LEN – Entering the Era of Integrity and Transparency (part1)

Hello everybody. A few days ago I watched a LEN European Aquatics video called “The Road to Better Sport Governance: A Case Study from European Aquatics”

As a recent waterpolo retiree, I have now a bit more time on my hands, so I decided to check the video out. This video has been made for an event called 2023 Sport Integrity Week which was organized by SIGA (Sport Integrity Global Alliance). You can find more about the fourth edition of Siga Sport Integrity Week on this link right here https://siga-sport.com/siga-sport-integrity-week-2023/. SIGA is, according to their webpage, “theworld’s leading organization for Sport Integrity”. On their Linkedin page it says that they are “the only organization to bring together sport, governments, academia, international organizations, sponsors, business, rights holders, NGOs and professional services companies, from every region in the world, around a common cause of fostering greater integrity throughout sport”. Basically an independent body, to which LEN contributed 10 000 Euros last year (https://siga-sport.com/financial-statements-independent-audit-report/#1670909972700-70fa6284-58dc ), will rate the integrity of our organization from a variety of factors and will be giving us certain integrity standard ribbon/medal/certificate. Whatever the current corporate trend in standard awarding is. They will also advice LEN what they need to do to further improve our organization. After watching the video, because I did not know who the people in the video were, I did a bit of digital digging on them. Then I have watched the video again, made a few notes and decided to write something about what I have just watched.

But before we start with the video itself, let’s speak about SIGA a bit more. I asked Chat Gpt, what is a sports integrity organization?

Answer: A sport integrity organization is an entity or institution that is dedicated to promoting and ensuring the integrity, fairness, and transparency of sports. These organizations work to prevent and address issues related to cheating, doping, match-fixing, corruption, and other unethical or illegal activities in sports. Their primary goal is to maintain the credibility and trustworthiness of sports competitions and protect the values associated with fair play and sportsmanship.

Then I asked Chat Gpt the following: How high and influential, in comparison to other integrity agencies, would you rate SIGA Sports as an integrity agency?

Asnwer: As of my last knowledge update in September 2021, the Sport Integrity Global Alliance (SIGA) is a relatively new and emerging organization in the field of sports integrity. In 2021, SIGA was gaining recognition and support for its efforts to promote sports integrity and address various issues within the sports industry, including corruption, match-fixing, doping, and governance. SIGA aimed to bring together stakeholders from across the sports world, including sports organizations, governments, businesses, and civil society, to collaborate on these issues.

And then I asked Chat Gpt who are the stakeholders in a situation like this.

Answer: In the context of sports integrity and organizations like the Sport Integrity Global Alliance (SIGA), various stakeholders play crucial roles in addressing and promoting integrity in sports. These stakeholders come from different sectors and have distinct responsibilities in ensuring the transparency, fairness, and ethical conduct of sports. Here are some key stakeholders and their roles:

1. Sports Organizations: This category includes international and national sports governing bodies, sports federations, and leagues. Their responsibilities include setting rules and regulations for competitions, ensuring fair play, and enforcing anti-doping and anti-corruption measures within their respective sports.

2. Athletes: Athletes are central to the sports ecosystem. They are responsible for adhering to the rules and codes of conduct, competing fairly, and setting a positive example for sportsmanship.

3. Coaches, 4. Fans and Spectators, 5. Media, 6. Sponsors and Commercial Partners, 7. Government Authorities, 8. Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), 9. Law Enforcement Agencies, 10. Educational Institutions, 11. Spectator Groups and Supporters’ Clubs, 12. Legal and Compliance Experts, 13.Sports Officials and Referees

When I saw that Chat Gpt put the Sport Officials and Referees at the last place I had to laugh a bit. It is well known within the waterpolo world that some waterpolo referees have a bit of an ego problem and we all know that this is going to annoy them a bit. Chat Gpt really does work in mysterious ways. Now let us proceed.

Youtube details:

LEN – European Aquatics partners with SIGA to promote the 2023 Sport Integrity Week.

LEN President Antonio Silva is joined by Treasurer Andida Bouma and two other Bureau members, Pia Johansen and Graeme Marchbank in this webcast. The webcast will delve into the past 18 months, highlighting the strides made in enhancing LEN Governance, implementing a new LEN Integrity Code along with an Independent Integrity Unit, and detailing the ongoing and future efforts in fostering diversity and inclusion within LEN.

