More than 100 ministers, international sports organizations, and experts from around the world met in London on Dec. 6 to reaffirm their global commitment toward tackling corruption in sport.
This meeting of the International Partnership Against Corruption in Sport (IPACS) marked the first high-level meeting since the partnership was launched at the International Olympic Committee’s Forum on Sport Integrity last year.
Coordinated by a core group of partners—including the Council of Europe, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD), the U.K. government, and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)—IPACS consists of a steering committee composed of governments, sports organizations, and inter-governmental organizations. IPACS’ stated mission is “to strengthen and support efforts to eliminate corruption and promote a culture of good governance in and around sport.”
At its Dec. 6 meeting, IPACS delegates discussed specific challenges, including how to manage conflicts of interest in awarding major sporting events to ensure the process is fair and transparent. They also discussed ways to develop tools for preventing corruption linked to procurement at sports events and the way infrastructure contracts are awarded, as well as the implementation of good governance principles to help mitigate corruption in sports organizations.
All delegates reiterated their full commitment to upholding and implementing internationally recognized standards of integrity and anti-corruption in sport through engagement and collaboration with IPACS.
“The IOC remains committed to fight corruption in sport at all levels,” said IOC President Thomas Bach. “Integrity entails credibility, and corruption threatens the very credibility of sports organizations, as well as competitions. We know we cannot win this fight alone but need the support of governments when it comes to anti-corruption legislation and law enforcement.”
“That is the value of IPACS, a very pragmatic partnership which can get together quickly and offer effective solutions on pressing topics,” Bach added. The high-level support IPACS receives “is invaluable and will further strengthen our team efforts.”
Ulrik Vestergaard Knudsen, Deputy Secretary-General-elect of the OECD, echoed this sentiment. “IPACS is further evidence that corruption can be defeated only through collective partnerships and actions,” he said. “The OECD’s experience in the fight against all forms of corruption serve as the basis of our engagement with IPACS. Fighting corruption in sport is fighting corruption globally.”
Laying the groundwork
IOC Member Pierre-Olivier Beckers-Vieujant, who represented the IOC during the meeting, described in his remarks how the groundwork was laid for the cooperation between sport organizations and governmental organizations in the fight against corruption. “By their nature, sport organizations do not have the mandate nor the capacity to fight criminal activities,” he said. “This authority lies with the governments and law enforcement agencies. We are convinced that we can only make progress in partnership.”
The need to partner with one another is one of the reasons why the IOC convened the International Forum for Sports Integrity in 2015 and a second edition in 2017, “to lay the groundwork for the cooperation between sport organizations and governmental organizations in the fight against corruption,” Beckers-Vieujant said.
In 2015, the problem of corruption in sport was raised through the perspective of the fight against the manipulation of competitions. The IOC supported the Council of Europe’s Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions. “This Convention is a unique instrument in international law and a cornerstone of the joint policy between sports organizations, governments, police and sports betting actors,” Beckers-Vieujant continued.
In 2017, the Olympic Movement stakeholders agreed on the need to take action to mitigate and eventually eliminate the risk of corruption in all of its aspects. “In this context, our cooperation with international organizations plays a central role,” Beckers-Vieujant said. “Strengthening partnership with governments and intergovernmental organizations is the key motivation behind the IOC’s support for the International Partnership Against Corruption in Sport, which was launched at the last IFSI meeting in 2017.
Attendees at the three-day IPACS summit included representatives from the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, the British Olympic Association and British Paralympic Association, Interpol, and the Commonwealth Games Federation.
The next meeting of IPACS will take place by mid-2019, with the aim of discussing potential new focus areas for the Partnership and reporting on progress achieved since the 2018 High Level event.
Also on Dec. 6, the U.K. government strengthened its commitment to tackling match-fixing in sport by signing the Council of Europe Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions—more commonly known as the “Macolin Convention,” whose stated aim is “to prevent, detect and punish match fixing.”
It was signed by Minister for Sports and Civil Society Mims Davies with Gabriella Battaini Dragoni, Council of Europe deputy secretary general. “This treaty is the only international legally-binding instrument against match-fixing, illegal betting, bad governance, insider information, conflicts of interests and the use of clubs as shell companies,” said Battaini Dragoni. “This is a clear commitment by the United Kingdom to secure integrity in sport through our convention.”
“We are ready to develop further an inclusive co-operation framework with states and other international stakeholders to be put at the service of our IPACS partners, because, when it comes to corruption in sport, there must be a change of gear,” Battaini Dragoni added. “We must enable national governments, international organizations and sporting bodies to demonstrate their capacity to take on this problem in a spirit of unity, determination and effectiveness. IPACS was founded for precisely this purpose—and together we will meet the challenge.”