Declaration of Authenticity

I hereby declare that this dissertation is entirely my own work. Any additional sources of information that have been used in this project have been properly cited.



There is no doubt that corruption is rampant in sport, and this phenomenon has been observed since ancient times. The biggest problem is that corruption negative affects the integrity of sport by making it predictable. Thus, the aim of this research was to explore the reasons for the widespread corruption in the sport industry. In order to achieve this objective, qualitative secondary research was performed to look for themes that can be used to explain the high prevalence of corruption in sport. Secondary sources used in this research were obtained from electronic databases, media reports, and other cases describing corrupt behaviours in the world of sport. The analysis of data was performed using thematic content analysis of the selected secondary sources. The study revealed a number of themes that could help explain the reasons for corruption in sport. The themes identified in this research as contributing to corruption include the globalisation and commercialisation of sport; indirect causes of corruption; organisational dynamics; the entrenched nature of corruption in society; and the incompetency and inadequacy of the bodies charged with sport governance. These results highlight the need for strict implementation of anti-corruption laws and sanctions by sport governing bodies.


Chapter 1: Introduction

This study explores the factors contributing to corruption in sport. This chapter provides contextual background of this research including the magnitude and scale of the issue. The statement of the problem, study purpose, and the research question are also presented.

1.1 Background

Corruption in the sporting domain is not a novel phenomenon and can be traced back to the ancient Olympic Games. For instance, in the Olympics held in 388 BC, Eupolos of Thessalia issued bribes to three of his rivals in a fighting competition to allow him win a gold medal (Pinto, Leana & Pil 2008). In the course of time, there has been a widespread increase in sport corruption, to the extent that it is documented in virtually every sport in every corner of the world. The most notable case of sport corruption in history is the 1919 Chicago White Sox, a baseball team who had several key players take bribes from gamblers in exchange for throwing that year's at year's World Series (Andreff & Szymanski 2006). Another notable case was the 1970s German doping scandal, wherein hundreds of swimmers and athletes were provided with substances to enhance their performance without their consent and knowledge (Crittenden, Hanna & Peterson 2009). Generally, corruption in sport has been in existence since the ancient times and continues to exist even today. It has only evolved in terms of the parties involved in sport corruption due to the increased popularity of the sport and technological progress.

Since the popularity of sport is increasing and drawing audience from all over the globe, it is being targeted by groups and individuals who want to exploit its lucrative nature (Andreff & Szymanski 2006; Smith & Stewart 2010). Moreover, the popularity of sports betting has increased significantly with the advent of advent of sports broadcasting and the increased accessibility of interactive technologies (Ashforth et al. 2008). Several outlawed gambling consortia, especially in Asia, have tried to exert unfair influence on the outcome of sporting competitions by colluding with corrupt athletes and officials (Rodney & Weinbach 2007; Senior 2006). The fixing of outcomes of sports competitions has resulted in stringent measures for licensing betting companies as a means of combating corruption. Moreover, regulatory bodies focusing on gambling have been established, and whose goal it is to identify suspicious betting trends and issue sanctions to people attempting to interfere with fair play (Pinto, Leana & Pil 2008).

Mason, Thibault and Misener (2006) show that the increasing sports popularity is exacerbating the issue of sport corruption as well as the fixing of sporting events. The issue of corruption in sport has also received widespread coverage from the media. For instance, the 2002 Winter Olympics ‘Skategate’ scandal involving judges rigged the competition in favour of the Russian participants over the Canadian skaters and the 2009 ‘Crashgate’ scandal in Formula One, which highlighted sport corruption in the headlines of newspapers (Connor & Mazanov 2010).

Corruption in sport can also be attributed to the fact that sport is a multi-billion industry having complex ties to private and political interests, which translates to vast opportunities for stakeholders to engage in corrupt dealings (Ashforth et al. 2008; Rodney & Weinbach 2007). It is surprising in most segments in the sports industry, the bulk of the decisions and deals are made behind closed doors in secrecy, which offers an avenue through which corruption goes unpunished and unchecked. The link between sport and corruption is pervasive (Chaikin 2008). Numerous analysts who have explored the issue of crime and sport have outlined various cases affecting diverse sporting codes characterized by the deliberate seeking of an unfair advantage or colluding to document a favourable outcome (Haberfeld & Sheehan 2014; Pinto, Leana & Pil 2008; Senior 2006). Recently, corruption in sport has become more common. Corruption in sport entails offenders working cooperatively, and its scope is not limited to on-the-field participants such as judges, referees, coaches, and players, but also intermediaries such as federation and club officials, agents, and criminal organisations (Pinto, Leana & Pil 2008). Thus, the scope of corruption in sport has expanded beyond just active participants in the game to include other stakeholders who are indirectly tied to the sports industry.

