It’s critical for sport to stay relevant in today’s changing landscape, but the speed of change can only be effective if there is a solid and strong platform of trust in place.
That’s the message IAAF CEO Olivier Gers delivered on Olympic Day at the International Olympic Academy Symposium on Governance in Sport and the Olympic Movement at Ancient Olympia.
“Olympic Day began in 1948 as a way to promote sport participation across the globe,” Gers said. “Today it has become as much about extolling the values of sport as it does the participation in sport. And this reflects the changing role sport has in society today. Sport is becoming a central pillar in society – tackling health, bringing people and communities together and teaching important life values – all needed more than ever today. To remain in this role sport must also be beyond reproach and trusted.”
Where an organisation starts its journey in building that platform of trust is pivotal, Gers said, and should begin with asking why reform and rebuilding trust is important and necessary.
“Only then,” Gers said, “can we understand the journey we need to go on, a journey the IAAF is on, and the journey many other sports are beginning or need to begin.”
That journey, Gers said, has led to a massive shift in how our sport is governed, with increased transparency and more accountability, along with the creation of a system of checks and balances that protect athletes, the organization and of course the sport.
Ultimately, Gers said, our reform has been built around a triangle of trust – relevance, trust and leadership.
“All sport, not just the IAAF, needs to ensure all that is important to them and their sport is properly enshrined in their constitution so those who follow are clear about how the sport should be run and have a clear set of guidelines they can develop and evolve in line with the world they operate in.
“Relevance is not just about looking at ourselves and what we do,” he said. “This is of course important. But we need to look at the world around us.”
The fundamental cornerstone to successful reform and relevance, Gers said, is integrity. The launch of the Athletics Integrity Unit in April was a demonstrable act to show everyone in the sport – from athletes, to coaches, managers and agents – what behavior the sport expects and how sanctions, investigations and litigation will be balanced with education and knowledge so athletes can make the right choices and decisions.
Gers shared the key reforms that were being implemented within the IAAF:
– Clear roles, responsibilities, structures and processes with clear reporting lines for all layers of decision making. On the field of play, at head office or at regional and area associations.
– The mix of elected and appointed officials (within or outside the sport) so you have the right people around the table, with the right skills, asking the right questions and being accountable.
– The nature, number and scope of Commissions should be reviewed so they are aligned to an organisation’s strategy and are actually accountable for something.
– Self-improvement and equality reflecting not only the countries the sport represents but parity with the sport at elite and grassroots level. It is not just desirable but essential that structures mirror the world we all live in.
– Integrity and eligibility checks must be undertaken by strong and independent Vetting Panels with Integrity Codes of Conduct, Codes of Ethics defining behaviour and the consequences of breaches of conduct
– Establishment of an independent Integrity Unit to manage doping and integrity matters. For the IAAF the Athletics Integrity Unit has responsibility for anti-doping testing and investigations for all international level athletes and their support personnel. It also includes a new independent tribunal to determine breaches of the Integrity Code of Conduct with a right of appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
– Establishment of an independent Disciplinary Tribunal to hear and decide all breaches under the Integrity Code of Conduct, so there is “One Code – One Tribunal”. So there is clarity and transparency of the process.
“The journey is as important as the goal,” Gers told the group of current and future leaders of sport attending the conference. “It is not good enough to just tell people where you are going and when you have got there. We need to share the journey and lead by action not by rhetoric.”