As the sports officiating industry matures, it is becoming apparent to officiating leaders that their industry needs to develop and implement effective integrity programs. At its meeting on April 25, 2017, the board of the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO) adopted standards for effective integrity programs for sports officiating. Such programs are the best way for this industry to demonstrate its commitment to prevent wrongdoing, to detect and investigate problems when they do occur, and to take corrective action as appropriate.
The NASO board believes adopting the following minimum standards is a useful first step towards assuring NASO members, the US sports industry, and the public at large of its commitment to integrity in sports. These minimum standards are appropriate for officiating programs at all levels: high school, college, national governing bodies, and the professional leagues.
* A risk assessment to determine the primary risks of the organization should be conducted before starting a program.
* A code of conduct tailored to the individual organization is the cornerstone of any effective integrity program. This set of rules and expectations must demonstrate the organization’s emphasis on integrity and compliance with all applicable laws, regulations, and the policies and ethical standards of the organization.
* An integrity officer must be designated. The officer must have adequate resources, should report to top management, and must have direct access to the governing authority.
* Education and training is critical to the success of any program. All employees and independent contractors should be covered by the program, and receive orientation and annual training.
* Reporting wrongdoing is essential. This can be accomplished through the normal chain of command or through a hotline (a third-party site) to ensure anonymous reporting.
* Unbiased investigations should be conducted promptly, usually by the integrity officer. The organization must have a non-retaliation, non-retribution policy. Confidentiality of those reporting wrongdoing should be maintained to the extent possible.
* Corrective action must be taken when appropriate to address specific incidents and to prevent future wrongdoing.
* A monitoring and evaluation system will help ensure the program is working. A report should be made to the governing authority annually.
The sports industry, including its officiating sector, has been reluctant to move vigorously towards establishing integrity programs. If its leaders remain hesitant, they may be preempted by legislative action or by action taken by other outside groups. And what legislators mandate or outside groups demand is likely to be more onerous and cumbersome than what sports officiating leaders can adopt on their own.