Corruption has a significant impact on the various aspects of sport such as management, promotion, and play. Other aspects of sport affected by corruption include the manner in which races and matches are contested, measures adopted  to enhance or lessen the performance of individuals and teams (Ashforth et al. 2008); transfer of players (Mason, Thibault & Misener 2006); how sporting federations and clubs are managed (Senior 2006); how governing bodies are elected (Johnston 2005); the acquisition of marketing and media rights and sponsorship (Andreff & Szymanski 2006); and bids for hosting  major sport events. Essentially, corruption is evident in nearly all aspects associated with sport (Forrest, McHale & McAuley 2008). The vast impacts of corruption on sports poses the need to devise apt measures to deal with the problem.

Senior (2006) denotes that a universal definition of corruption in the domain of sport is lacking, which is further frustrating efforts aimed at curtailing the practice in sport. Moreover, Senior (2006) asserts that corruption in sport often focuses on the dominant actors, especially athletes, who are only a fraction of the stakeholders in sport, while disregarding others such as club managers and agents. Some authors have focused on defining corruption based on specific activities. For instance, Brooks, Aleem a and Button (2013) confined corruption in sport to the concept of match-fixing, which refers to the athletes’ tendency to fail to perform at their expected level in a particular sport  in order to win but instead deliberately allow their opponents to win. Match-fixing can also be practised by sporting officials who fail to perform their duties in a morally objective manner as required for competitive sport. Another definition of corruption in the milieu of sport is provided by Forrest, McHale and McAuley (2008) who focus on betting. Forrest, McHale and McAuley (2008) maintain that betting corruption entails manipulating or attempting to unfairly change the outcome of a game in order to enrich oneself as a result of sport betting. In illustrating the difficulties in defining corruption in sport, Gorse and Chadwick (2010) allude to the disagreement among scholars as to whether doping, the using performance enhancing drugs, is a form of corruption. Kew (2003) points out that match-fixing corruption and doping share the same objective, but cautions against conceptually merging the two concepts due to the differential effects. The effects of doping is to over perform whereas that of match fixing is to underperform. On the other hand, some authors argue that doping is an instance of corruption. According to Chaikin (2008), sport corruption refers to any unethical, immoral, or unlawful activity that tries to intentionally twist the outcome of a sporting competition for the purposes of personal material gain of the individual(s) engaging in the activity. To this end, Chaikin (2008) outlined, four subtypes of sport corruption, which include match-fixing related to betting; match-fixing that is not related to betting; inside information; and doping. Given the pervasive nature of corruption in sport and complexity in understanding the phenomenon, this thesis sought to investigate why corruption is rampant in the sporting industry.

1.2 Problem Statement

Statistics affirm the prevalence of sport corruption. Gorse and Chadwick (2015) analysed 2,089 established cases of sport corruption during the 2000-2010 period, and reported that doping was the most popular type of sport corruption, evident in 95.6 percent of the cases, followed by match fixing, and the utilisation of insider information. Corruption has adverse effects on the integrity of sport. Andreff and Szymanski (2006) reveal that sport provides hope and joy to billions of fans across the globe. When the outcomes of sporting competitions hinge on corruption rather than fair competition, fans of the sport feel betrayed (Brooks, Aleem & Button 2013; Haberfeld & Sheehan 2014). Thus, there is a need to clean up sport for the betterment of the game as well as the society as a whole. The first step in cleaning up start is to understand the reasons for why corruption is rampant in sport (Hardy, Loy & Booth 2009), which is the focus of this study. Moreover, the bulk of the scholarly literature focusing on corruption in sport have concentrated solely on two aspects – the definition of corruption and the impacts that corruption has on sport. One of the fundamental issues that has received little attention in scholarship is the underlying factors contributing to corruption in sport, which is a gap in the literature that this research sought to address.

1.3 Study Purpose

The purpose of this qualitative secondary research is to develop a comprehensive understanding of why corruption is so common in sport. In order to achieve this objective, a qualitative analysis of secondary sources was performed using content analysis in order to ascertain the common themes describing why corruption is so prevalent in sport. Data for this study was gathered from secondary sources including media reports and other sources describing case studies of corruption in sport. Thematic content analysis was used in analysing these secondary sources. The knowledge gained from this research is crucial in helping understand the root causes of corruption in sport, from which solutions can be developed to help curb the practice and restore the integrity of sport.

1.4 Research Question

The research question that guided this research is:

Why is there so much corruption in sport?

