And we’ve got kick-off!

19 January 2017 Comments 0

I’m back from a summer break in Australia for the festive period – and glad to be so. Not just to be back in Europe and away from sweltering Sydney, but also to be back on deck for a new year. There’s so much to do!

I just wanted to share a few thoughts with you to kick-off the new year.

From a SKINS perspective, we’re gearing-up for our 2017 #RainbowLaces campaign in Australia. We started this last year, in conjunction with Pride in Diversity and Pride in Sport, focused around a ‘Rainbow Round of Sport’ involving the major sporting codes of Aussie Rules football, rugby league, rugby union, football and netball, all of which are playing at the time.

The aim is to highlight the issues of homophobia in sport and the impact it can have on peoples’ lives – whether it be sports people, administrators or fans. This year’s ‘Rainbow Round’ will be 6-9 April. I’ll be writing more about this later.

Related to our work last year, I’m thrilled to have been nominated as a finalist in the Australian LGBTI awards. My nomination is in the ‘Inspirational Role Model’ corporate category sponsored by Bloomberg. Reading through the work of the other finalists in the same and other categories is inspiring in itself, and I particularly like seeing the wonderful sportswomen and men who have been nominated (including some #RainbowLaces ambassadors).

More broadly, there are three big issues that I think will be worth watching this year.

The first is around women’s sport. Professional sporting bodies are trying to make amends by introducing a pay structure and greater professionalism into women’s sport, but there’s still a very long way to go in terms of the financial rewards, media and sponsor recognition and attitudes. For example, over the break, there was a debate about whether pregnant athletes should be playing elite-level sport. It seems like an issue out of the 1950s, but it’s a very contemporary one for many women athletes. The sport in question in this instance – cricket – said it was about ‘occupational health and safety’; but the athletes see it as discrimination.

The second is around the sacred cow of the autonomy of sport. I’ve been banging on about this here at Watercooler (just put ‘autonomy’ into the search box!) and elsewhere for some time. Powerful sports institutions such as the IOC, FIFA, UCI, IAAF and others have used the concept of autonomy as a right. But with rights come responsibilities, and the very same sports bodies have demonstrated that they don’t understand the second part of that social contract.

I hope that we’re getting closer to challenging this in a meaningful way.

And this also relates to the third issue – the ‘big daddy’ of sporting issues – sports governance.

The continuing fallout from the McLaren Report – not just doping but the impact on Russia, the major events its scheduled to host in the next 12-18 months and Russia’s role and significance in the sporting landscape – coalesce into a sports governance issue. We continue to see it with FIFA, who have almost done nothing since the so-called reforms were brought in last year, other than set themselves up for yet another money and power grab. And we saw it last year with the interdependence of the relationships between major organisations such as the IOC, the IAAF, WADA and a nation of enormous influence and importance, such as Russia.

Unless and until sports governance is implemented at a higher standard, we will continue to have failures in how sport operates – whether it be doping, match-fixing, homophobia, racism, gender inequality or other areas of concern.

I look forward to sharing the 2017 journey with you.