The Ankura Sports practice held its second Sports Governance, Compliance, and Investigations Conference in the IOC Museum, Lausanne on 25 January 2024. The conference day was proceeded by a workshop on safeguarding in sport the prior afternoon.
This invitation-only event brings together Ankura experts, clients, collaborators, and representatives from international federations across sport and sporting bodies. Also joining the expert panel and in attendance were law firms who have worked with Ankura on relevant matters.
The content of the day was a dynamic mix of panel discussions, workshops, and interview formats.
Key insights from the conference:
- The Compliance Panel chaired by Ankura Senior Managing Director Lorynn Demetriades reviewed the state of play on compliance programmes in sports governance. This area has become a hot topic in sport with both increased public scrutiny and regulations, for example, the new European Union (EU) Anti-Money Laundering (AML) requirements. The panel concluded that, with few exceptions, compliance in sport still has a way to go to be up to commercial industry standards. Collectively, they agreed that a good, robust compliance programme can help ensure sports avoid crises that then necessitate a compliance programme.
- Ankura Managing Director Felix Vetter and Jason Shardlow-Wrest, Managing Associate at Linklaters, updated the conference on some of the trends in complex, regulatory investigations in sport. The trends in this area indicate that we can expect a greater focus on financial regulations in football/soccer as independent regulators and legislators (such as the EU) start to enter the game. Other sports will also likely tighten their financial regulations to ensure competition on a level playing field.
- Jonny Gray, Ankura Senior Managing Director for Sport, chaired a panel that focussed on integrity in sports, particularly looking at match-fixing and competition manipulation. The panel included Jason Van't Hof from U.S. Integrity who provided insights on sports integrity governance in the USA post the striking down of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in 2018. With almost 40 States now allowing global sports betting, this increased liquidity in the sports betting market will both benefit sports that sell their data to the betting industry, but also further challenge them. In this dynamic, sports should continue to benchmark, evolve, and invest in integrity programmes, ideally with separate and independent oversight. Some revenues from data sales need to be reinvested to manage the risk associated with in-play sports betting. Not all sports, and indeed nations, are getting this balance right.
- Jonny Gray and Duncan Fraser, Head of Sport and Entertainment at Howden Insurance, ran a masterclass in sports risk management. They urged that all sports organisations should by now have a Risk and Audit Committee, ideally chaired by an Independent Director. This committee should ensure coherence between insurance coverage and risk mitigation programmes to ensure both aspects work seamlessly to manage an ever-growing array of risk exposures. Top-risk exposures should be routinely reviewed with at least one tabletop exercise per annum.
- Picking up on the safeguarding in sport workshop, Ankura Senior Director Charli Curran chaired a panel on the same topic, where the panel stressed that the importance of not treating safeguarding investigations in the same manner as regulatory or misconduct investigations (i.e. fraud). Safeguarding (including racism) investigations have been mishandled by a number of sports, occasionally seeing the need for mass resignation of entire Boards. Sports Governing Bodies with responsibility for athlete welfare should have retainers in place with specialist law firms, trauma-informed investigators, and crisis communications companies. They highlighted that tabletop exercises would help ensure executives better understand some of the nuances and complexities of these matters.
- Finally, after a session demystifying the role and functioning of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), Ankura Senior Managing Director Jonathan Brown discussed multi-club and multi-sport ownership structures with his expert panel. They concluded that these will become increasingly popular models for investors seeking synergies across their sports portfolio. But these models will challenge the regulatory regimes in many sports which will need to adapt to fit this new dynamic. To bring the challenge to life, the conference concluded with Sean Cottrell, CEO of LawInSport, running a practical exercise for attendees to face just a few of the hard choices required to ensure they get the balance right between third-party funding and integrity in sport.
Ankura Sports Practice is grateful to all delegates for attending this conference. The conference was conducted under “Chatham House Rules,” hence the takeaways above are those derived by Ankura and cannot be attributed to any individual panellist or attendee. Should readers wish to discuss any of the matters which were raised at the conference, they should contact email@example.com
© Copyright 2024. The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of Ankura Consulting Group, LLC., its management, its subsidiaries, its affiliates, or its other professionals. Ankura is not a law firm and cannot provide legal advice.