1.5 Dissertation Outline

This dissertation is comprised five sections including the introduction, literature review, methodology, findings and discussion, and conclusion. This chapter provides background on the issue of corruption in sport, the statement of the problem, the study purpose and research question. The literature review section performs a review of theoretical and empirical literature on the issue corruption in sport. The methodology chapter outlines the steps undertaken to gather the data for this research to answer the research question. The findings and discussion section presents the results of the study and discusses them with respect to the research questions. Lastly, the conclusion section summarises the study including the implications of the findings and the areas for further research.


Chapter Two: Literature Review

Chapter One covered the research problem, the contextual background, the study purpose, and the research question. In order to build on this, Chapter Two has the main aim of developing a theoretically grounded framework for understanding corruption in sport through a critical synthesis and review of literature. The chapter first discusses corruption in general, and then narrows down to corruption in the particular context of sport.

2.1 Corruption

Prior to understanding corruption in the specific context of sport, it is imperative to have a general overview of corruption. Corruption is a problem affecting every country. It is not a novel phenomenon as cases of corrupt activities including fraud and bribery date back thousands of years. Although corruption is prevalent and is widely acknowledged to have negative effects, there is debate concerning the why and how corruption comes about in industries, political systems, and organisations across the globe (Connor & Mazanov 2010; Mason, Thibault & Misener 2006; Pinto, Leana & Pil 2008). Scholarly interest in corruption has increased significantly in the recent past; however, emphasis has been placed on measuring the prevalence of corruption and its impact while little attention has been committed to exploring the underlying causes and contextual factors contributing to corruption. Various authors agree that there is no comprehensive descriptive framework for explaining the psychological and social aspects associated with corruption (Brooks, Aleem & Button 2013; Den Nieuwenboer & Kaptein 2008; Senior 2006). Essentially, no sector, organisation, or nation is immune from corruption, which makes a significant issue of concern for policy makers. Moreover, corruption has several meanings transcending various disciplines, which has resulted in diverse definitions of the concept of corruption, which tend to be confusing (Kochan & Goodyear 2011).

One of the core problems related to defining corruption stems from the understanding that corrupt behaviour is a deviation from the normal duties or a violation of the established rules (Chaikin 2008). Nonetheless, there are several cultural deviations considered accepted or proper behaviour. Jennings (2011) mentions that defining corruption in a universally accepted manner is extremely difficult, just like other ethical notions. Behaviours considered unethical or immoral in  one given society or country might be considered the norm in another state, resulting in problems in not only trying to develop a definition of corruption, but also in measuring and managing corrupt behaviour (Jennings 2006; Smith & Stewart 2010). Kew (2003) outlines three problems bewildering the examination of corruption, which include difficulties in measuring, observing, and defining corruption. Moreover, Kew (2003) shows that the manner in which corruption is defines affects what is measured.

In discussing political corruption, Mason, Thibault and Misener (2006) outline three broad themes including market-centred, public-office centred, and public-interest centred. The market-centred theme views corruption as a way of maximizing income. The public-interest centred theme emphasises the adverse effects of corruption on the public whereas the public-office centred theme places emphasis on the exploitation of public office for personal gains (Mason, Thibault & Misener 2006). In the world of sport, the market-centred view of corruption seems the most appropriate since officials and athletes engage in corruption mainly for the purpose of maximising personal profit.

In the literature, there are various definitions of corruption. Heidenheimer and Johnston (2011) define corruption as abusing public resources or roles for personal gain.  According to Kurer (2005), corruption denotes a behaviour typified by the deviation from one formal responsibilities of a public role because of private reasons, status gains, or exercising certain forms of influence that comes with public office in private domains. For some authors such as Johnston (2005), corruption denotes an act performed with the objective of giving one some advantage that is not consistent with his/her official duty as well as other’s rights. Kochan and Goodyear (2011) consider corruption as pursuing individual interests by a person or organisational actors by deliberately misdirecting the resources of the organisation or perverting the routines of the organisation. The World Bank defines corruption as abusing public office/power for personal private gain (cited in Johnston (2005)). In this way, corruption is typified by misusing authority for personal or organizational benefit. Corrupt individuals also exploit their organisational position or influence for organisational or personal gain, wherein misuse denotes deviation from acceptable societal norms (Mason, Thibault & Misener 2006).

