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Conflict of Interest in Sports

This Mastermind Sports Management is an online international group of professionals. On a monthly basis they will share their opinion on a certain topic. You can look at the background of each mastermind by going here.



Eline Andersen (Denmark)

Conflicts of interests in Sports Management have many faces. And a very practical can occur during the recruitment of volunteers: As event organizer your interest is to solve the various tasks within the event, from the accreditation center to gate keepers, floor sweepers, drivers etc. You rely on their support and work.

The volunteers on the other hand sign up for helping out within the event in order to team up with fellow friends and most importantly to become part of the event. Their motive is primarily to experience the event from inside. Therefore you must think of a set-up for the volunteers that provides these elements as well as accommodates your need for practical labor.

The UCI Para-Cycling Road World Championships in Denmark (Sept 2011) handled this possible conflict of interest good: The event organizers managed to let many of the volunteers have a break where they could go on the course with one of the commissioners’ cars. The volunteers got a unique experience and felt the benefits of being involved in the sports event.

Greg Harney (USA)

One of the great attributes that any sports administrator can have is an impeccable reputation. However, within the world of Sports, there are so many temptations that can make it challenging for individuals to maintain a high level of integrity.

Sports, like any other business, involve numerous financial transactions and value-in-kind trades that often tempt conflict of interest by individuals within an organization. However, more subtly in sports are the non-tangible conflicts that frequently occur.

For example, it’s not uncommon for volunteer organizations to select a chairperson to oversee a working committee that distributes funds and/or services to a team or sport. And more often than not, somehow the organization that is affiliated with the Chair tends to receive the best financial allocation that the committee has to offer!

Another example is in team selection where the Head coach might arbitrarily pick his or her athlete to complete a relay roster position when the organization’s policy is to conduct an objective training camp to pick the team.

In general, most individuals involved in world sport are very admirable and are there to support athletes and teams. However, conflict of interest within sport does exist and organizations need to address it appropriately.

Dennis MillerDennis Miller (Fiji)

Interesting one in our part of the world (Oceania) when quite often decision makers in federations are also related to athletes vying for selection. Many federations or Olympic Committees in my experience do not have standard selection criteria for national team selections and this is one reason there can be disputes in this area. Olympic Committees and National Federations need to have policies in place to address possible conflicts..


Keith JosephKeith Joseph (St. Vincent & the Grenadines)

Conflict of interest is certainly not new to the world of sport. This is a very unfortunate reality and the impact is often disastrous.  We have, in the recent past, received word of FIFA’s latest action in respect of Austin ‘Jack’ Warner, former FIFA vice president and president of CONCACAF and the Caribbean Football Union (CFU). The international body for football has terminated a television deal that it claims reflects a conflict of interest on the part of the former football official.

The television rights to the FIFA World Cup 2014 were given to the CFU. However it was discovered that the CFU, headed by Warner, sub-licensed the rights to JD International (JDI), which is Warner’s company. JDI then sold the rights to Jamaica-based SportsMax. FIFA is claiming that it had not approved the latter arrangement said to be worth millions.

To many involved in sport the matter seemed to be a case of conflict of interest in the sport of football. But there may well be others who would claim that this could not possibly have been unknown to FIFA before and as Warner claims, it may merely be a case of the organization getting after him in yet another way. Whatever about that there remains the ethical issue of conflict of interest in sport more generally.

Some may want to suggest that there is nothing wrong if an individual has an company involved in some aspect of sport and bids for contracts being made available by an organization on which he sits. The argument here is whether or not other companies engaged in the same activity has been afforded an equal opportunity to bid; that there is a level playing field for all such companies to access the right to bid and that the winner is based on the merit of its submission. Read more

Phil BushPhil Bush (USA)

Junior Volleyball in the United States: The Club System in the USA is rife with conflict that is almost nationwide in scope. The key is to ensure that the players are the main beneficiary. Unfortunately, more often than not, Certain Clubs have away too much influence over Junior Volleyball as a whole. Certain Clubs “Own” the rights to certain tournaments that are called “National Qualifiers.” The money for clubs to enter these tourneys is large, and the beneficiary is usually the Club or Club Directors. Club Directors around the United States are charging larger and larger entry fees for these tourneys and players are not always getting the training they should. USA Volleyball should take much stronger steps to control clubs and make sure that Junior Players benefit first.

Professional Sports and TV Networks: Many Professional Sports organizations focus on having TV deals set up that benefit many people, and it usually starts with the owners of the Franchises, followed by the, Players, and then, at some point the fans. In any event, these deals start to turn Professional Sports into cheap network television. This can cause attendance to Drop, which makes for less money for the Owners and the Players.

Remco Tevreden (Curacao)

Conflict of interest basically comes down to the situation that a person gets an advantage just because he or she is (in)directly involved in the decision making process of the sports organization. Examples are parents who are in the board, and only look after their interest of their kids who are athletes. Or in cases where a board member gets the sports organization to buy only from his or her company.

Situations of these are not always negative. In some cases sports organizations can get huge discounts, as a result of the fact that a specific board member owns a shop. Another positive advantage could be that a sponsorship deal is easier to close, as the spouse of a coach is working for the potential sponsoring company.

Nevertheless a situation of Conflict of interest is a dangerous one, as the principle of fairplay and good governance is at stake. Every sports organization should take the first step of realizing the danger of getting in such a situation. The next step could then be to write some rules about deciding upon family members and lastly never spend money without having at least two or three other prizes or quotations.



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  1. One of the most difficult areas of conflict is the demarcation between volunteering and fulltime engagement. The board of many sports organizations is elected and mostly, especially in small sports organizations, their engagement is voluntarily. The members of the board are in many cases the supervisors of the fully paid staff for a certain period of time while the staff has an unlimited engagement.
    As long as the board and the CEO have a good relationship, the management of conflicts will not be a serious problem because conflicts can widely be avoided or handled in a reasonable and intelligent way. On the other hand, if the relationship is not based on a friendly cooperation, all involved persons and also the institution will suffer. Is there an universally valid recipe?

    I think, that the following four criterias for preventing and solving conflicts are decisive :
    • Open and honest communication
    • Clear organizational structure
    • Commonly developed objectives
    • Team spirit

    In my opinion those criterias should be considered in any cooperation, whether in big or small organisations. The key word is togetherness: Together the team has to face the challenges and together the success can be celebrated.

    Alex Hermann
    CEO Olympic Committee Liechtenstein

    • that is a nice way of putting it Alex !

  2. Conflict of interests has many other ways:1- When a Board member(elected and work voluntarily)grab, and interferes in the head coach`s work, pretending or imagining that he understands better than him just because he was an athlete some day.2- some other cases when coaches are working for 2 or more organizations at the same time specially working as a coach in a club and at the same time as coach in the National team
    3- Also when coaches are working as judges in the local and international events(could they be loyal to someone without even realize that !)
    The above mentioned are small samples of this conflict

    • Mohammed, I completely agree with your examples. This negative aspect in sports, comes in disguise.


  3. Hi I know Remco you just had your team in the Olympics in Mexico and I would like to have skateboarding as a sport in this up and coming 2015 Olympics in Canada. Who would I contact to get this started now? My team will be representing Canada in the USA this summer for minor compititions, but Canada needs to get up to speed. I have all the certification and grading system that will be going across Canada as common marking and level system. Need to get the ball rolling in the right direction can you help me with info? Thanks Debbie Director and Coach of SideStep Corp

    • Hi Debbie,

      The sports program for 2015 is already established. See for more information this website

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