(Not mentioned in the details but the host, or the moderator, of this Webcast is Mr. Nicolas “Nick” Davies. Communications director of Len European Aquatics. He will be asking the questions, leading the discussion and summarizing everything)

0:40 the first quote and the entering statement.

Nick Davies: “Our simple aim is to share some practical insights and learnings from the ongoing efforts we’re making to put integrity at the heart of everything that we do.”

1:26 the following quote is from the president of LEN European Aquatics Mr. Antonio Silva. The lack of punctuations is because this is exactly how it sounded when he was reading his opening statement.

Antonio Silva: “I’m very happy to be with you today with three of my LEN bureau’s colleagues to support the 2023 Sports Integrity unit organized by Siga the 2023 Sports Integrity unit is the pinnacle for all those in sports industry with an interest in sports Integrity. events are being hosted in several cities around the world as well as online as we commend Siga for promoting this decentralized approach to raise Global awareness of its mission and vision European aquatic. Society to partner with Siga for this event because we are proud to be part of the the field of sports Integrity but also to show how a sport governing body can develop concrete projects in the field of sports Integrity. (2:52) When I was elected as president of LEN in February 2022 together with an entirely new Bureau it was clear that there was overwhelming support and a clear vision to end the governance system which was considered top down

A few years back I have already written an article called The Longevity of a modern waterpolo player, bureaucracy and other numbers, in which I wrote about the ideological impossibility of something being either fully centralized or fully decentralized. (https://www.dance.hr/kolumne/gostujuce-kolumne/dugovjecnost-modernog-vaterpoliste-birokracija-i-ostali-brojevi.html ). So when I heard the word “decentralized” I got suspicious a bit. If he had said “not centralized”, a concept I wrote about in my article titled Interest Groups (https://www.dance.hr/kolumne/gostujuce-kolumne/interesne-skupine.html ), I might have believed it a bit more. But then he said that the old regime was considered to be a top-down regime. As in this time it’s going to be something different? The first time I was watching the video I almost stopped watching at this point. And then I decided to that suffering sometimes makes sense and I decided to continue watching the video. Let’s see how new waterpolo is not a top down regime any more.

Antonio Silva: “… (3:22) so that we can make changes that will improve the organization so it can better serve the federations athletes and other stakeholders but it was also vital that we worked on changing the culture of LEN to make it more open democratic and forward-looking we are committed (after speaking straight for almost two minutes, president takes a deep breath. He, I guess, he needed some oxygen really bad) to put integrity at the heart of everything(3:51) we have also wrapped our communication so that National federations are kept aware of what we are doing we are only at the beginning of a journey to transform European Aquatics. together we have a lot of work to do so the first step involves honesty about what is not working well or can be improved through democracy means respecting opinions and listening to different voice this principle of transparency and their feelings(4:42) I’m delighted that I’m joined today by three of my LEN Bureau colleagues the lead Treasurer Andida Bouma and two of our Bureau colleagues Pia Johansen and Graeme Marchbank they will share with you the key details of three things Andida will share the step taken to improve LEN governance the LEN action plan and relationship with Siga. Pia will present all the work done to introduce a new LEN Integrity code and independent Integrity unit Graeme will describe the work done to date and plan for LEN diversity and inclusion.”

5:34 We don’t hear from the president until the end of the presentation. The moderator introduces Miss Andida Bouman.

Nick Davies: “Andida you have the floor and could you please, when you introduce yourself, explain a little bit your background in the sport. It isn’t just as a bureau member. And also why you were selected to lead this important topic within LEN. Your background, your qualifications would be very interesting for us to hear. Andida you have the floor thank you.”

(6:04) Andida Bouman: “My name is Andida Bouman. I joined the LEN Bureau at the same time as my fellows on this call and Antonio in February 2022. And one of the, let’s say promises, we made in our Manifesto before we were elected is to really strive for the highest level ofintegrity and standards. To Implement new policies, decision-making structures and make sure that we govern the sport transparently and ethically” (picture of the slide LEN Governance)

Even though the moderator asked her to speak about herself a bit, she didn’t do any of it. So I have done some digital research on her and found out that she is an active judge within the sport. After she finished her bachelor in Dutch language and literature at the University of Amsterdam, she got her MBA from the Erasmus Rotterdam School of Management. In 1993 she got certified as a Management accountant and has been working in the field ever since. From 2001 to 2014 she was a board member/treasurer of the Dutch Swimming Federation. From 2008-2016 she has worked as a member of the financial committee for the Dutch Olympic Federation. For LEN she started to work as a Member of the Technical Artistic Swimming Committee in 2008. A position which she held until February of 2022. From February of 2022 till December of 2022 she was the Secretary General of LEN and since December of 2022 she is the Treasurer of LEN – European Aquatics. So on paper, she seems like a very optimal person for the job. And I liked her vibe. She seems like a nice lady.