Whereas these definitions of corruption seem consistent with respect to the terminology utilised, none of them acknowledge the degree to which these behaviours should occur in order to be deemed corrupt. From a cultural perspective, these degrees are expected to be varied (Kochan & Goodyear 2011; Senior 2006). Moreover, these degrees vary across organisations and industries (Kurer 2005). Therefore, the activities perceived as corrupt by an individual or a group might not be perceived as such by another. Similarly, some corrupt behaviours in some industries might be deemed the norm in other industries. For this reason, combating corruption is an extremely difficult undertaking because of its complexity and that it is intertwined social occurrence (Andreff & Szymanski 2006; Jennings 2011). Having provided a general overview of the concept of corruption, the following section turn to corruption in the specific context of sport.

2.2 Nature of Corruption in Sport

Cases of corruption can be traced back to ancient sporting events (Andreff & Szymanski 2006). An example is during the ancient Olympics in 388 BC when Eupolos of Thessalia bribed three opponents to enable him to win (Meaning 2005). Thus, corruption is not a novel phenomenon in the world of sport. In 1919, gamblers paid off several Chicago White Sox baseball players to throw the World Series. The owner of the team defaulted on the bonus payments, which helped in bringing the scandal to the fore (Andreff & Szymanski 2006). In 1988, Canadian sprinter, Ben Johnson, saw his career crumble after failing to pass a drug test following his smashing of the 100 meter record at the Olympics games held in Seoul, Korea. Recently, other corruption scandals that surfaced in the sport’s world include the ‘Crashgate’ scandal that rocked Formula One, a match fixing scandal by the Pakistan cricket team, and the “Bloodgate’ scandal in rugby among others (Gorse & Chadwick 2015). The underlying observation from these cases is that corruption is ingrained in sport.

Various authors consent that corruption and sport go hand in hand, ranging from athletes using substances to enhance their performance to executives in sports governing bodies receiving bribes for votes (Andreff & Szymanski 2006; Rodney & Weinbach 2007; Smith & Stewart 2010). Corruption is also evident in players being paid to under-perform and referees placing bets on games that they officiate. Corruption has tarnished many names that were once associated with achievement and excellence in sport such as Lance Armstrong, Hansie Cronje, the Juventus Football Club, and Marion Jones, just to name a few (Gorse & Chadwick 2010). Each of these names attained the peak of their respective sports but fell from grace because of corruption characterized by match fixing, insider information, and using performance enhance substances.

Today, the sport industry is characterized by huge sums of money coming from diverse sources such as the purchasing and selling of sports teams, transfer fees for footballers, highly competitive sponsorship contracts, and the construction of modern stadiums among others (Andreff & Szymanski 2006; Connor & Mazanov 2010). All these present vast opportunities for not only engaging in profitable business dealings but also to engage in corrupt dealings.

In the scholarly literature, there are two elements that emerge when describing corruption, which can be applied to understand the nature of corruption in sport. The first is the behavioural tenets of corruption, which denote the characteristics associated with misusing powers or public office for private benefits (Brooks, Aleem & Button 2013; Chaikin 2008). The second element relates to the principal-agent relationships, which emphasizes on the interactions existing between the parties that engage in corrupt dealings. These two elements are applicable in understanding corruption in the world of sport (Chaikin 2008). The first element, misuse of office, can be applied when studying the behaviour of people involved in sports governance and sports officials (Kew 2003). An example involving the misuse of power was granting Salt Lake City to host the 2004 Winter Olympics, wherein the bidding committee engaged in corruption for organisational gain (Gorse & Chadwick 2010). The apparent benefits associated with hosting such a sporting event as well the high esteem that bidding committee holds overshadow any negative outcomes associated with embarking on questionable behaviour (Gorse & Chadwick 2015). This form of behaviour is referred to as management corruption, wherein non-sporting decisions are made by sports governing bodies and officials. This view of corruption is not applicable when studying corrupt behaviour exhibited by athletes or those tasked with the responsibility of influencing sporting context outcomes, which Gorse and Chadwick (2015) describe as competition corruption. In this form of corruption, the relationship between the athlete and the coach, the manufacturer of performance enhancing drugs and the athlete, and between the athlete and the fixer plays an instrumental role in doping and match-fixing (Gorse & Chadwick 2015). These relationships are important instances of principal-agent-client relationship.

Chaikin (2008) observes that the extant literature is divided in terms of focus, the micro and the micro-view of corruption. The micro-view of corruption focuses on the individual whereas the macro view focuses on corruption occurring at national, industry, or organisational levels (Mason, Thibault & Misener 2006). This differentiation can also be applied to understand corruption in the world of sport in the sense that the micro view entails more individual behaviours comprising of competition corruption whereas the macro view can be applied to understand management corruption (Brooks, Aleem & Button 2013).

