup final.
Thanks Simon!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

So You Fired the Coach, Now What?

So the University of Colorado did fire its football coach, despite academic research that shows that coaches don't matter. CU has faced a barrage of criticism for its firing of Jon Embree over the weekend, after just two years on the job.

Now comes the even harder part. What next?

The CU Athletic Director Mike Bohn (pictured above listening to Emree's post-firing press conference) has reaffirmed, if in a backhanded sort of way, the university's commitment to big-time athletics and a corresponding pursuit of excellence:
"If I say a 6-6 record is good enough at Colorado, what chance do we have? If I don't set the bar high, what coach is going to want to come here?"
Of course, a 6-6 record would have Embree still in his job and Bohn off the hot seat. Defending the firing, but perhaps also providing a warning about the future, the CU Chancellor provided a bit of understatement:
"It's not an exact science as far as hiring coaches"
Bohn expressed a similar sentiment:
"I can't give you a formula for success"
He'd probably better come up with one as the next coaching decision will likely cost the university many more millions of dollars. As a CU faculty member I'd feel more confident in the oversight of our football program if I had a sense that they know what they are doing. Unfortunately, I do not.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Loneliness of the Investigative Sports Reporter

The exchange in the video clip above between Lance Armstrong and Paul Kimmage from a few years back  is a must see.

While it tells us something about Armstrong, more fundamentally, it says something about the broader sports media: Why was Kimmage (mostly) alone?

Hat tip to Joe Lindsey, see this nice blog post.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Emirates Expresses Skepticism about FIFA Reform

Emirates Airlines, based in the United Arab Emirates, has expressed disappointment in FIFA's reform efforts. The Washington Post reports:
Emirates airlines wants evidence FIFA is eradicating corruption and the scandal-hit organization’s public image is improving before renewing its sponsorship.

The Dubai-based carrier’s $195 million, eight-year sponsorship of world soccer’s governing body expires in 2014.Emirates senior vice president Boutros Boutros said Friday the airline has yet to see enough progress since FIFA President Sepp Blatter instigated a reform drive to prevent a repeat of scandals that have damaged the credibility of the organization in recent years.

“So far they talk a lot about them, but we are yet to see,” Boutros Boutros said. “They look serious about it and we are optimistic. We hope they will work on it and do what the public want ... we are waiting until after 2014 to evaluate.”Asked if Emirates will ensure FIFA is no longer perceived to be a tainted organization before agreeing on a new deal, Boutros responded: “Definitely."
It is not the first time that Emirates has expressed disappointment in FIFA governance. In May, 2011 on the occasion of FIFA's 61st Congress Emirates expressed similar sentiments, along with several other major sponsors of FIFA:
Visa Inc and Emirates Airlines were the latest of FIFA's most important sponsors, or Partners as the governing body calls them, to express disquiet at recent allegations of corruption.

"The current situation is clearly not good for the game and we ask that FIFA take all necessary steps to resolve the concerns that have been raised," Visa Europe said in a statement.

Emirates airline expressed its concern saying it was "disappointed with the issues that are currently surrounding the administration of the sport."

Earlier, Coca-Cola said the allegations were "distressing and bad for the sport." German sportswear maker Adidas also said the controversy had hurt soccer.

The other two members of the six-strong group of Partners, Sony and Hyundai-Kia, had made no comment on the recent claims of bribery in the presidential election campaign and in last year's World Cup vote. 
Despite the expressed concerns, the sponsors have exhibited minimal public pressure on FIFA. The general perception among those in sports marketing is that such expressions of concern are simply that -- for instance:
FIFA's major sponsors are talking tough over corruption allegations that are rocking soccer's governing body, but marketing experts doubt their words will translate into actions that could cost the organization lucrative deals.

"Based on history, one would not expect the sponsors to do much more than issue statements in favor of ethical behavior and opposed to unethical behavior," said Marc Ganis, president of consulting firm Sportscorp Ltd.
It would indeed be a major action if a FIFA sponsor walked away from sponsorship due to unhappiness with reform efforts. At this point it also seems highly unlikely.

Friday, November 23, 2012

More Thoughts on Firing the Coach

In the Boulder Daily Camera today, @BrianHowell33 has an in-depth look at college football programs who have struggled under the first two years of a coaching regime. The topic is of course on people's mind here in Boulder because the Colorado Buffaloes football team is suffering through its worst season ever and 7 seasons without a winning record. So a question faced by the University administration is what, if anything, to do about it?

