iSC Special: Governance Expert Hershman Wants More Action Taken by Sponsors in Sport

By iSportconnect | November 5, 2014

By Christian Radnedge

A leading governance expert has called for more action from sponsors in sport to demand a higher level of ethics and transparency in leading sporting organisations.

Michael Hershman, president of Transparency International and now a board member of the International Centre for Sport Security, spoke to iSportconnect in the same week Emirates announced it had ended its $200 million relationship with FIFA.

The airline had said three years ago that the company was restructuring its sponsorships, which also include Arsenal, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and Hamburg.

But many suggest the announcement was hastened by the number of scandals surrounding world football’s governing body. Last year, Emirates was quite vocal in expressing concern about the allegations of corruption in the successful Russian and Qatari bids to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

FIFA confirmed that Emirates had decided not to renew their contract which expires next month, and that talks are ongoing with electronic giants Sony about extending their deal.

In June, Sony said the corruption claims should ‘be investigated appropriately’ and called for FIFA to observe ‘its principles of integrity, ethics and fair play’.

The organisation, run by president Sepp Blatter, earned more than £230 million from sponsors and other marketing partners last year.

But Hershman, a former member of FIFA’s independent governance committee, urged the sponsors to stand up for good governance.

Speaking exclusively to iSportconnect, he said: “I’m very frustrated by what I see as a lack of involvement on the part of sponsors in trying to help create a better environment for governance and compliance in the sporting business.”

Asked whether he believed negative publicity to FIFA would ultimately tarnish brands associated with them, he commented: “It does and I understand this protecting the brand concept.

“But sponsors have been much more aggressive when it comes to dealing with individual athletes who have crossed the line, who have made mistakes in withdrawing support from them, in criticising them, in saying they demand a higher standard from them.

“But at the same time they have not said that about the sporting organisations and I frankly think that it has a lot to do with the fact that they have to negotiate sizeable contracts with these organisations and are afraid to be too critical because it might adversely impact their negotiating positions with the organisations.

Read the full interview with Michael Hersman here.

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