As mentioned earlier, two broad categories of corruption exist in the domain of sport, which included management corruption (corrupt activity in the non-sporting decisions by sports governing bodies and officials) and competition corruption (corrupt activity initiated by athletes or those who are responsible for sporting competition outcomes) (Andreff & Szymanski 2006). Both forms of corruption are rampant in the sports world, and are covered in this research.

2.2.1 Competition Corruption

In the scanty research on corruption in the world of sport, there is no universal agreement among scholars regarding the behaviour that constitutes corruption. According to sociologists, corruption in sport is documented when athletes opt to over-conform to the ethics of the sport. Being successful on the track, the individual is perceived as “true athlete” by the larger society, fans, competitors, and teammates (Morgan 2007). Thus, the athlete may be motivated to utilise performance-enhancing substances to achieve this success, and since they are likely to perceive their behaviour as helping to increase the success of their team, they are unlikely to consider their behaviour as something that is deviant. Morgan (2007) asserts that people engage in detrimental things to others and themselves when the sense of honour and duty motivates them – a concept referred to as positive deviance. On the other hand, corruption might entail athletes failing to exhibits the normal performance levels required of them to win a sporting contest and deliberately create conditions that can enable their rivals to win (Brooks, Aleem & Button 2013). Corruption might also involve sporting officials consciously performing their duties in a way that is not consistent with the moral values and objectives of the particular competitive sport, association, club, or society (Haberfeld & Sheehan 2014; Kew 2003).

There is no doubt that these two views of corruption in the world of sport are contradictory. When an athlete is over-conforming to the ethic of the sport in order to be perceived as an athlete, it is highly unlikely that he or she will engage in behaviours that would permit their rivals to win (Smith & Stewart 2010). Some scholars do not view doping as an instance of corruption on the basis that corrupt activity is characterized by behaviours that hinder an athlete from performing optimally (Maennig 2005; Smith & Stewart 2010). In this regard, performance-enhancing substances results in abilities that are beyond what the athlete would otherwise be capable of, and is decision made by the individual athlete. This perspective that doping is an individual activity has raised concerns since it is not characterized by the involvement of others surrounding the athlete such as team officials, teammates, and coaches (Andreff & Szymanski 2006). For instance, the organised doping of German athletes during the 1970s and 80s, the culture of using steroids in baseball during the 1990s, the BALCO scandal, and Postal doping scandal in cycling are all examples wherein athletes did not act in individual capacity to enhance their performance (Smith & Stewart 2010).

Another issue in both views of corruption in the world of sport relates to the fact that these descriptions do not take into account the exchange of benefit or financial reward between the parties taking part in the corrupt act. Senior (2006) provides the conditions that should be satisfied for an activity to be considered an instance of corruption, which entail covertly giving a favour to another party (corruptee) with the aim of influencing actions that are likely to benefit the corruptee (the party issuing the favour), and that the corruptee must have authority over the action to be influenced. Based on this definition, it is evident that corruption in sport must be beneficial to at least one individual in the agreement. The benefit can be either tangible (such as appearance fees, endorsement deal, or sponsorship) or intangible. Based on the definition by Senior (2006), doping is not an instance of corruption. However, some authors have criticized this stance by stating that when doping leads to at least one party receiving money or other benefits that should have otherwise not received, then doping is an instance of corruption.

Because of the scarcity of scholarly research on the issue of corruption in the world of sport, the lack of an appropriate universal definition, and the disagreements in the existing definitions, Gorse and Chadwick (2015) defined corruption as any unethical, immoral, or illegal activity that tries to intentionally twist the result of a sporting competition, or any aspect within that sporting competition, for the individual material gain of the parties who participate in the activity.

2.2.2 Impacts of Corruption in Sport

Corruption undermines the fundamental nature of sport. One of the core tenets that characterises sport is the uncertainty associated with the outcome of the competition (Brooks, Aleem & Button 2013; Kew 2003). Smith and Stewart (2010) argue that sport is not truly sport unless there is a probability of either defeat or victory. Some authors maintain that the uncertainty of the outcome is what differentiates sport from entertainment in the sense that entertainment outcomes are known in advance  whereas sporting outcomes are unpredictable (Smith & Stewart 2010). When the unpredictable nature of sport is altered, it ceases to become sports and is instead regarded as entertainment (Kew 2003). In the absence of this unpredictability, the emotion and interest associated with sport diminishes since the outcome is foreseeable. 

