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.


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