Howell writes:
Today, Colorado (1-10, 1-7 Pac-12) will put an end to a miserable season when it hosts Utah (4-7, 2-6) at Folsom Field. If the Buffs lose, they'll finish with the worst record in school history. They are 0-5 at Folsom Field and face the prospect of losing every home game for the first time since 1891 -- CU's second season of football and a year that included just two home games. The current Buffs have been pounded week after week for the past two months.

Some CU fans are hopeful that second-year head coach Jon Embree, who is 4-20 since taking over in 2011, will be cleaning out his office before the two-year anniversary of his hire date, on Dec. 6.
Last week I discussed an academic paper that looked at the fortunes of college football programs that fired their coaches (ironically enough, with a lead author from Colorado). That paper -- Adler et al. --  suggested that programs that replace their coaches due to poor performance in general do not see improvements when a new coach is hired. Adler et al. conclude:
[A]t least with respect to on-field performance, coach replacement can be expected to be, at best, a break-even antidote.
Data provided by Howell supports the conclusions of Adler et al. but also suggests a slightly different take:
Since the 2000 season, 26 other [than Colorado's Embree] FBS coaches have won five games or less during their first two years on the job. Another 32 won fewer than nine games.

Among those 58 coaches, just eight were fired at the end of their second year. In most cases, schools gave their coaches several years to try to get it right.

That group of coaches includes several that never did -- or have yet to -- get their teams on a winning track. Duke's Ted Roof went 6-45 in four-plus seasons. Greg Robinson went 10-37 in four years at Syracuse. Stanford's Buddy Teevens was 10-23 in three years, Mississippi's Ed Orgeron was 10-25 in three years and Washington's Tyrone Willingham went 11-37 in four years.

That group also includes 18 coaches that eventually led their team to at least one bowl game (San Jose State's Mike MacIntyre will join that list this year).

Tommy West of Memphis (five bowls), Kentucky's Rich Brooks (four bowls), Kansas' Mark Mangino (four bowls), Arizona's Mike Stoops (three bowls), Ron Zook of Illinois (three bowls) and Ball State's Brady Hoke (two bowls) all led their teams to success after a poor first two seasons on the job.
Those 58 coaches represent just about half of all coaches replaced since 2000. If the other half won 9 games or more in their first two seasons, then we can conclude that "success" is indeed just about a break even proposition.

That said, the success stories are worth noting:
Of the 58 coaches since 2000 to win eight or fewer games through two years, just 18 (31 percent) of them eventually took their team to a bowl game. That includes Embree's predecessor, Dan Hawkins, whose tenure at CU would hardly be considered a success.

Of the 18, just 10 went to multiple bowl games, so clearly the odds are against Embree.

The good news for Embree and the Buffs, however, is that it can be done and when it is done, the taste of success is so sweet.

Within four years of Sports Illustrated profiling its retched program, Rutgers played in two bowl games, vaulted into the top 10 of the national rankings and gained a major victory in recruiting by beating traditional power Ohio State for tackle Anthony Davis, one of the top prep players in New Jersey. Davis was an All-American at Rutgers and became the No. 11 pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.

Vanderbilt's Bobby Johnson (4-20 through two years) led the Commodores to a bowl game in his seventh season. It was Vandy's first bowl appearance in 26 years.
So based on history, Colorado's Sean Embree has about a 17% chance of taking Colorado to multiple bowl games from this point in his career. At the same time, the record of coaching replacement presented by Howell gives about a 50% chance of 9 or more wins over the next 2 seasons, or about double what the Buffs have seen the past two seasons. Of course, given that the Buffs on-field performance can only improve, whatever decision that Colorado administrators make about the coaching staff, it will probably look like a good one for the next year or two.

More generally, are the experiences of Rutgers, Memphis, Kentucky, Kansas, etc. simply a consequence of the statistics of hindsight? Or is there actually an art to turning around football programs? If so, then Colorado might apply a bit more statistical insight into its coaching decision. The conclusion they should reach is not that the head coach doesn't matter (an implication of Adler et al.) but instead, picking the right coach makes all the difference. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Coaching Changes and the Limits of Social Science

A new paper has been published in Social Science Quarterly on the performance consequences of college football coaching head changes by a team of authors, including several from the University of Colorado (my university).

