27th February 2020

SIGA Sports Integrity Fund will be independently managed

The Sports Integrity Global Alliance (SIGA) will ask sport’s stakeholders to contribute a percentage of their revenues to an independently managed sports integrity fund, designed to finance anti-corruption, confirmed the organisation’s CEO, Emanuel Macedo de Medeiros. A SIGA statement announced that the sporting industry and judicial system had backed the establishment of the fund at its World Congress on Global Leadership and Anti-Corruption in Sport, which recently took place in Rome. De Medeiros clarified that the Fund is a future concept which participants had agreed was a priority.

“It was one of the conclusions of the Congress”, explained De Medeiros. “This idea, which gained in strength throughout the Congress, was the one expressed in the press release. It will now be shaped by an action group featuring members of different sectors, in order to refine the details.”

De Medeiros confirmed that the fund will be independently managed, adding that “names are being considered and invitations are being sent” to “high-level names” to become members of the action group. “The reaction from big organisations was very positive”, he said. “There is a disposition to put money into an independently managed fund. It is not just putting money into the relevant projects, it is the accounts that must be rendered, and that must be done with the upmost transparency.”

It is yet to be decided how that independence and transparency will be ensured. SIGA was established by the International Centre for the Security of Sport (ICSS), which is 70% funded by the State of Qatar. Its website states that it accounts are audited by KPMG and it has ‘a yearly standalone audit for the organisation’s headquarters based in Doha and a consolidated report including accounts for all other entities owned by the ICSS Group’. 

Yet the ICSS did not supply its accounts, audit, or consolidated report when asked to by The Sports Integrity Initiative. It did send the following response: ‘The ICSS is committed to ongoing evaluation and application of best practices by applying an annual financial audit by an independent, external service provider. Where the ICSS has an entity in a different region or country, that entity will comply with all required financial obligations in accordance with the country’s legal requirements.

‘While the ICSS is not required by the Government of the State of Qatar to disclose its financial matters to the public, in adherence with the requirements of the Government of the State of Qatar, the ICSS has submitted all the incorporation documents and is obligated to meet all requests by the government for its financial information. As a non-profit organisation, funding and revenue earned from external clients are invested back into the development of programmes, tools and resources that benefit the safety, security and integrity of sport. The ICSS is committed to the principles of strong governance and has established sound, ethical and legal processes consistent with the organisation’s vision and mission, and adequate control mechanisms to ensure appropriate oversight of the organisation’s resources.’

UNESCO

“The level of public investment in sports integrity is severely declining”, said De Medeiros. “In partnership with UNESCO, SIGA has been developing a project to determine the level of investment in sports integrity, and to find the reasons for this decline, but also to encourage investment in sports integrity”. 

In December 2018, SIGA signed an agreement with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to build a ‘business case for sports integrity’ to present to governments. This was not SIGA’s sole initiative, but is outlined as ‘Action 3’ in the Kazan Action Plan, approved at the International Conference of Ministers and Senior Officials Responsible for Physical Education in Sport (MINEPS) in Russia in July 2017. In a separate development, the Council of Europe adopted a similar Recommendation. 

“On one hand, you need to consider the growing wealth of the sports industry and on the other, the growing threats that it is facing, which are more complex and sophisticated than ever”, said De Medeiros. “It is not just the competition organisers that are increasing revenue generation, it’s the whole industry. We need a concerted convergence of action from the whole industry. 

“On the principle of proportionality, those who generate the most significant income should contribute to that. That leads to the creation of an integrity fund to support those who have less. To support sports organisations that need to enhance their sporting governance, or who want to reform themselves but don’t know how, or don’t have the resources. Training, education and capacity building are also essential, as are funding the means and resources needed by law enforcement.”

The idea of using a percentage of sport’s profits to fund the policing of sports integrity issues isn’t new. The idea was suggested at the Tackling Doping in Sport conference in 2008; was supported by UK politician Damian Collins MP in 2016; and was also one of the ideas posited in the Combatting Doping in Sport Report published by the UK Parliament in 2018.

However, historically, sport has not been receptive to the idea. This is because many sporting organisations have their own integrity bodies, such as the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU), or cricket’s Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU). They argue that integrity issues are often sport specific and as such, they are best placed to tackle such issues. They also provide 50% of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) funding. 

Persuading sport to contribute additional funds to an independent body is therefore a difficult prospect to sell. But SIGA could find support from Witold Banka, the new President of WADA. He is keen for sport’s sponsors to financially support the Agency. For the right company, providing financial support to protect the integrity of sport could be a wise PR move.

By forming SIGA in 2016, the ICSS distanced itself from the accusation that it is funded by the Qatar government in order to distract attention from human rights and corruption issues connected to the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup. At the end of 2018, the ICSS denied allegations that it had tailed Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah as part of a covert ‘Operation Hawk’. Sheikh Ahmad has stepped aside from various roles in sport whilst the Ethics Committee of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) investigates allegations against him. 

An investigation by Mediapart made a number of allegations about the ICSS including that although it regularly sends information on suspicious matches to police, it failed to do so regarding a 6 November 2014 match between Qatar and North Korea. In 2015, an ICSS Report leaked to The Daily Telegraph revealed that up to 60 Canadian Soccer League (CSL) games may have been fixed by European crime gangs, however doubts were cast on the accuracy of the ICSS’s Report.

The above issues demonstrate why accounts detailing the ICSS’s financial support for SIGA are crucial. SIGA states that it is funded by its members, which provided £357,541 in revenue to cover extensive expenses during 2017, as reported by The Sports Integrity Initiative. The major contributors to that income were Dow Jones Sport, ICSS Insight (which files limited accounts with the UK’s Companies House), La Liga, MasterCard and Qatar Airways, all of which contributed £43,500 during the year. 

However the 2017 accounts and a media statement detailing contributions appear to have been removed from its internet site. SIGA appears to have replaced its accounts page with brochures detailing its ‘Annual Report of Activities’, which do not contain financial data. At first glance, this doesn’t appear to be the financial transparency that De Medeiros insists is crucial to the sports integrity fund SIGA is seeking to establish.

In 2015, the ICSS told The Sports Integrity Initiative that it prefers to take enforcement action behind the scenes. “The ICSS is not about announcing what we do”, said its former Executive Director of Integrity, Chris Eaton. “We do it because we recognise that sport can’t look after itself in this respect, so we pass on the information to people who can do something about it”. 

This ‘behind closed doors’ approach to integrity issues also fuels suspicion that the ICSS and SIGA are acting as an internal clearing house for sports integrity issues, allowing corrupt officials to amend their actions before they become public knowledge. Whether this is a problem depends on your point of view. 

Sponsors are ready to pump money into both organisations, and it is not hard to hypothesise as to why. If a sport has a corruption issue, better that it is identified and dealt with before it becomes public knowledge, which would have a negative impact on the sport, also impacting any sponsorship agreements or brands associated with that sport.

Whether the establishment of an independent sports integrity fund is the right route to take needs demonstrating. Given its background and concerns expressed about its ICSS owner, whether SIGA will seek to persuade sport that it is well positioned to manage such a fund remains to be seen. 

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