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What is the status of good governance and women in grassroots sport in 2017?

MOVE Quality’s Simone Digennaro and Antonio Saccone share their thoughts on two of sport’s biggest issues.


Slovenian ISCA member SD Partizan Skofja Loka used ISCA’s MOVE Quality programme to develop its initiative for people with intellectual disabilities “Let’s Train Together”. Antonio Saccone, from SD Partizan Skofja Loka’s international department finds out from MOVE Quality advisory board member Simone Digennaro that good governance and the status of women still have a long way to go in modern grassroots sport.


From a sport perspective, beside the European Football Championships and the Olympic Games in Rio, the 2016 will be remembered as a year of change for some big international organisations. For instance, Gianni Infantino was elected as new President of FIFA, while Aleksandar Ceferin is the new President of UEFA. What can we expect now?


I asked this question to Simone Digennaro, Researcher at the University of Cassino and Southern Lazio and ISCA’s MOVE Quality project advisory board member, who worked on ISCA's Good Governance in Grassroots Sport project.


“They will have to work hard on their governance to earn back their credibility. Often the sport system claims autonomy and independence, but sometimes this leads to a lack of application of the basic rules and principles of common life. The issue of governance in sport is relevant and requires drastic interventions. Sport organisations need to be well organised, since they manage millions of euros and provide many people with work,” he says.


In essence, “good governance” (GG) means to manage an organisation according to the law, in the best interest of the organisation and environment. The issues surrounding many major sport organisations are visible to everyone. But is GG relevant only for big organisations or also for local ones? Is it any correlation between the growing prevalence of physical inactivity with (lack of) GG at the grassroots level?


“The issue of good management,” according to Simone, “is relevant for every organisation, also at the grassroots level. For example, we recently heard about sexual abuses on kids in youth teams. These are cases relevant to governance... Grassroots organisations are close to the people. Knowing about corruption in UEFA or FIFA is relevant, but at a grassroots level, without GG, a lot of damage can be done to ordinary people. The statistics show that more and more people prefer to be active independently, outside the clubs and we should reflect upon this trend... There is a need to change, to understand what people need, to get in touch with them and to engage them. GG means to go closer to the users and to tailor offers to them. Recently, I was active in the field of senior citizens, where often the programs are made without asking and engaging them. To establish relations with individuals can become an important success factor.”


Skofja Loka is a Slovenian picturesque town, not far from Ljubljana. It is located at the crossroad of two valleys, on the Sora river. It is here that the SD Partizan Skofja Loka operates with nine sections and over 2000 members (in a local community of around 15,000 people). The club is among the biggest and most successful recreational sport clubs of the country. Through the project “Let’s Train Together”, the club has also engaged in its regular programs a group of people with intellectual disabilities. The initiative is aimed at gathering together people through sport and physical activity for social inclusion and development.


Unlike many other sport clubs, the President, the majority of the board as well as many leaders and coaches are women. Is this a key success factor in the activity of the club? How important is the gender equality in ensuring GG? I reflected on this aspect with Simone.


“Modern sport is a kind of original sin. We celebrate the Olympic Games and De Coubertin, but he was against the participation of women in sport. Many years passed before the women could participate in the Games, and many legends about unhealthy consequences of sport participation on women developed. For example, up to the 1950s, women were not supposed to run marathon, because people thought it would damage their uterus. Now we can smile about it, but these elements help us to understand the background from the past. Things have changed, participation of women is now considered important. In many countries women can cover also take up leadership positions. A lot has been done, but we still have a lot to do, since there are still some socio-cultural factors that forbid women from participating in sport.”


According to Simone, “sport should reflect upon the opportunities offered to women, especially in relation to governance of sport. In Italy, we find very few organisations that have a majority of women. In many case there are no women on the board. This is a field where it will be necessary to intervene”.


By Antonio Saccone, SD Partizan Skofja Loka


For further information:

Podcast “A ritmo di sport”, Radio Capodistria (in Italian, from min. 26’ 39”):

Article: The SATSport framework for effective governance in grassroots sports organisations

Article: Exploring and Establishing a Framework For Efective Governance in European Grassroots

Sports Organisations