Prioritising consistency and compliance in Australian sport: The National Integrity Framework

Posted in Regulations Governance, anti-bribery and corruption

Authors: Jeremy Moller, Peter Mulligan, Sophie Timms

Sport Integrity Australia (SIA) has been established pursuant to the Sport Integrity Australia Act 2020 (Cth) and combines the former functions of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) and the National Integrity of Sport Unit (NISU).

SIA has released the National Integrity Framework (the Framework) together with a streamlined suite of policies, directed towards national sporting organisations (NSOs). The framework has been designed to take a proactive approach to mitigate integrity threats to sports and provide a safe, fair and healthy environment for participants. Key stakeholders such as the Australian Olympic Committee, Commonwealth Games Australia, Paralympics Australia, Commonwealth Ombudsman, Australian Human Rights Commission, NSOs and sport integrity experts were consulted on specific elements of the Framework to ensure it is fit for purpose.

The Framework promotes confidence in sport and combats the threats to it, including the:

  • Manipulation of sporting competitions;
  • Improper use of drugs and medicine in sport;
  • Abuse of children and other persons in a sporting environment; and
  • Failure to protect members and other persons in a sporting environment, from bullying, intimidation, discrimination, or harassment.

The Framework mandates that NSOs must have policies that cover each of the above four areas and places an onus on two mandatory roles, namely the National Integrity Manager and Complaints Manager. While the requirements of the Framework provide for greater consistency in approaches to integrity issues across NSOs in Australia, the increased compliance requirements do pose particular issues for staff, boards, athletes and volunteers.

National Integrity Manager

The Framework requires that each NSO will have an Integrity Unit, headed by a National Integrity Manager, reporting directly or indirectly to the CEO or board. The size of the Integrity Unit is to be determined by the NSO based on financial resources as well as the number, nature and seriousness of the integrity issues within its sport. If appropriate, the Integrity Unit could solely comprise the National Integrity Manager.

The National Integrity Manager for each NSO is responsible for implementation, management, reporting and review of the Framework specific to their sport, including:

  • Supervising and administering the implementation of the Framework;
  • Monitoring the compliance of any sanctions;
  • Undertaking the role in a confidential manner;
  • Being responsible for ensuring that the Framework within their sport is regularly reviewed, and any required amendments are submitted for approval by the Board of the NSO; and
  • Providing reports to the NSO board regarding:
  1. Any alleged breaches or prohibited conduct under the Framework;
  2. Compliance with the Framework; and
  3. Any education programs that have been undertaken.

With the support of SIA, the NSO will plan, implement, and maintain an education strategy that incorporates material addressing the matters covered by each of the four compulsory integrity policies referred to above. The National Integrity Manager is responsible to ensure that education in respect of these matters is undertaken by all relevant athletes, staff and volunteers.

Complaints Manager

The NSO is also required to appoint a Complaints Manager under the Framework, to act as the point of contact between NSO and SIA in relation to the complaints, disputes and discipline policy.

The role of the Complaints Manager includes:

  • Being the point of contact between the NSO and SIA;
  • Providing information to SIA to enable them to assess complaints such as details of the complaint and relevant background information; and
  • Managing the resolution process as determined by SIA.

The role of the Complaints Manager does not include managing:

  • Complaints in relation to eligibility and selection;
  • Competition-related rules;
  • Personal grievances; or
  • Code of conduct or governance matters.

Each NSO under the Framework must ensure that they report to SIA on all matters relating to any alleged prohibited or criminal conduct that has been referred/reported to law enforcement, competition manipulation and sports wagering and any outcome under the complaints, disputes and discipline policy.

 Practical challenges and resourcing

To overcome potential resourcing issues, SIA has stated that an NSO may appoint the same person to both the Complaints Manager and National Integrity Manager roles. In addition, this person does not have to be an employee of the NSO but can be a volunteer. While this is a sensible approach, it may pose issues both in terms of capacity of the person to discharge their duties and the available pool of suitable candidates to undertake this role.

Many NSOs will already have a Member Protection Officer and the Complaints Manager may be seen as a natural extension of this role. However, there will be greater requirements given the operation of the National Sports Tribunal, which was established under the National Sports Tribunal Act 2019 (Cth). Specifically the Complaints Manager will have to be able to understand who can make a complaint, the nature of an alleged breach, dealing with vulnerable persons and confidentiality considerations such as the public disclosure of sanctions.

The potential of combining the position of Complaints Manager with an existing role, such as CEO, board member or National Integrity Manager, may create conflicts of interest. For example, it would seem inappropriate for an individual to be involved in both escalating a matter as a Complaints Manager and also as a board member in determining the outcome following a decision of the National Sports Tribunal. An NSO would leave themselves vulnerable to the decision being appealed leading to further time and financial resources being expended.

Furthermore, due to its wide remit, the role of National Integrity Manager seems more suited to an employee as opposed to a volunteer. The role will require the necessary time and resources dedicated to it to ensure compliance with the Framework.

Conclusion

While the Framework is ultimately a positive step, supporting NSOs through funding and assisting nominated individuals undertaking the new roles will likely determine whether it is successful in achieving greater accountability and transparency. A review after the first 12 months will enable each NSO to determine if its implementation and ongoing management of the Framework is achieving the desired outcomes. An NSO in implementing the Framework and establishing these roles should consider undertaking external integrity review as part of this process to assess existing vulnerabilities under the proposed Framework. This will have benefit in protecting members, stakeholders and commercial partners such as sponsors and broadcasters.

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