The paper, "Pushing “Reset”: The Conditional Effects of Coaching Replacements on College Football Performance" by Adler et al., concludes:
We find that for particularly poorly performing teams, coach replacements have little effect on team performance as measured against comparable teams that did not replace their coach. However, for teams with middling records—that is, teams where entry conditions for a new coach appear to be more favorable—replacing the head coach appears to result in worse performance over subsequent years than comparable teams who retained their coach.
They draw some practical conclusions from their study:
Our findings have important practical implications for the high stakes environment that is contemporary college football. When a college football team's performance is disappointing, the first and often only remedy administrators, fans, and sports writers turn to is firing the coach. This is usually an expensive approach to solving the problem.12 In fact, the concern of sky-rocketing head coaching salaries was the key finding in a 2009 Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics report based on interviews with 95 FBS university presidents (Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, 2009). Despite the fanfare that often accompanies the hiring of a new coach, our research demonstrates that at least with respect to on-field performance, coach replacement can be expected to be, at best, a break-even antidote. These findings, coupled with the significant costs universities typically incur by choosing to replace a head football coach, suggest that universities should be cautious in their decision to discharge their coach for performance reasons.
A big problem with this paper, which is endemic across social science research, is the making of a connection of a "Large N" study to particular policy contexts, that is, a single N. Let me explain.

The paper looked at 263 coaching changes form 1997 to 2010 and performed a range of statistical tests on the data, and concludes:
[T[he key findings are that coaching replacements, on average, appear to provide short-term benefits to teams that are performing extremely poorly. However, if anything, they have a deleterious effect on performance among teams where entry conditions are most favorable. Importantly, this dispels the common rationale used by university athletic directors when firing the head coach, namely, that replacing the incumbent coach is a necessary step to improve on-field performance. Our findings demonstrate that the actual effects of such replacements are generally the opposite of what is intended.
The key phrases here are "on average" and "generally." The data shows a distribution of outcomes, from a degradation of performance to an improvement.

When universities replace coaches, they are not making a "Large N" decisions, but a N=1 decision. The important policy question is not "what happens in general?" but "how do we arrive on the right side of the performance distribution?"

Individual coaches are not "unique trials" in a random statistical distribution, but living breathing humans with unique characteristics and skills. We know from other research that individual coaches can add value to a team's performance. The key is context -- what coaches in what settings with what resources?
Would anyone like to argue that Bill Snyder at KSU was not key two different times to improving Kansas State football performance? or Bill McCartney in the 1980s here at Colorado?

To be fair, Adler et al. do recognize this possibility in the paper, writing:
As with any statistical analysis, we cannot rule out the possibility that some specific instances of coaching replacements truly benefit a team. This is certainly a possibility and there is little doubt that many commentators, school administrators, and other observers believe that coaching changes are often responsible for turnarounds in team performance. However, it is important to bear in mind that the fact that a team’s performance improves following a coaching replacement does not necessarily mean that the coach should be given credit for the improvement.
However, the paper does not tell us from its analysis what factors are correlated or otherwise connected to performance improvement. What they have told us is that in aggregate, coaching changes don't work out. Fair enough.

However, that Large N finding tells us very little about particulars and is far from the sort of information that can help a particular struggling program decide whether a coaching change might be a key factor contributing to improved performance.

A Review of Domestic Anti-Doping Legislation

A recent study by Barrie Houlihan and Borja Garcia of the University of Loughborough in the UK has surveyed UNESCO countries for the presence of anti-doping legislation governing sport (or PEDS, performance enhancing drugs).

They explain their focus (here in PDF) as follows:
The intention was to obtain responses from those in government directly responsible for ensuring their country’s compliance with its commitments under the terms of the UNESCO Convention Against Doping in Sport.
They only received responses for 55 of 153 UNESCO countries, of which 51 were substantive enough for analysis. That leaves about 100 UNESCO countries unsurveyed by this paper. More than 200 countries participated in the 2012 London Olympics. A summary of their findings appears in the table below.
Only 18 countries have PEDS-specific legislation. An additional 25 have relevant, but not focused, legislation.

