Sports Officiating Association: Is it Time for Integrity Programs in Sports?
The April 2016 issue of Referee magazine highlights a session on developing integrity programs that was presented at the 2015 Annual Summit of the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO). NASO publishes Referee magazine, the most respected monthly magazine on officiating and written by sports officials for sports officials.
The session attracted over 85 officiating leaders representing a variety professional, collegiate, high school, and youth levels. Well-known speaker and educator, Hugh Greeley, a consultant at Sports Officiating Consulting, reminded participants that while one or more players or sports officials may be in the news for wrongdoing at any particular time, the identified miscreants are only the tip of the iceberg.
He mentioned that basketball referees have pleaded guilty to IRS violations, soccer referees were implicated in match-fixing, high school officials have been guilty of cheating on officiating exams, and professional baseball umpires were involved years ago in sports betting with the Genovese crime family, among numerous irregularities.
The purpose of the educational session was not to focus on scandals but to introduce officiating leaders to the concept of a formal and comprehensive integrity program. Greeley explained that while most officiating organizations have a Code of Conduct, few, if any, have effective integrity and compliance programs. Even their parent sports organizations , including professional leagues, collegiate conferences, and high school associations lack effective compliance programs which are common in other industries and business sectors.
After all, Greeley emphasized, it’s all about “preventing small problems from growing into large ones, and isn’t that one of the main responsibilities of management?”
NASO president Barry Mano correctly noted it would be easy to make too much of individual scandals as there is not an integrity crisis in officiating. He agrees though that sports officials are expected to adhere to a higher standard of conduct, and integrity programs are needed in driving home that message.