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Leading by example: How are sports governing bodies flexing their social conscience?


Leading by example: How are sports governing bodies flexing their social conscience?

The fourth part of our ‘Sport and CSR’ series looks at the role of sports governing bodies in social responsibility.

The growth of CSR has been common in big organisations. The private sector has increased its involvement in CSR, which may be because of consumer pressure or a desire to improve the company’s image. Third sector organisations have benefited from the resulting investment. 

Sports governing bodies operate differently from private enterprises and they tend to be non-profit.  However, the regulatory and public functions performed by governing bodies are like those of commercial organisations. In this respect, they are sometimes seen as ‘businesses’. Other similarities include:

  1. Social responsibility is not the main aim of the organisation; it is a way of reinvesting profits
  2. The scale and reach of sports organisations can be as big, if not bigger, than many private companies
  3. Some governing bodies run globally popular mega-events and their revenues have risen rapidly; as this has happened, pressure for them to run CSR programmes has increased

For these reasons, sports governing bodies are part of the CSR movement. But how are they implementing CSR programmes? FIFA and UEFA have well-documented CSR programmes. The IOC influences many governing bodies through the promotion of ‘Olympic Values’. These are the most well-known, but many other governing bodies also run CSR programmes. Here are some examples:

  • The International Basketball Foundation (IBF) was set-up in 2008 as the social, educational and legacy arm of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA). The IBF’s mission is to use basketball to promote social and humanitarian development. Basketball Without Borders is a global partnership between FIBA and the NBA. The programme promotes leadership, education, sportsmanship, friendship, openness, respect and healthy living. There is also an emphasis on HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention.
  • The sustainable development goals (SDGs) are an important part of World Rugby's social mission.  Through its Spirit of Rugby (SoR) programme, World Rugby recognises the impact its sport can have in development. Guided by the Playing Charter, SoR works with global partners and stakeholders to deliver projects. Tackle Hunger is a partnership with the UN World Food Programme. It increases awareness of nutrition and its importance for physical and intellectual development.
  • The World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) established the Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation (THF) in 2015. This was a response to the growing global refugee crisis. Taekwondo teaches participants self-improvement, perseverance, moral values and respect for others. One project supports those affected by the 2015 earthquake in Nepal. Another operates in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan – for Syrians displaced by the civil war.

Sports governing bodies hope the examples they set can trickle down to the grassroots level. Their social outreach has increased alongside the rising profile of sport in development. It has also happened in tandem with the soaring incomes of sports organisations, driven by professionalisation. The primary goal of governing bodies remains the development and increased popularity of their sports.  Yet, many now feel that social responsibility is also a worthwhile use of profits.

The next article in the series will focus on how football is tackling social issues through CSR programmes.


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Wednesday, February 15, 2017 - 12:23