The US does not have PEDS-specific legislation, and the paper notes:
The United States, which has made considerable progress in tackling doping in sport in recent years, is a good example. PEDS trafficking falls under the remit of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), but ‘there is not a comprehensive set of PEDS chemicals included within the purview of the CSA; rather, only those PEDS which have additional characteristics of abuse potential or health risk are listed under CSA’. While anabolic steroids, for example, are covered and traffickers can receive a prison term ‘many substances of concern for PEDS are not addressed under CSA scheduling’ and are unlikely to be addressed as ‘the criteria for inclusion of any particular substance under CSA and scheduling purview are distinct from their impact on performance-enhancement, per se’
More generally, the paper concludes:
The research identified two broad approaches to tackling the issue of the production, movement, importation, distribution and supply of performance-enhancing drugs in sport. The first approach was to introduce laws specifically designed to address PEDS trafficking and the second was to utilise and/or amend existing legislation concerned with recreational drugs. Successful sporting countries were more likely to be found among the former group. More importantly countries which had introduced PEDS-specific legislation were more likely to have a NADO which is actively involved in the investigative process concerning PEDS trafficking. In addition, countries which had introduced PEDS-specific legislation appeared to be more likely to pursue cases through to conviction. However, two caveats are required, first, where PEDS-specific legislation is absent identifying PEDS cases from among the range of general drugs cases is not easy and second, much of the PEDS-specific legislation is relatively recent and there is often a time-lag between the introduction of new legislation and its incorporation into the routines of the police, the prosecution services and the courts.
Such reviews are incredibly important for mapping the policy terrain of sports governance, especially as greater integration and harmonization becomes important.

Reference: Barrie Houlihan and Borja García, 2012. The use of legislation in relation to controlling the production, movement, importation, distribution and supply of performance-enhancing drugs in sport (PEDS), Institute of Sport and Leisure Policy School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK. (PDF).

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Has Switzerland Finally Woken Up?

Last week the Swiss Federal Council issued a report on match fixing and corruption in sport. A press release can be found here in English and full report here in French (PDF).  Play the Game offered a summary of the report:
Switzerland is a preferred place for sports organisations to be based due to a favourable legal framework, now the Swiss Council of States Science, Education and Culture Committee, under which sport is categorised, has requested a report from the Federal Council looking into how corruption and match-fixing in sport can be effectively combated.

The Federal Council, which constitutes the federal government in Switzerland, was asked to do an examination of the current measures and to consider possible new legislation on the area.
The report names five measures for the state to examine:
  1. the strengthening of international cooperation
  2. a tightening of the Swiss corruption legislation
  3. making fraud in sport a criminal offence
  4. making new criminal dispositions for companies
  5. the adequacy of criminal procedures following offences
The Swiss Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports issued a press release characterizing the significance of the report, and suggested that it could be quite significant indeed:
The report concludes that anti-corruption measures currently taken by international sports associations are insufficient. Sport has to take more robust action against corruption in its own ranks. Harmonised and binding good governance systems are required at all levels of organised sport. At the same time, the government is also under pressure to act. What is at stake is not just sport's integrity but also Switzerland's reputation as the home to numerous international sports associations.

Switzerland is currently examining other measures such as making fraud in sport a criminal offence. The tightening of Swiss corruption legislation must be addressed as well. Here the issue of whether members of national and international sport associations based in Switzerland should be made subject to the Swiss criminal law on corruption must be examined.

An aim will also be to promote closer international cooperation, since these unfair practices have become global phenomena.

In a joint effort, the FDJP and DDPS will take a closer look at the potential solutions outlined in the Federal Council report. The Federal Council has requested both departments to draw up specific regulatory proposals.
Kier Radnedge offered an optimistic view on the significance of the report, suggesting that Swiss politicians have finally "woken up"::
This is a remarkable state of enlightenment after decades of virtually non-existent regulation suggested that Switzerland acquiesced in a sports authority culture which believed in encouraging interests (personal, financial) rather than guarding against their conflict.
In my recent analysis of the opportunities to hold FIFA accountable, currently in press, I identified Swiss law as one of the mechanisms through which FIFA could be held accountable. Most international sports associations are incorporated in Switzerland. But I also noted the long-standing reluctance of Swiss officials to exercise that authority.

With FIFA closing down its reform process with, arguably, only partial success, continued motivation for change will have to come from somewhere. Perhaps the Swiss government has indeed finally woken up.

