Sport Integrity Australia – Three years on

  • Media Statement

CEO David Sharpe on Sport Integrity Australia's first 3 years

''Today marks three years of Sport Integrity Australia, an incredible three years of growth and change.

The agency formed as Athlete A exposed a hidden underbelly of abusive behaviours in sport around the world. It resulted in a groundswell of abuse allegations across sport which forced the agency to adapt and change at the same time it was establishing itself.

As I have said many times before, there was no book, no manual that told us how to do this. We haven’t always got things right, but we have listened and learnt. We have worked alongside sport, we have worked alongside athletes, and have put athletes’ welfare at the centre of our decision making.

I would like to acknowledge those athletes who have put their faith in us. I would also like to acknowledge the many athletes who have yet to tell their story but who have also been hurt and who are still hurting at the hands of perpetrators while participating in something they love – sport.

Sport should be a place where you feel safe and are safe.

In 2021, we introduced a National Integrity Framework and drew a line at the behaviours that have no place in sport. For the first time we had consistent policies across all sport so regardless of where you played, the rules were the same.

Sport recognised the need for a National Integrity Framework, too. The fact that so many recognised national sporting organisations signed up to the Framework was testament to their commitment to addressing issues of integrity in sport.

The Framework set the foundations for sport.

Over the past two years we have worked with sports to help implement the Framework and, in July 2022, we established a National Integrity Manager Network so sports could support, collaborate and share knowledge and expertise.

We recognised the challenges and have since updated the Framework in collaboration with sport to ensure it works more effectively for both sports and participants.

In January, we established a Safety in Sport Division to provide athletes with a safe place to tell their story. It includes a 1800 Safe Sport hotline which provides a place where athletes are listened to and heard, a path to heal from historical abuse.

It also includes an anonymous reporting capability that covers wider racial and cultural issues in sport for people who feel they have been discriminated against in their sport.

We have also commenced the roll out of a Continuous Improvement Program to help embed child safeguarding and member protection practices at all levels of sport. The program leverages expert resources, education and supporting materials from Sport Integrity Australia, the same way our agency leverages expertise around Australia and the world.

There are so many elements to sports integrity that no one agency, no one country, can manage these issues alone. Our partnerships with sport, law enforcement, intelligence, safeguarding and regulatory agencies are crucial to protecting our athletes and the integrity of our competitions at home and abroad.

Partnerships help inform our strategies, including how best to support athletes, coaches and support personnel in making the right decisions and how best to deliver fit-for-purpose education and prevention programs.

With Brisbane 2032 on the horizon, we have set the foundation for a safe, clean and fair pathway for all athletes of which we should all be proud. However, our greatest challenges are ahead of us.

The advent of online streaming, particularly at lower levels, threatens to change the game for sports as it threatens to expose lower-level athletes to corruption and abuse.

It threatens to contribute to an increasingly toxic environment – with abuse (racial, physical and online), discrimination, doping and match-fixing stories splashed over the front pages of newspapers.

We clearly still have a long way to go.

The challenge for us all is to work together to develop a safe, clean and fair culture, to get sport off the front pages and back to the back pages where sporting feats belong".