According to Federal Law of 6 March 2022 No. 43-FZ “On Amendments to the Federal Law “On Physical Culture and Sport in the Russian Federation”, the prevention of conflicts of interest is a measure to counter an improper alteration of the result of official sports competitions (the manipulation of official sports competitions).
A conflict of interest in sport is a situation where there is an interest (direct or indirect):
- of natural persons engaged in employment or civil law relations with a legal person who is the organizer of an official sports competition or with an organisation that participates in its preparations and holding,
- of persons who directly participate in a competition,
- of persons who are close relatives or relatives by marriage (parents, spouses, children, brothers, sisters, as well as brothers, sisters, parents, children of spouses and spouses of children) of the persons indicated in paragraphs 1 and 2,
- of citizens or organisations with which the persons indicated in paragraphs 1 to 3 have property, corporate or other close relations,
to receive, either in person or through an intermediary, a pecuniary or other advantage with the aim to manipulate the competition also by using insider information in the area of physical culture and sport available due to the exercise of their professional duties or the duties under a civil law contract, which influences or can influence the due, objective and impartial exercise of their duties.
The Law also incorporates the failure to adopt the measures to prevent conflicts of interest in physical culture and sport, in particular, the non-inclusion by the organizers of sports competitions of the requirements to prevent conflicts of interest and the list of measures to implement these requirements in the provisions (regulations) of official sports competitions, which lead to conclusion of the competition with the results or the outcome defined in advance, in the list of acts considered as an improper alteration of the result of official sports competitions (the manipulation of official sports competitions).
Over the recent years, the topic of the fight against corruption is sport has been actively developing, also at the level of international organisations. In particular, the Conference of the States Parties to the UN Convention against Corruption adopted resolutions 7/8 “Corruption in sport” and 8/4 “Safeguarding sport from corruption” in its sessions in 2017 and 2019; the G20 leaders endorsed the High-Level Principles on Tackling Corruption in Sport in the 2021 summit.
The number of analytical materials focused on this topic is also growing. For instance, the UNODC Global Report on Corruption in Sport, prepared with the participation of the Anti-Corruption Centre of the Higher School of Economics University, UNODC and IPACS (International Partnership Against Corruption in Sport) reports and other publications have been released.
The UNODC Global Report analyses conflict-of-interest management in sport. In particular, the authors highlight that the measures to regulate conflicts of interest in sport can be established by:
- implementing, at the legislative level, anti-corruption standards for a wide range of public officials, including those who are responsible for State regulation in sport. The prohibitions, restrictions and obligations provided for by the law for the latter can be supplemented by the recommendations taking account of the specifics of sports activities and, in particular, provide for the lists of standard conflict-of-interest situations in sport for the relevant categories of officials or focus specifically on the circulation of tickets of sports events and sports merchandise when establishing the gifts rules;
- extending anti-corruption standards, initially established only for civil servants, to the sports sector. In Greece for instance, Law of 31 December 2003 No. 3213 “On Disclosure and Audit of Property of Members of Parliament, Civil Servants, Media Owners and Other Categories of Persons” obliges, in particular, the president and the members of the board of sports federations, the executive members of anonymous sports companies (Αθλητικών Ανωνύµων Εταιρειών) or associations of professional athletes (Τμημάτων Αμειβόμενων Αθλητών), certified referees, assistants of referees, observers of professional sports competitions and other persons employed in the relevant bodies to declare their assets also with a view to detecting conflicts of interest;
- establishing the obligation for sports organisations to develop and implement anti-corruption standards for their officials, athletes, coaches and referees. In the United Kingdom for instance, there is a Code for Sports Governance that includes the requirements to the transparency, accountability and integrity standards which the sports organisations intending to obtain public funding should adhere to; Egypt has adopted a Code of Conduct, Morals and Values in Sport which covers the employees of all sports organisations and provides for the measures to manage conflicts of interest, control bets, counter bribery in sport and the manipulation of sports competitions etc.
The adoption of the abovementioned Law means, in fact, that Russia has opted for extending the basic notion of a “conflict of interest” established by the anti-corruption legislation for different categories of officials to the employees of sports organisations and athletes.
At the same time, the Russian approach to defining a conflict of interest has a number of important flaws. The problems of this approach are addressed in detail in our report Conflict of Interest through the Looking Glass: Feasible Approaches to Defining the Concept in Regulatory and Statutory Legislation. Therefore, it is highly likely that the use of the same definition of a conflict of interest in sport will bring about the existing problems in this realm as well.
Moreover, although the amendments made to Federal Law of 4 December 2007 No. 329-FZ “On Physical Culture and Sport in the Russian Federation” (hereinafter, the Law on Physical Culture and Sport) incorporate the failure to adopt measures to prevent conflicts of interest in the list of acts recognised as an improper alteration of the result of official sports competitions (the manipulation of official sports competitions), they do not establish neither the procedure for preventing conflicts of interest nor the liability for the failure to adopt the relevant measures.
The only reference to these matters is the obligation of organizers of official sports competitions to include the requirements to prevent conflicts of interest in physical culture and sport and the list of measures aimed at implementing these requirements in the provisions (regulations) of official sports competitions, which is provided for by article 26 of the Law on Physical Culture and Sport. However, it is unclear how responsible and efficient the Russian sports organisations will be in respecting the relevant provisions, especially in the absence of any additional guidance or other explanations from the State.
Furthermore, the Law says nothing about the possibility to detect or manage conflicts of interest, considering only the possibility of its prevention, which totally contradicts not only the approach used in the Russian anti-corruption legislation, but also the international practice of conflict-of-interest management as a whole.
As a result, the amendments made to the Law on Physical Culture and Sport do not provide any explanation of how exactly conflicts of interest in sport will be managed, simply extending the definition of a conflict of interest already existing in the anti-corruption legislation to the employees of sports organisations and athletes.