Friday, November 9, 2012

FIFA Begins Closing Down its Reform Process

The four FIFA Task Forces which were created at the request of the FIFA Executive Committee in October 2011 have all concluded their mandate to propose reforms, as part of the process which was launched during the FIFA Congress in Zurich on 1 June 2011.

The proposals of the Task Force FIFA Ethics Committee and the Task Force Transparency and Compliance, in particular with regards to the creation of the two-chamber Ethics Committee and the creation of the Audit & Compliance Committee, in both cases with independent chairmen, were already approved by the FIFA Congress in Budapest on 25 May 2012. Additionally, the new FIFA Code of Conduct and the appointment of a woman for the first time in the FIFA Executive Committee were also approved that day.
FIFA says that the reform effort officially ends next May, according to Sepp Blatter:
"But our work does not end here. The reform process will continue, as planned, until the 2013 Congress."
How did they do?  Here is my earlier report card.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

UCI's Legal Woes

The international body which governs cycling -- the Union Cycliste Internationale or UCI -- continues to face fallout from the Lance Armstrong affair. Today the WSJ reports that the UCI has been sued by a Swiss-based clothing company, Skins:
Sportswear group Skins International Trading AG is seeking damages from cycling's governing body in the wake of the Lance Armstrong doping scandal.

Skins, an official clothing supplier and sponsor to national federations including the U.S., Australia and New Zealand; and professional teams such as RabobankEuropcar and NetApp, sent a letter to the Union Cycliste Internationaleor UCI, Friday claiming its brand reputation has been harmed.

In a letter, Cedric Aguet, Swiss-based attorney for Skins claims that the way the UCI, former president Hein Verbruggen and current President Patrick McQuaid handled the case surrounding Mr. Armstrong was the main cause for the "total loss of confidence" in professional cycling and so harming Skins and other brands that support the sport.
The full letter from Skins to UCI can be found here in PDFWriting on his blog at the Skins website, CEO Jamie Fuller explains their actions as follows:
The events of the last several months or so have made it abundantly clear that world cycling has not been the sport the general public and the corporate partners thought it was. Consequently, as Chairman of a company that has made a significant financial and emotional investment, I am acting in order to send a message to the UCI and its senior office bearers that gross mis-management and betrayal of trust is completely unacceptable.

The recent report from the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) which blew the lid off Lance Armstrong’s systematic control of widespread doping, proved that the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) and its two leading figures, President Pat McQuaid and Honorary President For Life, Hein Verbruggen, have failed to eradicate cheating within the sport. In fact, Mr. McQuaid and Mr. Verbruggen refused to even acknowledge that the problem was so entrenched until USADA forced them into submission. In short, we say that the UCI, Mr. McQuaid and Mr. Verbruggen have failed us, the sport and the public who love cycling. We also believe the USADA revelations of widespread doping activity have raised wider, cultural issues within the UCI relating to an apparent inability to rid the sport of doping over an extended period of time.

Consequently, it is now clear that Skins’ financial and emotional investment into cycling has been damaged and our legitimate commercial expectations have been betrayed. If the public no longer have confidence that cycling is ‘clean’ they may question those who support its existence.

The UCI’s decision to uphold the USADA report and strip Lance Armstrong of his 7 Tour de France titles, was proof of their acceptance that he cheated in order to be successful. As a sponsor and commercial partner in the sport, and as a company that produces high performance sports compression wear off the back of cycling’s supposedly clean, vibrant and healthy image, our trust in those at the top has been crushed. Our credibility as a company that promotes true competition, fitness and overall health and wellbeing has been affected by our own promotion of its ‘virtues’.
It is not clear what legal basis under Swiss law Skins is filing the lawsuit, however a successful judgment would have broad implications for all of sports governance.

The lawsuit follows one filed by a journalist, Paul Kimmage, against UCI by the same Swiss law firm. A press release described the suit as follows, as summarized by Play the Game:
According to the press release, Kimmage has sent a “criminal complaint and denunciation against Hein Verbruggen, Pat McQuaid and unknown persons against whom Paul Kimmage requests the opening of a criminal investigation for slander/defamation, denigration and for strong suspicions of fraud.”

The press release further states that Kimmage has initiated the proceedings in honour of the whistle-blowers, who have been “dismissed as ‘liars’, ‘cowards,’ or ‘scumbags’ by Hein Verbruggen and/or Pat McQuaid.”
The resolution of these lawsuits will bear watching.