Although the significance of outcome uncertainty remains a crucial requirement in sport, corruption tends to undermine it. According to Buraimo and Simmons (2009), matching fixing related to betting and non-betting eliminates the outcome uncertainty of sporting contests. In some cases, the measures adopted to achieve competitive balance have contributed to the practice of match fixing. As mentioned earlier, sport is typified by unpredictable outcomes, which is contrasted to entertainment, which is characterised by planned events in which the results are predetermined. Corruption tries to change this equation and make sport similar to entertainment (Brooks, Aleem & Button 2013; Haberfeld & Sheehan 2014). This equation is changed when corruption focuses on fixing matches, biased officiating, and the use of drugs to enhance performance. Various authors are in agreement that corruption eliminates the core foundations of sport including its integrity (Rodney & Weinbach 2007). Thus, it is imperative to safeguard the integrity of sport in order to make sure that it is devoid of corrupt influence that is likely to increase doubts regarding the unpredictability and authenticity of match outcomes.

2.3 Types of Corruption in the Context of Sport

Initially, corruption in sport was limited to actions that sought to  make money through the distortion of the sporting contest outcomes through bribing and losing a game for either financial or non-financial gains (Brooks, Aleem & Button 2013). Presently, the scope of corruption in the sporting world has expanded to include  other behaviours considered unethical such as distorting how the hosting of mega-sporting events are determined; biased decision-making by sport governing bodies; and the fixing of bet-related sporting contests. With the increased inflow of money into the sports industry as well as the globalisation of the sport, opportunities to engage in corrupt deals have increased (Smith & Stewart 2010). Tackling the issue of corruption in the sports business requires having an understanding of the typology of corruption in the context of sporting. Corruption commences with cases that are perceived as petty corruption involving sport insiders. In other instances, corruption does not involve the exchange of vast amounts of money (known as barter corruption) (Andreff & Szymanski 2006). Also, corruption has been documented in the highest sporting governing bodies. Moreover, the increased flows of money in the sporting sector has created another form of corruption through evidenced by betting scandals (Brooks, Aleem & Button 2013).

2.3.1 Petty Corruption

The oldest form of corruption in sport involved on-the-spot corruption witnessed during a sporting contest between two teams or competitor (Boyle & Haynes 2009). A competitor can offer a bribe to another competitor to allow him/her to win the contest. Another case of petty corruption would involve a competitor bribing an opponent to help him/her win against another opponent. This on-the-spot corruption is characterized by lack of advance planning and is often opportunistic. It is often documented when an opportunity to secure a win presents itself randomly in a sporting contest (Boyle & Haynes 2009). It is described as petty corruption that affects the outcome of a sporting competition without putting the life of another person in danger or resulting in a considerable societal issue. For example, in cycling competitions such as the Tour de France, there have been cases of riders bargaining over who gets to finish first, subsequently involving the exchange of a bribe. Evidence of instantaneous cooperation between competitors in sporting contests have been documented. For example, in football matches, players from the two teams might speak to one another or just issue signals to opponents to kick the ball lazily and aimlessly, which affect the outcome of the competition (Andreff & Szymanski 2006). Petty corruption often entails the exchange of funds between the parties in the corrupt act. Also, petty corruption occurs between insiders of the sport in the sense that it does not entail any part operating from outside the sport sector. Some of the insiders of sport include sport managers, umpires, referees, coaches, players and athletes, and sport governing organisations.

2.3.2 Barter Corruption

Corruption does not always involve the exchanging of funds. There are some instances whereby sport insiders might exchange non-financial favours (Masters 2015). An example of barter corruption is when an athlete or a team is on the verge of relegation in the sporting ladder and absolutely requires a win; thus, decides to ask another team or athlete to allow it to win. The bribe might not be in the form of money but instead some future favours such as planned losses when the team encounters the team that asked for a favour (Connor & Mazanov 2010). Detecting barter corruption is difficulty since there is lack of material or money flow between the parties involved in the corrupt deeds.

Barter corruption has been documented in Japanese sumo wrestling, wherein the incentive structure used for promotion encourages wrestlers to trade between themselves when achieving the winning record (Kurer 2005). Wrestlers in the competition win an uneven fraction of the matches when on the margin of winning the tournament. As a result, wrestlers who are on the verge of winning the tournament tend to lose more than expected, which is an indication that the match was rigged for future payment of the same kind. These reciprocal agreements are a common aspect of the tournament, indicating that collusive behaviour is solely undertaken by the athletes (Maennig 2005). The conclusion from this case study is that the manner in which the sporting competition is structured contributes to corruption. The same is observed in professional basketball in the US. This occurs when teams no longer competing for a playoff spot; thus, they intentionally perform poorly and lose games in order to increase their odds of securing a high lottery pick (Smith & Stewart 2010). The following types of sport corruption entail outsiders in the sport industry.

