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Sport: Integrity

Volume 771: debated on Tuesday 10 May 2016


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what consideration they have given to placing a duty on all publicly funded and professional sporting bodies to co-operate actively in identifying and punishing anyone damaging the integrity of sport.

We expect all sports bodies to adhere to the highest standards of governance and to fully co-operate in taking appropriate action against those who damage the integrity of sport. As a result, the Government are introducing a new governance code for sport in the UK later this year. The code will be mandatory for all sports governing bodies in receipt of public funding, and non-compliance with the code will mean that those bodies will lose that funding.

I thank the Minister for that reply. However, what is her opinion of what happens when some of those bodies reach the end of their authority and have to report on to somebody else to achieve any action against somebody who has broken the spirit of the code—for instance, a doping scandal that ends when it runs out of that authority? Are we to undertake a law review so that action is taken across the board and does not end at artificial boundaries, often there for purely historical reasons?

The noble Lord is quite right about the need for things to be joined up. That is why we have set up a group, curiously called the GIGS group—the government integrity group for sport—drawing from across Whitehall and from the key agencies, such as the Gambling Commission and UK Anti-Doping. We will be putting the governance code out to consultation so that the sort of issues that he has identified are properly thought through and dealt with.

My Lords, this week, we have the anti-corruption summit organised by the Prime Minister. Will the noble Baroness urge the Prime Minister to put this subject on the agenda, bearing in mind the news reports that we have read of government involvement in such corruption? Will she support the aim of funding a body that is independent of sports governing bodies?

My Lords, I can confirm that corruption in sport will be on the summit’s agenda this week. It is very important that international discussion should take place on this vital subject. UK Sport and Sport England are responsible for this whole area and draw on government money, which has to be properly accounted for. I am not convinced that the direction in which the noble Lord is going is the right one, although, as I said, we are looking at the whole area, including the question of criminal sanctions.

Is my noble friend aware that in ancient Greece, at the entrance to the stadium on Mount Olympus, they erected a row of statues of the great god Zeus to remind those entering what the purpose of the exercise was, and that these statues were paid for by fines levied on cheats? Could we adapt that idea and perhaps erect an avenue of statues of ordinary working men and women outside the entrance to the European Commission in Brussels to remind it what the purpose of the exercise really is? Given that it is Brussels, with all that money sloshing around, there should not be too much trouble in finding the money but, if necessary, I would be happy to chip in.

Our country and in fact the whole of European civilisation have learned a huge amount from the Greeks—and indeed from the Romans. I am sure that Brussels has lots to learn.

To return to sport, how can the Government intervene in the affairs of these various international sports federations when there is a tremendous problem? In autocratic countries Governments clearly fix what goes on whereas in non-autocratic countries Governments are very much more at arm’s length. How are the Government working with British and other representatives on such bodies to make sure that they do not go down the road that, sadly, one or two have done in recent years?

In Britain, we care a huge amount about corruption in sport and cleaning things up, and that is in the mouths of all the people who represent us around the world. That is one of the reasons the Prime Minister has put this important issue on his agenda this week. It is fair to say that we work day and night through our representative bodies to try to clean up sport, but there is always more to do. Obviously, the unanimous vote to suspend Russian athletes from all competition was a very good move.

They could indeed draw great inspiration from the Invictus Games and from the Olympics and Paralympics. Of course, the fact that Prince Harry is involved makes us all delighted.

When we send a team to Rio, rather than looking at the negative elements of sport, will my noble friend take the opportunity to look at the positive sides and find time, either before or after the team goes, to laud those who make a positive rather than a negative contribution to society?

My noble friend makes a very strong point. We can also lead the way on the issue of corruption by making sure that all our athletes are tested before they go and that we have no problems and no reputational issues when we are in Brazil.