Following our recent run-down of what to expect from sports law in 2021, here is a more in-depth piece examining the recent establishment of the Sport Integrity Forum and what it will mean for sports governance in the UK.
In the wake of various high-profile investigations within UK sports, a new Sport Integrity Forum (“the Forum”) is to be established in the UK. The Forum was introduced following a research project undertaken by Swansea University on behalf of UK Anti-Doping. The research project was commissioned by UKAD to identify if issues such as match-fixing, safeguarding and corruption (amongst other things) were linked.
The establishment of the research project and the Forum stemmed from a 2018 meeting the UKAD held with a group of high-level stakeholders from a range of sports. Within the meeting, the nature, range and severity of threats to sport integrity and the reputation of UK-based sports were discussed. The UKAD has stated that this meeting allowed one thing to become clear: sport integrity issues can only be adequately dealt with where organisations are united.
Swansea University has since produced a report entitled “Integrity in Sport – Mapping the UK Landscape” which provided 24 recommendations for future governance to UKAD, including the formation of the Forum, the development of a Sport Integrity Education Strategy, and the formation of a practice-sharing criteria and partnership within sport. Specifically, Swansea University stated that the Forum should be established “as a first priority”.
The suggested elements of the forum were as follows:
- The Forum must include elements of independence from sport stakeholders in line with good governance;
- the Forum must be seen by stakeholders as a platform for discussing key issues and agreeing priorities/work plan;
- the Forum will be used as a platform to share best practice, with a clear communication plan to disseminate information to all key stakeholders;
- the Forum should seek to identify the prioritisation of its efforts from the continuum of mass participation of high-performance sport; and
- the identification of funding sources and leadership for the development of a national sport integrity plan is critical to this first priority recommendation.
What happens next?
Since the report has been released, the Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport (“DMCS”) has agreed to establish this Forum and report on progress to Ministers on an annual basis. Furthermore, the secretariat for these groups will be provided by the DCMS, reporting to the Minister for Sport, Nigel Huddleston, who stated that“protecting the integrity of sport is paramount and I welcome today’s report. Our new Sport Integrity Forum will bring together organisations from across the sector to discuss some of the most complex challenges facing sport today. This will help to ensure that the UK continues to defend and strengthen the integrity of the sports we love.”
The Steering Group was due to meet virtually in September 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions, however any information regarding this meeting has yet to become public knowledge. Nonetheless, the Forum is likely going to become an extremely crucial element of sports governance within Britain, providing a united force against malpractice within a collaborative environment.