2.3.3 Corruption in the Sport Governance Organisations

Corruption has also been documented in organisations tasked with governing sport. A notable example is the allocation of the mega-sports events such as the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics (Jennings 2011). The FIFA President in 2002 was accused of embezzlement and corruption that involved the diversion of money towards some FIFA members, in particular, the presents of African Football (CAF) and the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL). Evidence exists indicating bribery during the allocation of the 2000 Olympics rewarded to Sydney (Yeh & Taylor 2008). In 2002, the widespread corruption was witnessed again when Salt Lake City was awarded the 2002 Winter Games, which prompted the need for reforms in the IOC, resulting in the executive committee members in the IOC being excluded from the bidding process. FIFA also suspended two its executive committee members for receiving bribes to vote in favour of Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup (Jennings 2011). Some authors have recommended changing the allocation methods adopted by sport governing bodies in order to combat corruption.

2.3.4 Betting Scandals

Prior to the advent of online betting and the economic globalisation of sport, sport gambling presented a major opportunity for sports stakeholders to engage in corruption. Gambling offers an opportunity for stakeholders to engage in fraud because of the incentives to engage in match fixing in order to make money (Andreff & Szymanski 2006). An example is the 1964 betting scandal observed in British football. Other case studies include the black market for bets in Italian football, which was typified by rigging matches in favour of bets. For instance, in 1999, AS Roma corrupted referees to tilt the outcome of the match in its favour. Similarly, the managers of Juventus FC rigged some matches by bribing referees, which led to its relegation. The organised criminal underworld is also notorious for running illegal betting schemes that entail fixing matches (Forrest, McHale & McAuley 2008). For example, in Japan, the Yakuzas are in control of the baseball betting scheme, and is known for rigging matches. Similarly, in 2004, Robert Hoyzer, a referee in the German Bundesliga, was convicted of fixing matches on which he had bet (Mason, Thibault & Misener 2006).

2.3.5 Bet-related Match Fixing and International Online Sham Betting Networks

The onset of globalisation has resulted in an increase in economic competition in the sport gambling industry because of the deregulation of the market and the Internet. The result is the magnitude of sports betting has increased rapidly, which has subsequently increased the opportunity to engage in fraudulent acts (Rodney & Weinbach 2007). In the recent past, sport and match fixing have become more common with respect to corruption in the world of sport. Betting companies operate fraudulent networks and engage in rigging matches via bribery to referees or players. In 2011, approximately 10 percent of all European football matches were considered suspicious (Chaikin 2008). The bulk of these fraudulent betting networks operate in Asia, especially in the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, and China. In 2007, Interpol unveiled 272 crooked bookmakers, resulting in 1,300 arrests for individuals suspected of organising bets on matches that had been fixed (Brooks, Aleem & Button 2013).

2.5 Chapter Summary

In the literature, there is no consistent definition of corruption in sport. The various definitions of corruption focus on the abuse of authority or influence for personal gain. Corruption is also explored in terms of micro- and macro-corruption. Corruption robs sport of one of its important aspects – unpredictability (Lee & Fort 2008). In sport, two forms of corruption exist, which include management and competition corruption. This chapter focused on describing corruption and the nature of corruption in sport. It is evident that there is little emphasis in the scholarship to explore the underlying factors contributing to corruption in sport. The following chapter will describe the steps undertaken to collect data aimed at exploring the reasons for the widespread corruption in sport.


Chapter Three: Methodology

The goal of this chapter is to describe the steps performed in collecting the data required to answer the research question and meet the objective of this research. Therefore, this chapter outlines the research approach adopted (qualitative) and the data collection methods used.

3.1 Research Method

The research method adopted for this study is the qualitative method, which entails performing a critical analysis of texts and reflection of the theoretical themes rather than relying on statistics and numbers (Maxwell 2005). The qualitative approach is appropriate for the issue being explored because it facilitates a comprehensive analysis of the problem instead of being constrained by a set of variables, which is the case with the quantitative method. Moreover, this research is exploratory, which makes the qualitative approach more suitable when compared to the quantitative approach (Sherri 2011). The framing of the research question for this study focuses on “why”, which requires the use of critical approaches when analysing data; hence, the use of the qualitative method.

The qualitative method will be executed by collecting and analysing secondary data. Primary research was considered for this research but ruled out as unfeasible because of the difficulties accessing participants who would describe themselves as being corrupt. Thus, secondary research offered an ideal alternative to explore the issue. Qualitative secondary analysis has been heralded as a valuable method for exploring sensitive issues such as corruption (Maxwell 2005). The approach adopted entails conducting a critical assessment of theory and the findings from extant research and case studies in order to try to generate and synthesise the meanings from several studies (Mitchell & Janina 2009). Therefore, diverse forms of literature act as the population for this research, from which data will be sampled. The aim of the qualitative secondary approach was to search past theoretical and empirical literature, followed by undertaking a critical evaluation of the collected sources, and then combining and synthesizing them to develop novel meanings.

