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21 Jun 2022

Fourth IF governance review reveals positive progress amidst pandemic

The Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) today published the results of the fourth governance review of its member federations. The aim of the project, led by ASOIF’s Governance Task Force (GTF), is to promote and ensure a culture of good governance within the International Federations (IFs) and help drive continuous progress.

Almost all IFs improved their performance since the last assessment, with the highest scores among the five sections achieved in the area of transparency and the lowest scores in the control mechanisms section. Scores in the development section collectively improved more than the others, reflecting work by IFs in the areas of sustainability and social responsibility.

The IFs were asked to score themselves on 50 measurable governance indicators divided equally among transparency, integrity, democracy, development and control mechanisms. The questionnaire was slightly revised for 2021-2022 with the aim of ensuring it was up to date but also remained comparable to the earlier editions. An independent sports governance consultancy (I Trust Sport) reviewed the responses and moderated the scores. For the second time now, IFs were divided into groups based on their total score.

Thirty-three IFs replied to the updated self-assessment questionnaire in January and early February 2022. Hence, this latest assessment took place in the context of the ongoing global pandemic, which has severely affected sport and all other sectors. However, it was conducted before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has again plunged sport and the entire world into uncertainty.

ASOIF President and GTF Chair Francesco Ricci Bitti said: "Considering the huge disruption to international sport resulting from the pandemic, it is reassuring to see the positive progress IFs continued to make with their governance in the last two years. Now, with the ongoing war in Ukraine, IFs need to continue navigating amid considerable uncertainty and complexity, and a high level of public scrutiny. Only well-governed organisations are likely to be able to meet the challenge. I hope that this assessment assists and inspires IFs in that regard."

Key findings of the fourth IF governance review include:

  • The target of 27 Full Members reaching an overall score of 130 (out of a theoretical maximum of 200 – 50 indicators each scored out of 4) and a target score of 120 for the six Associate Members has virtually been met. Only one of six Associate Members, one which participated in the assessment study for the first time, fell short of the target score of 120.
  • Nearly all of the IFs show improvements since the most recent assessment in 2019-20. Nine of 31 IFs increased their score by at least 20 points.
  • The study shows a correlation between higher scores in the assessment and IFs with greater resources in terms of staff and financial revenue. But there are also exceptions, and results suggest it is possible to achieve high standards with limited resources.
  • There were improvements in financial transparency with 32 IFs publishing audited accounts (although several IFs were a financial year out of date) and increased information available on allowances and benefits.
  • IF Executive Boards still mainly consisted of males but there was evidence of some progress towards gender balance, with three IFs having at least 40 per cent female representation on their boards (up from one in 2019-20) and five IFs with less than 15 per cent of their boards composed of women (compared to eight last time).
  • A trend towards the introduction of term limits continued, with 27 of 33 IFs having limits in place for elected officials. This was a notable increase from the 22 of 31 IFs assessed at the same level in 2019-20.
  • In 2020, IFs started to hold online General Assemblies in response to COVID-19, a welcome innovation. Some IFs needed to change statutes to allow for electronic voting and took the opportunity to overhaul electoral processes, resulting in updated campaigning rules and the establishment of nominations committees.
  • Evidence of IF sustainability activity grew. A total of 13 IFs demonstrated ‘state-of-the-art’ policies linked to United Nations Sustainable Development Goals with associated monitoring.
  • There was also an increase from 15 to 20 in the number of IFs which showed evidence of implementation of safeguarding programmes, despite some activities being curtailed by the cancellation of events.
  • A new indicator tested to what extent IFs considered the range of skills and personal characteristics needed on their boards, beyond straightforward election processes. The nine IFs which performed best had designated processes for considering skills and diversity requirements. A small number of IFs had board positions for independent directors. Far more had independent representatives on other committees.

Click here to read the full report.

As governance is a constantly evolving concept, the ASOIF GTF will continue with the project, distributing good practice examples drawn from the study and offering meetings with individual IFs to review specific findings.