By David D. Dodge
The National Association of Sports Officials (NASO) has published a Guidebook for its members entitled, “Getting Started Developing and Establishing an Effective Integrity Program for Sports Officiating.” NASO currently has over 26,000 members including officials and officiating leaders representing virtually all sports at all levels: high school, college, Olympic, and professional.
In publishing the new Guidebook, a product of NASO’s Integrity Resource Center, the Association’s president Barry Mano said, “Implementing effective integrity programs will enable sports officiating to catch up with the business community where such programs have been common for many years and proven in preventing, detecting, and correcting wrongdoing.”
Over the past couple of years, a handful of sports organizations in the U.S. have begun to develop compliance/ethics/integrity programs for their employees, athletes, and others including their officials. But many others have yet to consider the benefits of establishing effective preventive programs to address the many scandals we’ve been seeing in sports. The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) has established SafeSport, an independent not-for-profit organization designed to promote a national sport safety culture to end abuse within the USOC National Governing Bodies. SafeSport receives reports of sexual abuse and related matters, conducts investigations, and has the authority to adjudicate such matters. As another example, the National Basketball Association (NBA) recently announced the launch of a new hotline allowing league and member team employees to report matters of wrongdoing, including but not limited to sexual harassment, illegality, and other misconduct. In addition, while most major colleges and universities have compliance programs in place, the athletic department’s compliance activity is often limited to NCAA rules and regulations. Lastly, one statewide high school officiating association has established an integrity program for its over 5,000 members.
NASO’s new “Getting Started Guidebook” contains an introduction pointing out that most wrongdoing in officiating is not nearly as serious as the professional basketball referee who spent time in jail a decade ago for crimes associated with using his knowledge of relationships between referees, coaches, players and owners to bet on professional games. No matter how small, any misconduct in officiating needs to be addressed. In officiating, it’s all about trust, good character, and maintaining a reputation for behavior at the highest ethical standard.
The Guidebook makes a strong case for educating officiating leaders about the essential elements and benefits of a compliance/integrity program, before tackling the hard task of establishing an effective program. Reading the SCCE’s “Compliance 101, How to Build and Maintain an Effective Compliance and Ethics Program,” is always a good start.
Officiating leaders are also reminded that, as with any new initiative, it takes a champion to get the program off the ground. Top management support is vital and resources will be needed. A list of questions officiating leaders should ask themselves about their current program is included in the Guidebook.
Lastly, included in the “Getting Started Guidebook” are three appendices:
- “Minimum Standards for an Effective Integrity and Compliance Program for Sports Officiating” as adopted by the NASO Board of Directors (April 2017)
- A sample “Non-Retribution/Non-Retaliation Policy”
- A schematic outlining the process for “Reporting/Investigating Misconduct, Wrongdoing and Other Integrity Issues”
While the Guidebook was developed for sports officiating leaders, it is a valuable resource for leaders of any sports organization who are concerned about preventing wrongdoing within their organization.