UN call to fight corruption in sports now urgent

Yury Fedotov

The call by the United Nations to fight corruption in sports has become even more urgent now than ever, as current events show.

The Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Yury Fedotov, called on the international community to step up responses to prevent corruption and organized crime in sports and major sporting events, the at the opening of a conference on safeguarding sport from corruption, organized by the UNODC, along with Brazil, the Russian Federation, India, China and South Africa.

His call comes at a time when, an investigative documentary, titled Number 12, by investigative journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas, in which Ghanaian football administrators and match officials were caught on video receiving bribes and engaging in activities to fix matches and to make money illicitly.

Fedotov highlighted the UNODC’s work to support efforts to tackle corruption in sport, and emphasized the importance of partnership with the International Olympic Committee, FIFA and others to promote sports integrity worldwide.

The seventh session of the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption held in Vienna last year adopted among other resolutions, resolution 7/8 on Corruption in Sports.

Resolution 7/8 is concerned that corruption can undermine the potential of sports and its role in contributing to the achievement of the sustainable development goals and targets contained in the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development. The resolution also notes with great concern the challenges posed by corruption and economic crime, including money-laundering to sport- and recognizes that corruption in sport undermines the fundamental principles of Olympism and in some cases, undermines the potential of Sports to advance gender equality and the empowerment of women.

The resolution on corruption in sports calls upon states parties to enhance their efforts to prevent and fight corruption in sport and in this regard, stresses the importance of robust legislative and law enforcement measures and also calls upon the states parties to improve cooperation, coordination and exchange of information in  accordance with the fundamental principles of their legal system.

It also invites states parties, when reviewing their national legislations to consider the problems and issues of illegal betting, competition manipulation, and other offences related to sports, and in that regard, takes note with appreciation of the joint publication by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the International Olympics Committee of the booklet and study entitled. “Model Criminal Laws for the Prosecution of Competition Manipulation”

According to Fedotov, there is a growing understanding and appreciation that actions taken to safeguard sports from corruption in fact represent an investment, with clear economic and social benefits.

“Together we can promote integrity, stop criminals from exploiting sport for illicit gain and harness the power of sport as a force for development and peace.” he added.

In reaction to the damning revelations made in Number12, the government of Ghana has started the process to dissolve the Ghana Football Association Executive Board and an interim board has been put in place to oversee the administration of football in the country.

Some sections of the public have argued that the GFA is autonomous and immune from government interferences while others also argued that the GFA draws funding from government for its activities therefore government can interfere when necessary.

However, with the adoption of this resolution, resolution 7/8 by the Conference of the State Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, to which Ghana is a signatory, the government might have been tasked to prevent and fight corruption through robust legislations and law enforcement.

By Bismark Elorm Addo

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