Guarding the game

Tuesday 15 Sep 2020

The UN’s leading anti-corruption agency and world football’s governing body signed a memorandum of understanding on Monday to step up joint cooperation to address threats posed to sports by crime

Infantino and Wali
Infantino and Wali

The MoU was signed by Ghada Wali, the executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and FIFA President Gianni Infantino during the event ‘Tackling Corruption and Crime in and through Sport’ in UNODC’s Vienna-based headquarters. The agreement also pledges to consider ways in which football can be used as a vehicle to strengthen youth resilience to crime and substance use through the provision of life skills training.

Wali is Egypt’s former minister of social solidarity.

“Sports support the development of children and youth, and we need sports more than ever in the Covid-19 recovery to make people healthier and happier, and bring jobs back. But in order to harness the power of sports we need to protect sports integrity,” Wali said.

“I believe that FIFA, the international governing body of football, the world’s game, and the United Nations, the world’s organisation, make formidable allies, and I am very pleased that UNODC and FIFA have joined forces by signing this Memorandum of Understanding to safeguard football and sporting events from corruption, promote youth crime prevention and keep children and young athletes safe from violence and exploitation.”

“Since 2016, the new FIFA has taken significant strides in relation to good governance and in the area of football integrity, including the fight against match manipulation and safeguarding of children in football,” Infantino said.

“The signature of the Memorandum of Understanding with UNODC is a milestone for the organisation and underlines the absolute commitment of the new FIFA and myself to a zero tolerance policy on corruption in football: never again! It also shows our commitment to put football at the service of society and to use it as a tool to support the achievement of public policy objectives and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

“We are proud to have a partner like UNODC as we strive to strengthen further the integrity of football and to use the unique power of the beautiful game to promote values and life skills to foster youth development and crime prevention.”

The signing of the MoU comes amid intensified efforts to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on sport and a commitment to help football to recover from the crisis both in the short term and while the world adjusts to the ‘new normal’. Against this backdrop, discussions between the two organisations focused on several key areas of collaboration, including child safeguarding and the protection of vulnerable youth in football, anti-match manipulation and anti-corruption, the legacy of major football competitions, life skills development, anti-discrimination, and social inclusion through football in the context of youth crime prevention.

The agreement also seeks to leverage the two organisations’ respective strengths to ensure a positive impact on the global fight against corruption and crime in and through sport, and to enhance the positive influence of football on the world’s youth by building their resilience to violence and crime and promoting fair play, team work, non-discrimination, tolerance and respect.

UNODC also agreed to participate in a consultation process launched by FIFA that includes sports organisations, intergovernmental authorities, governments and specialist agencies with the objective of establishing an independent, multi-sports, multi-agency international entity to investigate abuse cases in sports. The remit of such an organisation would include the establishment of trusted reporting lines, the formation of a global pool of experts that can be promptly mobilised to provide specialist case management, and care support to victims, witnesses and whistleblowers.

Locally, the organisation would oversee the standardisation of sanctions and disciplinary measures, and the establishment of screening processes to ensure that perpetrators cannot move from one region to another, between different sports, nor escape justice.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 17 September, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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