Congress 2013 - Replay

Bild:Elke Ritschel und ORTHart Photography

Sports Organizations Are Facing Challenges - But Governments Too

At the Congress of Early Warning System GmbH (EWS), FIFA President Joseph Blatter, during his welcome speech in the filled-to-capacity auditorium of the Letzigrund Stadium, got right to the heart of the event’s motto. He pointed out that ethics in sport is increasingly being exposed to threats. Joseph Blatter called on all member associations to cooperate closely in the fight against racism and betting manipulations in football: "It is easy to control the match on the pitch". But off the pitch, there are over 300 million stakeholders worldwide who cannot all be monitored. Blatter vigorously emphasized that the unequal fight against these evils requires a "zero tolerance" policy: "Punishment for misconduct must hurt!". At the same time, however, he presented himself as realistic: "We are all not perfect, but we learn constantly".

EWS CEO and sports lawyer Urs Scherrer dealt with the legal aspects of the fight against manipulation in sports. With respect to an effective fight against manipulation by the states in general, he called for an anti-manipulation provision to be included in the Criminal Code. The judgements of the Federal Criminal Court in the sports betting cases of November 2012 had shown that an effective criminal provision needed to be created, since the general criminal provision on fraud did not meet the specific needs of sport, said Urs Scherrer.

The finale of the Congress, which had been eloquently moderated by Marcel Reif, and in which, alongside the former Credit Suisse and UBS CEO Oswald Grübel ("FIFA must become more transparent in terms of finances") and criminal law professor Mark Pieth (“sports organisations must be managed like major corporations”), many other top-class speakers had taken part, belonged to active sports. Two teams studded with Zurich All-Stars and sponsor representatives met for a friendly match, despite of the cool weather. Bets on the result were however not offered.

A Whole New Experience

Up to this point, I have been working for more than 20 years as an editor in the sport business. However, by participating in the third congress hosted by Early Warning System GmbH and Swiss Sports Forum, I entered unknown territory. For once, the issue was not about tackling, fouls, red cards and goals on the pitch (to stay with the football subject), but about a profound look behind the scenes of the entire business. While the working title of the event, "Sports, Business and Ethics - a Situation Analysis", appeared quite arid to me prior to the congress, my prejudiced opinion was proven wrong at the event. Joseph Blatter spoke unusually open, just like talking to his “family”. Oswald Grübel, whom I previously considered rather distanced, talked with great rhetoric skills, however he knew to communicate his message with humour as well. And there was Professor Mark Pieth, who didn’t hesitate to make transparent and relentless analysis about the cooperation between his commission and FIFA. Peter Sloterdijk’s presentation on antiquity and the Greek mythology of sports was highly exciting. And, and, and… There is just not enough room to mention all speakers, who were, without any exception, excellent.
So I just take the liberty to draw a brief conclusion of my visit to the Letzigrund stadium: I have watched many matches at the same location for 90 minutes each, which could not provide the same tension as the Congress did during eight hours.

Andy Huber