2016 Trends #5: The Wide World of Sports

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To help prepare compliance professionals for the year ahead, we’ve talked with industry experts, our colleagues at NAVEX Global, and ethics and compliance professionals from our more than 12,500 client organizations to gather insights on the top issues and trends that will impact compliance programs in 2016. We’ll share each of the trends here over the next few weeks, but you can also download the whitepaper that includes all ten trends at any time.  


If 2016 is anything like last year, we can count on the world of sports to provide a variety of fodder for ethics and compliance discussions.

Sports scandals now rival political and business ethics scandals as the principal vehicle for public discussions of ethics. It’s interesting to note however that relatively few of the recent sports related scandals actually involve actions on the field or in the arena. While questionable on-the-field activity certainly occurs, much more attention has been paid to behavior off the field:

  • Bribery and corruption by sports governing bodies – most notably the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF);
  • Sports-specific rules violations including allegations of doping in cycling and international track and field, the use of otherwise legal performance enhancing drugs that are banned by sports authorities and U.S. college teams that violated a myriad of regulations governing the recruiting and academic qualifications of athletes; 
  • Personal transgressions including domestic violence, off-the field recreational drug use and other destructive behavior by star athletes;
  • Hooliganism, violence and racist taunts by fans; and 
  • Renewed attention to head injuries and possible exploitation of athletes especially in contact sports including boxing, football, American football, rugby and hockey.

Key Steps for Organizations to Take

At first it may be hard to see what impact—if any—sports scandals have on our work as E&C professionals. But on closer examination there are several reasons why we should pay attention and steps we can take:

1. In your E&C training and case studies, replace Ken Lay with Sepp Blatter

Your employees are now more likely to be receptive to a compliance training case study that references FIFA’s Sepp Blatter than one about Enron’s Ken Lay.

This is particularly true for your international locations where employees who may have previously thought that U.S.-centric training was not applicable to them. In our recent international engagements, we’ve seen that employees are appalled by what has happened in their beloved sport.

Recent sports-related case studies are also especially fertile ground for bringing home the importance of culture. For example, FIFA's culture of corruption and bribe-taking stretches back 24 years and through two generations of soccer officials. FIFA's plight can be seen as a cautionary tale for all organizations. Small acts of self-dealing and enrichment, unchecked, grow into larger and more pervasive actions.

Ultimately, a culture of fraud and corruption becomes entrenched. Beyond cases studies and scandals, sports can also serve as a source of inspiration and provides examples of teamwork and the importance of preparation and focus.

2. Don’t plan any major U.S. initiatives for the second half of March or any meetings June 14-July 15, 2018

No matter what industry you’re in, or where in the world you’re located, sports already affect your business. Sponsorships and charitable events may result in conflicts of interest, sporting events are a major source of gift and entertainment violations and participation in fantasy sports consumes your IT bandwidth (and may violate your policies against gambling at work).

Like it or not, sports is already an E&C issue for you. And it is estimated that every March, Americans spend nearly 700 million hours watching the college basketball championship games—many of which are during work hours—resulting in annual losses of $1.9 billion due to distracted and unproductive workers. Fortunately for productivity, the World Cup only happens once every four years.


To make sure you see all of our posts on 2016 trends, subscribe to the NAVEX Global blog today. Or, to see all ten trends at once, download the whitepaper here at any time. Want to talk with an expert about your specific challenges for the coming year? Schedule a consultation with our ethics and compliance expertswe'd love to see how we might help support you and your organization.


What do you have to say? Share your thoughts in the comments below or join a discussion group on Compliance Next.


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