A Pardoner’s Tale – Steven Falk

August 7, 2014

“Oh bowel, oh belly, oh stinking cod,

Fulfilled of dung and corruption,

At either end of you foul is the smell.”

The whiff of corrupt commercial practice so graphically described by Geoffrey Chaucer in his 14th century allegory, The Canterbury Tales, is as strong today as it was then. But instead of crooked clergymen selling absolution from sin to a populace in mortal fear of everlasting hellfire and torment, modern malpractice feeds off the bounty and emotion of the new religion – sport.

From Bernie Ecclestone paying Bavarian prosecutors $100m to avoid facing a bribery charge to Lance Armstrong’s bullying betrayal of a whole generation of professional cyclists. From Mohammed Bin Hammam allegedly buying FIFA Exco votes to the seemingly endless succession of international cricketers who unfairly seek to influence the outcome of test matches, the story is the same. In sport, money talks and the larger the amounts at stake, the louder the voice and more rancid the stink of corruption becomes.

This is not to say that the vast majority of athletes and sports administrators are anything other than honest in their pursuit of sporting excellence, glory and in some cases, well-deserved riches. But what can be done to damp down the foul miasma of corruption that threatens to overwhelm our green and pleasant sports arenas?

No longer is it OK for sports regulators and governing bodies to police themselves.

A more rigorous approach is required to the application of the legal process to those suspected of corruption. Ultimately, the International Court of Arbitration for Sport should be given the power to investigate and bring to justice any cases of corruption in sport even where an accusation involves the governing body. No organisation or individual should be allowed to place themselves above the law.

In today’s sports world there should be no get out of jail card and no Pardoner to sell it.

Steven Falk is director of Star Sports Marketing a consultancy providing advice on sponsorship activation, CRM, brand and affinity marketing. He was previously Marketing Director at Manchester United. You can follow him on Twitter @steven_falk or visit www.starsportsmarketing.co.uk

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