Sports and ethics – IBA Annual Conference Paris, 2 November 2023

Friday 12 January 2024

Margareta Sovova 

bnt attorneys-at-law, Slovakia; Regional Fora Liaison Officer, European Regional Forum 


Session Chair

Luca Ferrari  Withersworldwide, Milano


Cesar Amendolara  Velloza Advogados Associados, São Paulo; Regional Fora Liaison Officer, Latin American Regional Forum

Massimo Calderan  Altenburger Ltd legal + tax, Küsnacht-Zurich; Co-Chair, European Regional Forum

Ralph Charbel  ICLO, Dubai

Manuela Ronchi  Action Agency, Milan

The intersection of sports and ethics has always been a topic of interest and the session held during the IBA Annual Conference in Paris in November 2023 brought forth multifaceted discussions on the ethical aspects of sport. The session was co-organised by the European Regional Forum (ERF). The panel discussion, chaired by Luca Ferrari and composed of experts from various backgrounds, addressed topics such as doping, bribery, governance and social responsibility, and offered a comprehensive examination of the complex issues plaguing the world of sport.

Sport values

The session began by recognising the central role of sport in shaping societal values and development in line with the United Nations' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Manuela Ronchi highlighted the potential of sport to promote positive values, such as honesty, responsibility and respect. However, she expressed concern about whether these values are being fully utilised or whether there are untapped opportunities to increase their impact on society. Ralph Charbel added another dimension to the discussion by highlighting the role of sport in promoting peace.

Sports integrity (governance)

The discussion quickly moved on to governance within sports organisations. Cesar Amendolara (Professor and Leading Corporate Law Authority), highlighted the widespread problem of poor governance and corruption in competitive sport, citing examples that revealed systemic flaws. The concentration of power within these organisations often leads to uncontrolled influence, making it difficult to combat corruption and enforce transparency. Massimo Calderan provided legal insights, shedding light on the Swiss legal framework governing sports bodies.

The discussion also touched on significant events involving high-profile officials such as Lamine Diack and Sebastian Coe, which led to their role in overseeing governance being scrutinised in light of allegations. Massimo noted the importance of robust compliance programmes to prevent misconduct and violations.

Manuela's clear perspective on Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) standards also contributed to the conversation on governance within sports organisations. She emphasised the need for ESG principles to play a more prominent role in sports federations and to advocate for responsible and sustainable governance practices.

Sports integrity (social)

  1. Betting and sports fraud: Cesar delved into the risks associated with gambling and betting, emphasising the need for a comprehensive legal approach. The varying degrees of sanctions in different jurisdictions illustrated the diversity of approaches taken to tackling match-fixing and corruption. Manuela highlighted the potential negative influence of gambling on young people and the need for preventive measures and educational initiatives.
  2. Discrimination and racism: Ralph discussed measures in place to combat racial discrimination and made suggestions for improvement. The session also addressed the contentious issue of gender discrimination in sports and discussed the ethical implications of medical interventions and restrictions for athletes. The debate revolved around defining the boundaries between elite and youth sport and navigating the rights and harms associated with such boundaries.

The panellists engaged in a lively exchange of ideas, advocating stronger regulations and proactive measures to combat discrimination and uphold ethical standards. It was an amazing session!


The session at the IBA Annual Conference Paris 2023 provided a comprehensive overview of the ethical challenges inherent in the world of sport. From the profound impact of sporting values on society to the urgent need for transparent and accountable governance, the discussions highlighted the intricate interplay between ethics, regulations and social responsibility. The dialogue between experts from different backgrounds highlighted the complexity of these issues and provided a roadmap for a more ethically aware and responsible sports landscape.

While time constraints did not allow the session to cover additional topics such as greenwashing, the depth and breadth of the discussions provided invaluable insights into the ethical conundrums facing sport today. The takeaways from this session serve as a clarion call for concerted efforts to promote integrity, transparency and inclusivity in sport – a necessary step towards a more ethical and equitable future for athletes and sport enthusiasts worldwide.

A group of people sitting at a podium

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