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17th Jul 2018

Media Release: Independent integrity body needed for Australian Sport

Independent integrity body needed for Australian Sport

Australia’s sports leaders have called for an independent national sport integrity body as a solution to the growing number of issues of integrity facing Australian sport.
 
Speaking at the National Sport Integrity Forum in Melbourne tonight, Australian Sports Commission chief executive officer Kate Palmer said sports weren’t adequately equipped to deal with the torrent of integrity issues they are facing.
 
With a national sport integrity review soon to be released, Palmer said the recent basketball incident in the Philippines was a good example of the pressures placed on national sporting organisations to deal with complex issues in a very short time frame.
 
“We are just not equipped and that’s something that I’m hoping the integrity review has dealt with when it was a major issue that we raised,” Palmer told the forum.
 
“We’re facing significant integrity issues across a range of areas and we are just not going to cope, we’re going to be hit and hit hard and I want to be encouraging every director here if integrity is not a standing agenda item on your board agenda then it should go on now,” Palmer added.
 
"The issue is…most sports in this country are not able, they don’t have the capability or resources to deal with integrity issues. Even the most basic integrity issues. So how are we as a system going to support them because most national sport organisations have very few resources, we fund them for high performance and participation we may give them some capability funding, but in principle the top sports in this country are on the whole funded by the government, so how are we as a system going to make sure that we provide support to those national sport organisations?”
 
“We look to the models that the AFL and tennis and the big commercial sports have, but that is so far from the everyday life of an NSO in this country. We need to do something about it. And I am hoping that is something that will come from the integrity review,” Palmer said.
 
The forum, Winning at any cost, the National Debate, presented by Victoria University, The Sport Australia Hall of Fame and the Australian Sports Commission saw over 250 Australian sport industry professionals converge along with an expert panel of athletes, administrators and journalists on the opening night of the National Sports Convention, including Olympic gold medallist and Australian Olympic Committee Athletes’ Commission chair, Steve Hooker and former head of WADA and chair of the IAAF Athletics Integrity Unit, David Howman.
 
Throughout the forum, hot topics such as Froome’s participation in the Tour de France, e-sports vulnerability to corruption and the Boomer’s basket-brawl were debated as the conversation covered a diverse range of themes and opinions.

 

 

REWATCH LIVESTREAM
 

National Sport Integrity Forum: Winning at any cost, the National Debate
 
For a suite of resources including panelists’ bios, media expert contact details and opinion pieces on Sport Integrity click here.

 

 

The potential of an independent sport integrity body is a must, according to Howman who heads the arms-length IAAF integrity unit.
 
“Everybody depends on something, so I don’t think that anyone is totally independent. The best definition is to say you must be someone without any conflict of interest. So for me to be in athletics I have never been a part of the athletic world, I have nothing to do with athletics, or anyone in the sport,” Howman said.
 
Funding for integrity units was also brought to the discussion by Howman, who believes a ‘tax’ on revenue is a must to allow sport the opportunity to realistically fight corruption and cheating.
 
“Tax the broadcasting rights, put a half percent extra on, tax the sponsorship, put a half percent, create an integrity fund, which would help athletes, some of the money should go to the athletes in how they can be supported and so on, and you solve the problem and no one has told me I’m wrong. So, why isn’t it happening?” Howman asked.
 
“When I was there (at WADA) we were funded the same way as Wayne Rooney was paid, $30 million a year, and we were getting paid $30 million a year, so how can you balance it? If one athlete is making more money that the monitoring organisation it’s going to be rubbish…” Howman lamented.
 
Herald Sun journalist Mick Warner reiterated the prospect of a potential nationwide unit, with reference to the AFL’s poor performance during the Essendon drug saga.
 
“On things like salary caps, or illicit drugs, gambling, player behaviour, they’re [the AFL] very good on integrity. To me where they get into trouble is when the integrity breach crosses over their own commercial interests.”
 
