Editor Interview: Ethics and Governance in Sport

Editors of Ethics and Governance in Sport: The future of sport imagined, Yves Vanden Auweele, Elaine Cook and Jim Parry, talk to us about their recently including their stance on anti-doping regulators and the emotional well-being of those within the industry.

Why did this book need to be written?

There is a growing tendency towards a blurring of standards in sport. The positive values such as health, fitness, a sense of competence, self-esteem, self-development and pleasure are losing ground towards more egocentric values such as power and money. Too great an emphasis on these egocentric values leads to aggression, intolerance, depression, anxiety and substance abuse. Among managers, sport agents, coaches and parents this leads to cynicism, corruption, match-fixing, maltreatment and abuse (child trafficking, child labor, sexual abuse).

Panathlon International, on whose behalf Elaine Cook, Jim Parry and Yves Vanden Auweele have coordinated and edited this book, regards the limits of acceptability as having been breached, and no longer wishes to appear to approve these practices by remaining silent. They estimated that the time is ripefor a disclosure of the way the so called “truths in sport” have been established, and for doing pioneering work in helping to channel the desire, ambition and tendency to restore positive values in sport. We like to think of the term ‘provocative generalizability’ (Fine, 2006) a concept which values and measures the extent to which the research presented in this book provokes readers, in various contexts, to generalize to ‘worlds not yet imagined’; or to re-think and re-imagine the current state of affairs.

Fine, M. (2006). Bearing Witness: Methods for the Researching Oppression and Resistance-A Textbook for Critical Research. (Social Justice Research, Vol 19, nr.1: DOI: 10.1007/s11211-006-0001-0)

What are some of the controversies surrounding this topic?

Reflecting on the variety of speculative suggestions elaborated in the book, it is evident that some of them seem far-reaching, not very realistic, maybe even naïve. We are aware that their realization should include systemic changes that will modify sports’ DNA. This suggests that some key players should lose power and that we should no longer discuss problem solutions, but rather important societal and (sport) political challenges. We are therefore realistic enough to grasp that what will be the driving force behind the implementation of some of the suggestions will be the ‘pressure of necessity’. Anyway, the authors would prefer to be called naïve rather than to be accused of culpable neglect.

It is crucial that changes suggested in our book require systemic change. Again, it is helpful to refer to Fine (2006), who states that in systems of domination (such as sport) everybody is contaminated. There are no bystanders or witnesses or positions of neutrality - everyone is affected, from the individuals who benefit from such arrangements, to those who simply watch. Everyone is affected by a system where some suffer.

How is it different from other books in the field?

By assembling in one comprehensive publication a range of important contemporary ideas, some of them already published in a variety of journals and disciplines, this book will be a useful resource for sport managers, authorities, the media, trainers, coaches, sport scientists, sponsors, athletes and fans - in fact for all stakeholders in the sport sector. Five distinctive features may attract this wide range of potential readers:

  • No aggressive and fanciful opinions, but short contributions, with clear messages that invite reflection and discussion.
  • An interdisciplinary approach, including elements of philosophy, sociology, economics, marketing, management, sport and development, etc.
  • A balanced approach, without being hypercritical or being overly romantic about the power of the positive potentials of sport.
  • A focus not only on ad hoc problems or solutionsbut also on the underlying causes of problems and on suggestions for a more fundamental re-direction of sport;
  • A claim for a new culture of rights, relationships and geo-political checks and balances in sport, similar to what is developing in the international trade and the environmental protection sectors.
  • It is future focused - what we could doing differently, that might be helpful. This perspective inspires creative thinking, with the understanding that solutions are not necessarily directly related to the problems.

Are there any key messages you’d like to highlight?

Key proposalsare the questioning of sport’s claimed ‘state of exception’ and the development of more ethical governance, including a better redistribution of the financial income, democracy, public support, legitimacy, control, accountability and equity. Questions are raised as to which authority in the world has the normative power to direct global sport organizations towards more ethical governance.

A moral book has been opened on anti-doping regulators. Doping authorities are starting to use heavy pressure on athletes to testify against fellow sportsmen, and make an already highly toxic competitive athletic environment even more toxic.

Sport and Development can be viewed as well in a North-South as in a South-North perspective.Cooperation in sport may have social returns for Western countries in terms of producing insights to manage their actual multicultural challenges, due to the massive influx of migrants.

Current events

On May 20th 2016 a congress will be organized In Antwerp (Belgium) by Panathlon International around the major topics of the book (see www.panathlon.net).

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