Towards an Integrity & Compliance Program for Sports Organizations


Allegations of sexual abuse by young gymnasts in the USA and soccer players in the UK may well prove to be the turning point that push sports organizations in the US into adopting formal integrity & compliance programs. Hotlines, infrequently used in sports in the US, may be the leading indicator.

Case in point – the new UK soccer child sex abuse hotline got 50 calls in the first hours and hundreds more soon thereafter. The hotline was set up in November by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) with support coming from England’s Football Association (FA) for people who were sexually abused while playing soccer in Britain. It was launched after former English footballers Andy Woodward, Steve Walters, and Paul Stewart spoke to British media about being sexually abused as children.

Chief executive of the NSPCC, Peter Wanless said at the time, “There must be no hiding place for sexual abuse in our national game and there may be many others who suffered through such horrors as young players but have never come forward.” Former player Woodward was the first to tell his story publicly, explaining how be was abused by his coach who was jailed in 1998 for nine years after admitting to sexually abusing children, including Woodward.

U.S. Soccer recently announced its new Integrity Hotline. In doing so, it stated that “US Soccer is committed to the highest ethical and professional standards of conduct as an integral part of its mission. To achieve this goal, we rely on the ethical behavior, honesty, and integrity of those who represent US Soccer and those with whom we do business.”

US Soccer strongly encourages its employees and other concerned parties to use its hotline to report potential ethics or integrity violations, or suspected acts of wrongdoing by US Soccer representatives. In announcing its Integrity Hotline, US Soccer did not specifically identify all the other components of its preventative program. But its statement that no individual making a report in good faith shall be subject to retaliation, and its plan to investigate such matters and take appropriate corrective action, and even report annually on the program to its Board of Directors, sounds like the launch of a formal integrity & compliance program, and not just a hotline.

Hotlines certainly need not be designed for the sole purpose of reporting child sex abuse or any other specific incidence of wrongdoing, but for all behavior that is deemed unethical, unlawful, or in violation of the organization’s standards of behavior. The recent interest in hotlines among sports organizations has stirred hopes sports leaders too will see the value of multidimensional integrity & compliance programs that have proven useful in healthcare, defense, finance, and other sectors of the economy.


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