“The hard thing for the AFL is to be judge, jury and executioner. The idea of them sitting in judgement of themselves or their own athletes doesn’t sit right with me, which goes to what this national sports integrity tribunal will hopefully achieve,” Warner added.
 
Although not everyone agreed that a separate body was required, so long as independence was established.
 
Ann West, Head of Integrity and Compliance at Tennis Australia said the importance of independence was key to the success of her department.
 
“We sit hidden away in the organisational structure and answer to the CEO and connect totally independently. Although we’ve got the mother country looking over us, which is the international integrity unit, we virtually run our own show.”
 
Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Paterson shared West’s view, stating it was the sports’ responsibility to police their own integrity before they hand it over to external parties.
 
“Any sports body, any governing body needs to own integrity. They may not be able to own every component of investigation or finalisation, but you must own your own integrity as an important component of every sport and not consider outsourcing it.”
 
Naturally, the Australian men’s cricket team’s sandpaper scandal in South Africa was a consistent topic of discussion throughout the evening.
 
“In terms of integrity it was one of the best things that’s ever happened to Australian sport because it’s a real circuit breaker, which over 10-20 years was heading down a road of no return,” Herald Sun journalist Mick Warner.
 
“The sport will emerge a better sport as a result.”
 
West said one of the main lessons she took from the scandal was the need for athlete support networks.
 
“In tennis the balance is trying to protect the sport, everybody who’s involved in the sport, and also to really delve into why the athlete went down that pathway and how you can stop it for the next generation.”
 
Providing an athlete’s perspective on the theme, Olympic gold medalist and Australian Olympic Committee’s Athletes’ Commission chair Steve Hooker spoke candidly about the pressure of winning and how our future athlete’s mindsets have changed.
 
“I think the dialogue around winning is changing… our values are changing. I think you hear more in school about resilience than about winning or being the best. We want to teach our kids to be resilient and that’s to deal with failure and that’s the value of sport – it’s one of the only places we have left where we can safely fail," Hooker said. 
 
John Bertrand AO, chairman of The Sport Australia Hall of Fame summed up the night by quoting the great Sir Don Bradman upon his induction into the Hall of Fame:
 
"When considering the stature of an athlete or for that matter any person, I set great store in certain qualities which I believe to be essential in addition to skill. They are that the person conducts his or her life with dignity, with integrity, courage and perhaps most of all, with modesty. These virtues are totally compatible with pride, ambition and competitiveness."
 
About the National Sport Integrity Forum
 
Victoria University (VU) and The Sport Australia Hall of Fame (SAHOF) share an important goal to promote sporting excellence aligned with integrity.
 
Together they have implemented two highly successful Integrity in Sport Forums in 2014 and 2016, aimed at engaging relevant groups on issues of integrity in sport. 
 
In 2018, VU and SAHOF have partnered with the Australian Sports Commission (ASC), and together held the third edition of this biennial National Sport Integrity Forum on the opening night of the National Sports Convention in Melbourne.
 
The concept and motivation behind the National Sport Integrity Forum (NSIF) is to meaningfully discuss the issues of integrity and fair play at a time when the pressure and incentives to succeed may tempt athletes, coaches, administrators and managers to do whatever it takes to achieve success. This means calling upon exemplary sporting champions, policy makers, educators and industry/community stakeholders to lead the way so that Australians retain their trust in the value and importance of sport.
 
-ENDS-
 
For a replay of the forum livestream discussion click here.
 
You can follow the conversation via twitter @SportAusHoF #SportIntegrity
 
For a suite of resources including panelists’ bios, media expert contact details and opinion pieces on Sport Integrity click here.
 
ASC Integrity and Governance resources can be found here.
 

 



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When considering the stature of an athlete or for that matter any person, I set great store in certain qualities which I believe to be essential in addition to skill. They are that the person conducts his of her life with dignity, with integrity, courage, and perhaps most of all, with modesty. These virtues are totally compatible with pride, ambition, and competitiveness.