Window undressing: Stories from international sport

Photo: Thomas Søndergaard/Play the Game

From left: Declan Hill, Alessandro Oliverio, Grit Hartmann, Jeppe Laurson Brock and Ezequiel Fernandes Moores at a panel at Play the Game 2017. Photo: Thomas Søndergaard/Play the Game

27.11.2017

By Steve Menary
A wide-ranging panel at Play the Game 2017 told participants stories about whistleblowers, corruption and organisational anomalies in sport.

FIFA whistleblower Alejandro Burzaco is not a real hero of Argentine sports governance; that title belongs to former Federation of International Volleyball (FIVB) executive Mario Goijman.

Goijman, who was left destitute after blowing the whistle on FIVB corruption, tried to commit suicide last week, revealed Ezequiel Fernandes Moores, a correspondent with Argentine newspaper La Nación.

Goijman was bankrupted after challenging the rule of FIVB president Rueben Acosta and is scratching a living in Buenos Aires. In contrast, disgraced TV executive Burzaco is giving evidence in the ongoing FIFA trials in New York return for a reduced sentence.

“Burzaco pressured Conmebol to vote for Qatar not just from political pressure but because of corruption,” Moores said.

“Burzaco is not a hero who wants to save sports. He corrupted the sport. We cannot compare him with the Russian athletes who denounced their sport. If I wanted to praise an Argentine whistle-blower, I would praise Mario Goijman.

“In 2018, Buenos Aires will host the youth Olympic Games and it will cost $450 million to host. Goijman is only claiming back $1 million but no-one will help him.

“The other day, I told him, ‘Mario don’t kill yourself’. You are not like these people. You are different. I have tried for years to calm his depression but I am unable to explain to him why sports, old and new, does not protect [whistleblowers].”

Suspensions and inclusions
The presentation was an emotional highlight of a wide-ranging panel during Play the Game 2017 entitled ‘Window undressing: Stories from international sport’, which also took in governance, weightlifting, handball and Russia.

Italian lawyer Alessandro Oliverio recounted the anomalies behind Kuwait’s suspension from international sport, before Jeppe Laursen Brock updated on a 2015 investigation for Danish newspaper Politiken into the International Handball Association’s burgeoning membership roster.

Under the Egyptian Hassan Moustafa, who was recently re-elected unopposed as president to continue a reign that began in 2000, the International Handball Federation’s membership has surged to 207 associations.

“Do they play handball in 207 countries?” asked Laursen Brock, whose findings suggested not.

Out of 207 IHF members, 120 members are not in the IHF world rankings, 113 do not have a Facebook or home page and 102 were not able to confirm they held a national championship.

The Pacific islanders of Tuvalu told Laursen Brock that they were sent some balls by the IHF but still do not know the rules of handball.

Quizzed recently by Politiken, Danish handball federation president Per Bertelsen admitted he did not even know where Timor-Leste, one of three new IHF members, was located.

Anomalies in sports governance
The anomalies of sports governance were also probed by Grit Hartmann, whose presentation quizzed the reign of International Weightlifting Federation president, Tamás Aján.

“There have been more than 600 doping cases since 2003. The motivation behind this isn’t to sanction doping. One president put it that ‘doping is a money-making machine for the international federation’,” Hartmann said.

Under Aján, a third of all positive tests between 2008 and 2016 came from just 11 countries, yet Italy and Germany, whose leaders oppose the Hungarian’s rule, were tested more often.

There was also no out-of-competition testing of Russian weightlifters in 2011 or 2012, yet Russian’s entire weightlifting team were banned from the 2016 Olympics and the International Olympic Committee this year threatened to remove the sport from the next games.

Russian influence
The influence of Russia on international sports governance was highlighted by Pål Ødegaard and Andreas Sellias, whose presentation probed into the background of UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin.

The new UEFA president took his place as head of his native Slovenian association in 2011 despite not having served the required three years on the board of a football club.

That was among the findings of an investigation for Norwegian magazine Josimar into the background of Čeferin by the duo, who claims the UEFA president is serving Russian interests.

Author and journalist Declan Hill’s dynamic presentation also focused on Russia and links between organised crime and the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and the tale of an assassination in a wide-ranging panel that drew together disparate strands on the challenges facing sports governance.


A4header 14X3cm 2017
In more than 40 sessions, over 200 speakers will present their thoughts and opinions on a wide range of the most topical questions in world sport during the tenth Play the Game conference, taking place in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, 26-30 November 2017.

Read more about Play the Game 2017
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