Education Comes First for Sports


As our readers are well aware, the sports industry lags behind healthcare, defense contractors, financial services, and many other of our nation’s business and industry sectors in establishing effective integrity and compliance programs. But one segment of the sports industry, sports officiating, is showing signs that it intends to learn more about how to design and implement compliance programs, and what the benefits would be. As with any new initiative, it begins with education, and the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO) has led the way in educating its members. NASO has conducted educational sessions on integrity and compliance programs at its last two Annual Summits. Integrity, trust, and compliance lie at the heart of officiating, and NASO is playing a role in educating its officiating leaders who need to know more about what it would take to establish effective programs.

Some of the questions that have been raised by officials and their leaders are included along with answers below:

Q – What is a sports officiating integrity and compliance program?

A – A sports officiating integrity and compliance program is designed to establish a culture within an organization that promotes prevention, detection and resolution of instances of conduct that do not conform to federal and state law, as well as the organization’s ethical and business policies and procedures. Put simply, an effective integrity and compliance program will prevent small problems from growing into large ones.

Q – What is the difference between a code of conduct and an officiating integrity and compliance program?

A – A code of conduct is just one component of an integrity and compliance program. Others include the following: policies and procedures, education and training, a reporting system including a hotline, a designated integrity/compliance officer, impartial and unbiased investigations, corrective action, and ongoing oversight and evaluation.

Q – Why does my organization need an integrity and compliance program?

A – Any form of business entity, including a sports organization having officials, is well served by having such a program. The focus should be on having the tools and controls in place that reduce risks, project an ethical culture, and ensure the services provided are consistent and best practice.

Q – What is the best way for employees and independent contractors to report concerns anonymously?

A – Leading hotline-service providers furnish telephone and web-based confidential reporting tools that provide for reporting illegal, unethical, or improper conduct. Ideally, hotline services provide clients and their employees and independent contractors two methods for reporting concerns – telephone and web-based reporting.

Q – Why is it important to keep integrity and compliance programs simple?

A – The more complex, the more difficult it is to communicate the program to employees and independent contractors. Training employees and independent contractors annually on the basic components of the program is essential to ensuring the program’s effectiveness.

Q – In sports officiating, what is typically our greatest area of risk?

A – Damage to your reputation.

Q – Is it practical to just establish an integrity and compliance program in our officiating department or should we push for creating a program for our parent organization first?

A – While it may be preferable for such a program to span the entire enterprise, it may be more practical to start with the officiating department which could serve as a model for the parent organization.

While many of these questions and answers may appear rather basic to experienced compliance professionals, those of us in the sports industry know that asking the right questions and getting the right answers is a good start.


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