Solidarity in the fight against a common scourge was on display over the past two days in Kuala Lumpur at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) House for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Workshop on Safeguarding Sport from Corruption.
The AFC, which signed an important Memorandum of Understanding with the UNODC in December 2018 to strengthen the fight against match-fixing, played host to the event, which was organised by the UNODC in cooperation with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).
Supported by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and FIFA, and funded by the European Union (EU), the Workshop was targeted at governments and sports organisations of the Member States of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
A total of 60 participants, who hailed from various national anti-corruption, law enforcement and judicial authorities, as well as sports agencies and sports organisations, including National Olympic Committees and the national football associations of ASEAN, came together to engage in robust discussions and exchange good practices.
The Workshop was graced by Her Excellency Ms. Hannah Yeoh, Minister of Youth and Sports, Malaysia, who delivered the keynote address at its opening on Monday morning.
“We have to start planning for the future because sports is evolving so quickly… so if we don’t catch up, if we don’t put a safety net around this very fast growing industry, we will lose the spirit of sports and also the excellence put into preserving this industry,” she said. “There are so many opportunities for us to grow this part of sports regulation and enforcement.”
Shin Man Gil, Deputy General Secretary (DGS), Competitions & Football, AFC, reaffirmed the Confederation’s zero-tolerance stance on match-fixing and commitment to combat corruption in his remarks.
“The AFC is proud to host this Workshop, which focuses on the importance of addressing corruption in sport,” he said. “Of course, corruption affects not just football, but many other sports at all levels. As sport continues to grow all over the world, the opportunities for such illegal activities to take place have also increased.
“Ultimately, the negative economic and societal outcomes from corruption compromises the AFC’s values and principles of good governance and integrity. As such, we all have a responsibility to do our best to combat it.”
Five other speakers also delivered opening addresses – Mrs. Asma Sainkoudje, Head, UNODC Programme Office Malaysia, UNODC; Timo Goosmann, Counsellor – Deputy Head of Delegation, Delegation of the European Union to Malaysia, EU; Datuk Mohd Hafaz Nazar, Director, Policy, Planning and Research, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC); Evangelos Alexandrakis, NOCs Relations Manager, Olympic Movement Unit on the Prevention of the Manipulation of Competitions, IOC and Ms. Marta Ruiz-Ayúcar, FIFA Head of Integrity and Ethics.
The first day of the Workshop focused on tackling corruption in sport and competition manipulation, before pivoting to tackling corruption associated with sports events on the following day.
Key speakers included Andrew Mercer, General Counsel and Director of Legal Affairs, AFC and Ronan O’Laoire, Responsible for the UNODC Programme on Safeguarding Sport from Corruption and Economic Crime, as well as various representatives from the UNODC, MACC, FIFA, IOC and Federal Bureau of Investigation, among others.
A total of 11 sessions took place in an interactive manner, with a combination of presentations and group activities, in order to better facilitate the learning of key concepts.
Over two days, the regional workshop enhanced operational cooperation, coordination and information, awareness raising and communication between relevant actors. The knowledge acquired is set to benefit ASEAN parties in their future work on tackling corruption and crime in sport.
In his closing remarks, O’Laoire touched on what the future will bring: “It will remain on the agenda of the international community, it’s on the agenda of the G20 and just for us at the UN, we have a very, very big anti-corruption conference that happens every two years… and there will be sport on the agenda there. This is one event, there will be others. This is part of a process; we acknowledge that corruption in sports is an issue and we need to do more. We are going to keep doing this.”
DGS Shin added: “I am certain that this has been a fruitful time for all of you, and now we have to each carry on the fight to safeguard sport. More importantly, co-operation and collaboration are key. There is no room for complacency and, only by working together, we can effectively mitigate the risks of corruption and maintain the integrity of sport.”