Last summer news broke the FBI is investigating whether employees of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball club illegally accessed the Houston Astros’ private database, and recently it was reported Chris Corea, former scouting director of the Cardinals, had pleaded guilty to five counts of criminal charges in the case. Mr. Correa admitted to hacking the Astros’ computer system and could face five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 on each count.
As the Wall Street Journal noted, “it was the first known case of cyber-espionage involving a professional sports team hacking into another team’s database.”
Scandals in sports are seemingly becoming more and more common these days. Just last year, news about deflate-gate (NFL) and corruption among high-ranking officials at FIFA filled for weeks not just the sports pages, but page one of daily newspapers as well. Consider these scandals within recent memory:
1986 – Southern Methodist football gets the “death penalty”
1989 – MLB bans Pete Rose
1991-2003 – Baseball’s “Steroid Era”
1998 – Salt Lake City Olympics
2000 – Minnesota academic fraud
2002 – Voting scheme in Olympic pairs skating
2011 – Sandusky sexual abuse cover-up
2012 – New Orleans Saints bounties
2013 – Lance Armstrong doping
The hand-wringing is all too familiar but what is missing from the conversation is a call by sports leaders, whether at the professional or collegiate level, for the establishment of effective integrity and compliance programs among all leagues, associations, and conferences, including the teams themselves. We need enterprise-wide risk management programs designed to prevent small problems from growing into large ones: in effect, to preserve an organizations’s most important asset, its reputation.
This is not a novel idea. Such risk management programs started int he defense industry in the 1980s and soon spread to healthcare, financial services, and to virtually every other business and industry sector. The puzzling aspect is why sports organizations have such a difficult time reading the writing on the wall.