Preserving integrity in sport: pure competition
By Andrew Bonani Kamanga
SPORT is defined and characterized usually as a physical competition between two individuals or teams governed by particular set of rules. Pure sport is exciting and unpredictable.
It is a display of God-given talent and strength as well as individual and collective prowess.
This is clean and pure sport that has been practiced by human beings for thousands of years.
Sport at its best captivates the attention of spectators, physically present at the event as well as world-wide audiences of millions of people on the edge of their seats, watching on television or even following on radio.
Sport is a powerful tool for social cohesion, nation-building, international friendship, solidarity and understanding.
However, sport as we know it, is under unprecedented attack from all corners. Corruption, match-fixing, violence, hooliganism, doping and other scandals have all combined in a terrible onslaught against the integrity of sport.
The time is fast approaching when sport will lose all its respectability and purity as socially acceptable and value-adding entertainment.
It is shocking to learn the extent of the power and wealth of illegal betting syndicates and the stranglehold, if not choke-hold, that they have on sporting competitions all over the world.
No single nation is safe from manipulation of sporting results or competitions. It seems like the illegal betting syndicates make more money than what is legally generated in the actual sport.
Match-fixing, corrupt players, referees and technical officials have become commonplace in almost all sports in every country.
International federations, continental confederations, national sports associations, leagues and clubs, unfortunately, do not have law-enforcement power.
They can only rely on national governments and international crime fighting agencies such as Interpol to fight organized crime in sport.
The law-enforcement agencies are also overwhelmed by regular crime such as armed robberies, piracy, rape, money laundering, trafficking of human beings and drugs, crimes against humanity and other vices.
Sport is not always deemed a priority in terms of allocation of resources for development, let alone fighting crime.
There is no doubt that global commercialization of sport has brought unprecedented benefits as well as challenges.
It is a good thing that athletes can be able to generate significant wealth utilizing their God-given talent whereas in the past, they could not only retire as paupers, with nothing to show for their physical exertions and commitment to various sporting codes.
Sports organizations have also become important economic actors with significant influence and commanding colossal amounts of finances.
The Salt Lake City scandal which engulfed the Olympic Movement, the past and on-going FIFA scandals as well as various doping scandals in sport are prime examples of how the economic power of sport can be abused.
These scandals have the effect of alienating the most important stakeholders in sport, the consumers of sport, the fans or spectators , without whom , all sport will be meaningless.
Respect for the fans has all but gone through the window. There is need for a return to the days when sports people would be honoured to parade their skills and compete for their own joy as well as that of the spectators.
Nowadays, it seems like the elite sports people are more concerned about their bulging bank balances rather than doing a good job in terms of sporting performances.
Imagine if some of the greatest competitions, the Olympic Games, FIFA World Cup, Club Champions League Finals, the Super Bowl were organized efficiently but being played in empty stadiums. Would these competitions have any value? Absolutely and categorically not.
There is therefore, need for an overhaul in sports education where elite competitors are taught from day one to respect themselves, their opponents, match officials and above all, the spectators.
Sports people must put up a show which is equivalent to the investment that the fans have put in the sport by paying to watch the sport live or on television.
Anything less than that is completely unacceptable and does not constitute “pure sport”.
Nobody once to pay to watch a boxing match where you know one of the fighters is most likely to take a dive or a football match where a goal-keeper will deliberately let in goals for the opposing team.
Sports organizations, athletes and officials should not take the fans for granted. The fans are the most important consumers of sport.
They are the paymasters. If they are provided with shoddy service, they will vote with their feet and that will be the end of sport as know it.
All stakeholders in sport must critically appraise themselves as to whether the development of there is balanced so that there is no aspect that is neglected.
Ethics in sport is now a very important issue which major sport event organizers can only ignore to their detriment and peril.
Southern Africa is definitely no exception. It is an on-going debate which needs to be at the fore-front of sport development to ensure that competitions really indeed just that.
They must not be fake shows controlled by some illegal puppet masters or contests between pharmaceutical companies.