‘Dark spaces’ in sport club ownership to be analysed in major new global study

ICSS INSIGHT and the International Association of Lawyers (UIA) form partnership to work on first phase of The FITS Global Study on the Legal, Financial and Integrity Aspects of Club Ownership

Against the backdrop of growing global concern regarding ownership and investment structures surrounding professional and even amateur sports clubs, leading sport integrity and policy experts, ICSS INSIGHT, today launched a major independent study into the legal, financial and integrity aspects of sport club ownership.

As a first and crucial step in the project and to develop much-needed research in the area of financial integrity and club ownership in sport, ICSS INSIGHT and the International Association of Lawyers (UIA) also announced a partnership to work together on the first phase of the major three-part global study.

The first phase of the three-part study will analyse current legislation and regulations in place that apply to club ownership and investment structures in world football.

Over the coming months and as part of its ongoing efforts to champion the highest standards of governance and financial integrity in sport, ICSS INSIGHT will partner with other leading international academics and institutional partners for the second (financial) and third (integrity) phases of The FITS Global Study on the Legal, Financial and Integrity Aspects of Club Ownership.

Results of the first phase of the three-part study will be announced by the ICSS INSIGHT and UIA at the second edition of the FITS FORUM, which is due to take place in spring 2018, with the overall and final results of the FITS study to be finalised at the end of 2018.

The study is part of the Financial Integrity and Transparency in Sport (FITS) Global Project – an initiative launched by ICSS INSIGHT (formerly ICSS EUROPE) in November 2014 to identify and address the emerging threats facing the financial integrity and transparency of sport and bring together stakeholders from all areas of the sports industry to drive long overdue reforms.

Key findings from the first independent report of the Financial Integrity and Transparency in Sport (FITS) Global Project include:

  • Only an estimated 25% of professional football clubs in top leagues around the world produce publically-available financial reports
  • Only an estimated 40% of national associations are financially viable without the help of FIFA
  • There are vast and significant ‘dark spaces’ in the finances of football, which must be addressed to protect clubs, players and leagues from the growing threat of organised crime.

Speaking today in front of legal experts and international law firms from around the world at the 61st UIA Congress, Emanuel Macedo de Medeiros, ICSS INSIGHT CEO, said:

“Incredible sums of money are being invested in the acquisition of sporting clubs around the world. Investment in sport is welcome, but it must be clean and transparent.

“Whilst there are positive exceptions, there is very little due diligence and effective oversight. The existing regulations are simply too short and too poor to respond efficiently to the mounting challenges posed by a fast growing, globalised, financially sophisticated and increasingly complex industry.

“As the first FITS study highlighted, plenty of ‘dark spaces’ exist in the finances of football and the wider sports industry. This must change if we are to safeguard sport from the growing influences of corrupt and unfit investors, money launderers and organised crime.

“To help drive this positive change, ICSS INSIGHT is launching this major three-part independent study under the banner of the FITS Global Project. On behalf of ICSS INSIGHT, I look forward to working closely with the UIA and all other partners over the coming months to progress the first phase of the study, which will explore the current legal landscape relating to club ownership and investment structures in football.”

Speaking of the new collaboration with ICSS INSIGHT as part of the FITS Global Project, Mr. Pedro Pais de Almeida, President of the UIA (Union Internationale des Avocats), said:

“It is a great honour and responsibility for the UIA to partner with the ICSS INSIGHT and to be at the front line of the preparation of a most awaited and welcome “Global Study on the Legal, Financial and Integrity Aspects of Club Ownership in Football”.

“The UIA have always been in the forefront of integrity and governance issues and our members from all over the world will be pleased to be involved and contribute in the preparation of this important study that will certainly be a strong contribution towards important and urgent changes in a leading global business such as the football industry.

“In addition, it will also be a great opportunity to be involved with all the other partners including universities, financial entities, institutional partners and other.”

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To access the first independent report of the Financial Integrity and Transparency in Sport (FITS) Global Project, please click here