Sportswashing, law and the politics of sport
Sportswashing is the deceptive, insincere and opportunistic appropriation of a sporting event or entity by a party with the objective of cleansing, misrepresenting or distracting from that party’s public image. The party in question may be an individual or organised crime grouping seeking to launder their image and/or their money. The party may be a corporation seeking, through sponsorship of a sport, to legitimatise or enhance the credibility of a product or service that the wider public remains unaware or wary of (crypto-investment in sport). The party engaged in sportswashing may be a sovereign state otherwise associated with political oppression and disregard for fundamental human rights.
Political and commercial manipulation of sporting events and the use of sport as a conduit for criminality are as old as organised sport itself. In the contemporary sense, sportswashing, which can be seen as the exertion of soft geopolitical power but is the antithesis of sports diplomacy, poses a myriad of questions, legal and regulatory, for sports organisations and officials: how might compliance with international human rights law help moderate the relationship between sport and politics; specifically, how might embedding UN Guiding Principles on business and human rights ensure that host-nation selections for global events such as the Olympics and World Cup do not repeat the mistakes of the past; do sports federations have the capacity to carry out the necessary due diligence on private equity or sponsorship-related funding of its clubs and leagues such that, if the true source and motivations of such funding relates to sportswashing, it can be revealed and rejected; how do sports deal with politically and socially active athletes; and do sports bodies themselves have a duty to be politically and socially active?
Awarding a sports event to a particular country, subsequently attending or boycotting that event, systemic attempts to cheat in order to win at that event, or protesting at a podium at the event, can all be seen as political gestures. Equally, the biggest cost for a sports organisation that accepts funding from a particular state, sponsor or equity fund, may be the political ramifications.
This session will reflect on the relationship between sport and politics and explore whether the clear separation between them is utopian, fanciful or even desired.
Early bird tickets for the Sport Resolutions Annual Conference 2022 in association with Winston & Strawn LLP are now available, and can be purchased below.
EVENT OF THE YEAR FOR LAW AND SPORT PROFESSIONALS
Sport Resolutions Annual Conference 2022 in association with Winston & Strawn LLP will take place on Thursday 5th May 2022 at the five-star Leonardo Royal London Hotel (formerly the Grange St. Paul’s Hotel).
As with past events we will have an esteemed panel of sport professionals and industry experts to discuss the latest news and ideas in the areas of anti-doping, athlete welfare, good governance and integrity.
This year we are planning to increase the number of sessions to five in order to cover more topics and increase audience engagement. Three of these will last one hour each, with the remaining two at 30 minutes each.
We will be announcing the conference topics in due course on our website and via newsletter. The event agenda can be seen on the conference page.