GEF Director Alex McLin shared his insights on how to forge a responsible sport leadership and culture during a dedicated session on 6 October at the Sporting Chance Forum. Organised annually by the Centre of Sport and Human Rights, the event brings together a diverse group of stakeholders across the world of sport and human rights to share knowledge, learnings, progress and more.
This specific session explored how to support a new generation of sports leaders committed to sustainability in not just changing practices and mitigating risks but changing the culture of sport to ensure people are always central. It was stressed that policies and procedures only ever thrive when principles, values and beliefs, like human rights are endorsed at the highest level and then embodied across the organisation.
“One key rule of our Foundation with respect to shaping culture is not to shy away from discussions about issues,” said Alex McLin. He explained: “We see each case we deal with not only as an opportunity to seek justice for the affected individual, but also as a chance to shine a light on the issues behind those cases and find solutions. It’s important to learn from a cultural problem, develop responsible leadership to prevent it from happening again, and build more resilient systems going forward.”
Taking the example of gymnastics, Alex McLin explained how the massive issue of abuse cases across the sport globally led the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) to create a regulatory framework which now imposes mechanisms to the IF itself as well as to its national member bodies to progress in creating a positive culture. At the same time, the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation was set up as an independent body to oversee the FIG’s and its members' compliance with all relevant rules; to provide for a confidential reporting mechanism; and ensure independent investigation and arbitration.
Others speaker during the session, which was moderated by Diana Chavez, Executive Director of the Private Sector Regional Centre for the Support of UN Sustainable Development Goals, included Rachel Davis, Vice-President and Co-Founder at Shift; and Walter Palmer, former professional basketball player and Director of Dartmouth for Life at Dartmouth College
All panellists agreed on the importance for sport organisations to adhere to defined governance standards, measure their implementation and invest in those areas that remain challenging. They must be accountable, tackle challenges proactively and thereby “deserve” their autonomy. In this context, Alex McLin, who is also a member of the Governance Task Force of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF), outlined ASOIF’s review of IF governance. This assessment is undertaken regularly by the association’s member federations, using a full set of governance principles and indicators tailored to the specific characteristics and needs of sport organisations. The topic of safeguarding from abuse and harassment is also addressed. This exercise allows the Executive Boards of IFs to be informed about the status and adequacy of their organisation’s governance and culture, which was deemed crucial by all speakers.
The Sporting Chance Forum kicked off on 4 October and will end on 7 October. This year, the organisers also used the event as a platform to launch their new strategic plan “Convergence 2025”.The strategy for the period 2021-2025 outlines the current challenges and trends in sport and human rights, and describes how the Centre for Sport and Human Rights will seek to address them through activities undertaken in cooperation with a diverse global network of individuals and institutions from various actor groups and sectors represented in the global sports ecosystem.