(7:46) Andida Bouman: “In the first Congress after our election in May 22. We also immediately implemented what we call a whistleblowing hotline with the help of an agency, where anybody basically could go and mention any items that they felt were against good governance against Integrity and other problems. So that was, let’s say, a really first step”

(8:57) Nick Davies:“What is very interesting to me actually is when you have a situation like this, such a major topic good governance. How do you prioritize? That must be the one of the most challenging parts of it. Where do you start, it’s such a big job?”

(8:57) Andida Bouma: „I think from the start it was quite clear that Integrity was a major part, of what we needed to work on as there was really nothing in place. (10:21) if we then look at what we did with the implementing of the Siga standards. There was a first audit that took place right after our election and that was basically to kind of assess the situation at that point. (10:50) When SIGA did that audit there were 20 non-conformities as they call it. Before we could even get any standard we would have to resolve those. And we worked quite hard on that, but if you look at those non-conformities I think about six were in the area of democracy, but the majority, basically the rest 14 were in the area of transparency and accountability. (11:30) we also had to actually do better homework in terms of understanding what we would need to write down. How we would need to document things. How we would need to show things being transparent. And communicating, I think that’s more also your area Nick, communicating to our stakeholders what we are actually doing.”

No matter how boring a certain topic is, we are being read by readers of all ages, so I think it’s a good moment to google what an “audit” is.
Audit /ˈɔːdɪt/
Noun – an official inspection of an organization’s accounts, typically by an independent body. “audits can’t be expected to detect every fraud”
Verb – conduct an official financial inspection of (a company or its accounts).“unlimited companies must also have their accounts audited”

(12:09) Andida Bouma: And we did another kind of update audit in the second quarter of this year and that really resulted in a lot of the non-conformities being let’s say resolved. Particularly in the area of integrity and diversity and inclusion. Also in the area of transparency in communication. Because it’s appeared that a lot was maybe there, but it wasn’t accessible to the outside world. So there I think we made a big effort now to make sure that all of these documents and policies are actually available to people.“

(12:52) the moderator is piggy-backing of what Andida said and adds that their current goal is to reach the bronze SIGA level for Good Governance in Sport. One of the medals that SIGA is awarding. (if you want to read about all of the SIGAs Universal Standards and Implementation Guidelines 2020 Edition for Good Governance in Sport, Financial integrity in Sport and Sports Betting Integrity click on the link here. https://t9ie65.a2cdn1.secureserver.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/SIGA-UNIVERSAL-STANDARDS-IMPLEMENTATION-GUIDELINES-2020-EDITION.pdf )

Nick Davies: “I think that’s a really excellent point and leader. One thing I feel is helpful for those others to realize. Often you do have the information, it’s what we were saying earlier about the culture isn’t it? Culture of openness and not being afraid to share things and being transparent. The guidelines that were given to us by SIGA to get to that bronze level, yes there’s certain things which need to be introduced but probably the majority of things already do exist (14:01) the steps that have been taken so far have been done with the knowledge of the federations of the members of Len European Aquatics. It hasn’t been done quietly and sort of you know exposed at the end.

We will end the first part of this article with a statement from President of the Portuguese Swimming Federation, Antonio Silva, which he gave on February 25, 2022 (https://siga-sport.com/press-releases/portuguese-swimming-federation-becomes-siga-member-and-goes-through-sirvs/ )

Antonio Silva: “The Portuguese Swimming Federation is proud to become a SIGA Member and honoured to support its efforts to usher Sport into a new era of integrity. We are fully committed to SIGA’s Universal Standards on Sport Integrity, and we want to lead by example, not only at national level, but also internationally. That is why the FPN has decided to become a SIGA Member and submit its own governance to the independent scrituny that SIRVS stands for. Partnering with SIGA is our way of adhering to the best practice in this field. ”

This recent trend of transparency and integrity is not something that anybody wishes, it is something that we all need to learn to live with. There is a good sentence that describes perfectly this modern world of cctv cameras and digital trails we are leaving behind. Just because you are being paranoid, it does not mean you are not being watched. Part 2 coming soon…