ED, David M. Luna, Discusses the Concern of “Sportswashing” by G20 Nations



Sport requires the highest governance and integrity standards to operate as a credible and respected industry.


Yet, history has documented various episodes to the contrary as the lack of up-to-date regulations has failed to curb corrupt practices.


David M. Luna, founder, and executive director of the International Coalition Against Illicit Economies (ICAIE), stressed on the need to stop compromising on integrity for greed and dirty money.


“Of equal concern is the sportswashing by some G20 members who use sports to buy legitimacy through the hosting of numerous global games, like the World Cup and the Olympics, to divert attention from their kleptocracy, human rights abuses, unjust wars, and sexual violence,” said Luna.


“For integrity to take hold, communities must continue to pressure the G20, other governments, and international organisations. Hold them accountable (and) not turn a blind eye to their impunity, and signal recognition that their smokescreen for criminality and corrupt behaviours is unacceptable.”


Sportswashing is a term used to criticise the practice of individuals, groups, corporations, or governments using sports to improve reputations tarnished by wrongdoing.


Luna said this during the ‘No Time to Lose: Good Governance and Anti-Corruption in Sport’ session yesterday, held during the Sport Integrity Week 2022 (SIW2022), organised by the Sport Integrity Global Alliance (SIGA). Other participants in the session included Giovanni Tartaglia Polcini, coordinator of Italy’s Anti-Corruption International Activities, Lorenzo Salazar, deputy prosecutor-general to the Court of Appeal of Naples, and Ronan O’Laoire, who is responsible for the United Nations’ Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) Programme on Safeguarding Sport from Corruption and Crime.


Luna also expressed concern on the increasing criminal penetration and corruptive influence of organised crime across sports, including bribery, money laundering, fraud, racketeering, game-fixing, illegal betting, human trafficking, counterfeiting, and other illicit activities.


“We cannot work in parallel environments … multi-dimensional threats require whole-of-society, multidisciplinary approaches. And we must not turn a blind eye. Failure to act against autocrats’ sportswashing and criminals is complicity, too,” he added.


Salazar, during the session, said that while corruption within sport had been brought up at recent G20 meetings, most countries did not accept specific sporting anti-corruption controls. Polcini, meanwhile, called for more organisations like SIGA to take action against corruption in sport.


O’Laoire went on to highlight three key areas of focus – to strengthen existing laws and create anti-corruption strategies, ensure regulations are underpinned by laws and frameworks, and understand the actual scale/specifics of the problem in sports.


LaLiga president, Javier Tebas, built on the topic of anti-corruption during his keynote address, held after the session.


“What happens on the field or the court must be authentic,” said Tebas.

“Organisations need to be vigilant to ensure that illegal activity doesn’t permeate the sport and stain the outcome.”


Tebas also highlighted the need for security, not just fan safety, but protection against piracy of viewership through illegal streams.


“How can we achieve economic stability if associations and courts don’t enforce the regulations?” he asked.


SIW2022, which ends on Friday, will also host a series of other significant thought leadership events, including the launch of the SIGA GRID (gender, race, inclusion, and diversity) Awards, and the signing of a sport integrity pact.




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