New campaign cries foul on corruption in sport

A Transparency International campaign aims to fight corruption in Czech sport, particularly the abuse of public funds.

Petr Čtvrtníček and Jiří Lábus, photo: Transparency InternationalPetr Čtvrtníček and Jiří Lábus, photo: Transparency International While the Czech Republic often punches above its weight when it comes to producing top class sportspeople, there is a common perception that domestic sport, especially football, is rife with corruption. A new campaign from the group Transparency International aims to combat abuse of public finances and other problems in the sports field.

In a video at the centre of the new campaign against graft in Czech, sport comedians Petr Čtvrtníček and Jiří Lábus comment on a multi-discipline corruption event that includes a “palm-greasing relay" and “tossing the briefcase full of cash”.

The fresh media offensive comes from the Czech branch of the anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International. Sylvie Kloboučková is a lawyer for the organisation.

“Sport is primarily about results, and whenever results are at stake there is a tendency toward efforts to exert influence. That’s one aspect. The other is of course that large amounts of state money are in play, and that leads to efforts to ‘divert’ it elsewhere. So we see the greatest room for progress in the system of financing Czech sport. It’s up to us and the relevant agencies to determine how that system is set up.”

Sylvie Kloboučková, photo: Transparency InternationalSylvie Kloboučková, photo: Transparency International Ms. Kloboučková says the Transparency International campaign was conceived before a recent scandal in which the then head of the Czech Football Association and a deputy minister of education and sport were charged with the massive abuse of subsidies. However, the affair has given it fresh impetus she says.

Transparency is calling on the public to get involved and blow the whistle – anonymously – if they come across corruption in sport at any level.

“On the website we’ve launched with this campaign there is a form where they can report not only classic bribery but also the unlawful division of subsidies or corrupt investment in sports facilities, and so on.”

The new campaign is supported by a number of prominent Czech sports people, including NHL players David Pastrňák and Martin Hanzal, Sparta Prague footballer Lukáš Vácha and badminton international Petr Koukal.

However, corruption in Czech sport does appear to have deep roots and this is not the first effort to deal with the problem over the years. How confident is Sylvie Kloboučková that Transparency International’s latest drive will make an impact?

“I hope and believe that it can bring results. But it’s a long-distance run. Because sport is a very specific world where people – especially in football – feel like they’re part of ‘one big family’. They’re used to dealing with problems in-house and not letting outsiders in. But we keep running into more and more efforts to clean sport up and make it more transparent. So I believe it’s possible – but we know it won’t be tomorrow.”