Rewarding integrity and impact

14 Feb 2019

By: Sport Industry Group

The BT Sport Industry Awards 2018 saw the introduction of the Integrity and Impact Award, founded by Dow Jones Sports Intelligence and designed to help set global standards for best practice in sport governance and business. The recipient is chosen from industry nominations as a person or organisation that has demonstrated exemplary levels of ethics, integrity and trust in sport.

With nominations currently open for the 2019 recipient, Sport Industry Group spoke to Simon Greenberg, Head of Dow Jones Sport, to find out more about the initiative, how it fits with the Dow Jones offer, and his views on the sort of profile that would make a great nomination for 2019.

What was the driving force behind The Integrity and Impact Award founded by Dow Jones Sports Intelligence?

SG: As these issues become more important in sport and part of the everyday decision making framework of any sporting organisation, individual or stakeholder, we think it’s important e to recognise those upholding best practice when it comes to ethics in sport and sport business decisions -- in the same way that on-the-field achievement and overall business progress is recognised.

As the leading provider of sports industry-focused due diligence services, our business is proud to serve these principles.

The nominations for last year’s award showed how important these issues are now to the sports industry. We had a unanimous winner in Rachael Denhollander, but there were many worthy nominees.


Where does the Dow Jones Sports Intelligence division sit in the wider Dow Jones business?

SG: This is a relatively new business for Dow Jones but was born out of our market-leading Risk & Compliance business, which provides due diligence and other regulatory compliance services to the financial and corporate sectors globally.  So we apply similar disciplines and checks to businesses and individuals who wish to be part of the sport ecosystem but do it in a way that is adapted to sport. The due diligence process conducted for a bank may not be the best approach for an international federation for example, so we “sportify” the checks and research to make them most relevant to the sports environment, but the principles that underpin the checks are the same.

In many ways it is a simple problem solving business model which is “how much do you know about the person or organisation that you are going into business with”?, which is something all organisations have to be scrupulous about in today’s regulatory climate and business ethics climate. The sports industry is no exception.


Without giving away any of the nominations, can you tell us what types of organisations and individuals are eligible for the Award?

It could really be any individual or organisation within sport who meets the criteria. Whether   it is a commercial or business decision, campaign, agreement or an individual stance taken, the recipient needs to have demonstrated exemplary commitment in the areas of fairness, ethics, transparency, or governance that upholds trust in sport. Their actions need to have created a positive impact resulting in tangible progression or protection of the integrity of the sport, issue or organisation involved.

And it needs to be related to a specific bold action or series of actions over a defined window of time – not an accumulation of work over an unspecified period of time.

Therefore it is possible that an organisation which has been criticised in the past for its actions can win the award for making significant progress in improving its approach to governance and ethics. I think it is really important that it is a level playing field and that we must recognise progress and change for good, not just those who have always had the highest standards, as this helps incentivise change.


How is the final recipient selected?

SG: A Steering Committee made up of international industry experts, will assess the nominations to provide a shortlist. This is then subject to integrity checks conducted by our specialist teams that make up Dow Jones Sports Intelligence. After this the approved nominations go to the BT Sport Industry Awards Judges who make the final decision, overseen by official adjudicator EY. I am particularly proud of the gender and diversity mix we have on our committee as I think we need to set an example if we have the privilege of drawing up this shortlist.


What does a more typical day look like for the Sports Intelligence team and can you tell us who your clients are?

SG: There is no typical day. It really depends on the flow of work. There are peaks and troughs of orders as no sporting stakeholder can necessarily predict when they are going to need to conduct due diligence as things happen in the business all the time that are not expected. As a partner, we need to be able to meet their information needs at scale and speed. 

Other areas of work are easier to signpost and plan for such as bidding processes and integrity checks for elections as these are generally defined in the calendar. Our system of checks and templates are adaptable to most due diligence needs.

In terms of our clients they come from right across the sports eco-system and include global sponsors, global international federations and continental confederations, leading European football leagues, English Premier League clubs and agencies. 

We’re also engaging with an interesting range of business functions across these organisations. Obviously a large multinational company will have a regulatory compliance and risk management group, but now too, the teams working on marketing sponsorships, for example,  understand their responsibility for vetting these business engagements thoroughly.  


How do you think sport compares to other business sectors in terms of ethics, transparency, and governance?

SG: I think it is easy to criticise sport generally for failings in some very high profile individual or organisational cases and some of that criticism is warranted but much of it is not.

Firstly sport is not subject to the same level of regulation as other business sectors and therefore the approach is not uniform nor is it clearly mandated what needs to be done.

Much of the work in sport is done by volunteers and it just can’t be expected that they are across these issues in the same way a professional in a regulated industry needs to be.

Nevertheless sport is becoming more professional and being influenced by outside regulation and requirements such as how government money is spent on sport.

Therefore failing to act correctly, legally or morally, cannot simply be explained away by ignorance or a lack of written down rules.

In many cases it is just common sense that if you act ethically, with more transparency and have clear governance in place that has to be a plus for your sport. 

This is even more relevant in an era of increased scrutiny, 24 hour news cycles and social media.

It will lead to better decision making and stakeholder confidence which in turn is likely to lead to greater revenues from media and sponsorship because your sport is just better run. I think it is important to emphasise that these issues can correlate directly to improved business performance. 

In fact I would go one step further and encourage all governing bodies and federations to distribute increasing proportions of their monies based on these criteria, that way the message will certainly get through.

Generally speaking I would say sport could change more quickly for the better but it is certainly on the right path.


Your role is wider than just the Sports Intelligence division, what else does that encompass?

SG: At Dow Jones we are looking at a whole raft of interesting initiatives around the business of sport, not just in terms of due diligence. So that could cover news and information and events/conferences that focus on the business of sport. We have successful businesses in these areas for other sectors and we see a natural link between big business and top level sport.