3.2 Data Collection

The secondary data for this research was obtained from an electronic search of literature on corruption in general and corruption in sport found in digital databases and citation indices. The databases searched included Google Scholar, Emerald, ScienceDirect, SpringerLink, JSTOR, Ebscohost, and Pubget. An inclusion criteria was employed in order to ensure that recent secondary sources are analysed. In this respect, the sources were limited to those published from 2005 onwards. The search strategy employed a numerous search terms such as “corruption,” “corruption in sport,” and “antecedents of corruption” among others. A comprehensive search of the World Wide Web was also performed to look for concept papers, case studies, conference papers, and published theses. Data analysis was performed using thematic content analysis of these sources, wherein dominant and recurring themes in these sources were documented. Emphasis was placed on how the authors described the precursors of corruption in sport. 


Chapter 4: Findings and Discussion

4.1 Introduction

Chapter Three described the activities undertaken to gather data for this research. The aim of this chapter is to present and discuss the findings of this study with respect to its objective. This study sought to understand why corruption is rampant in sport. The major themes found from analysing secondary research using content analysis are presented in the following subsections.

4.2 Factors Contributing to Corruption in Sport

The themes contributing to corruption in sport are presented in the subsections below.

4.2.1 Globalisation and Commercialisation of Sport

One of the recurring themes that acts as a precursor of corruption commonly mentioned in the secondary sources analysed is globalisation. Judge, McNatt and Xu (2011) maintain that globalisation has been instrumental in increasing the speed as well as the scale of business activity to an extent where regulators are unable to keep pace, which in turn hampers accountability. Essentially, with the increase in global business, bribery and corruption are inevitable (Judge, McNatt & Xu 2011; Masters 2015). Accessing global markets including the customers in these markets, especially in emerging markets, is an example in which paying bribes to government officials can be beneficial to the organisation.

The increase in international trade has resulted in considerable positive economic impacts, especially for developing countries. Judge, McNatt and Xu (2011) maintain that because of globalization, several economies are transitioning at a faster rate than they would have otherwise transitioned in the absence of globalisation, which implies that any behaviour or activity facilitated by this hasty transition is considered acceptable. This helps in increasing the acceptability of corruption. The global spread of corruption remains one of the worst outcomes associated with globalisation.

In the world of sport, the globalisation of the industry has resulted in commercialisation, which has increased the opportunities for revenue generation for the stakeholders such as officials, athletes, governance bodies, and sponsors among others. This has led to several officials and athletes opting to engage in corrupt dealings to exploit the increasing sources of revenues such as media rights, appearance fees, endorsement deals and sponsorship among others.

4.2.2 Direct and Indirect Causes of Corruption

The second theme that emerged in the secondary sources analysed relates to the direct and indirect factors contributing to corruption. In the world of sport, primary importance is placed on indirect causes. Some of the indirect corruption causes include the quality of leadership and the examples set by leaders. In this respect, in the world of sport, governance and leadership offer examples of competition and management corruption in sport (Boyle & Haynes 2009). An example is the doping scandals witnessed in the cycling sports. Union Cyclist International (UCI), the governing body for the cycling sport, has handled the use of performance enhancing substances in a way that Brooks, Aleem and Button (2013) think helps in perpetuating corruption in the sport. The present and the former heads of UCI have been involved in a massive cover up of doping. For instance, a dossier showed that the President of UCI, Pat McQuaid together with his predecessor asked for a bribe from a team owner in order to bend the rules for the Lance Armstrong. They also tried to conceal the positive drug test for Alberto Contador (Brooks, Aleem and Button 2013). Therefore, of the leadership of the UCI is condoning corruption, then it is likely that cyclists will see corruption as the norm.

Additionally Boyle and Haynes (2009) is of the view that the presence of institutional controls indirectly contribute to corruption, which largely reflects the attitude of the sport’s governing body towards the issue of corruption. When a government agency acknowledges the threat that corruption poses, there are numerous mechanisms that will be implemented to manage the corruption threat. Moreover, the extent to which the anti-corruption mechanisms are transparent are crucial. From the various sources reviewed, it was found that lacking transparency in the anti-corruption processes, laws and rules offer an ideal opportunity for people to engage in corrupt dealings (Boyle & Haynes 2009; Brooks, Aleem & Button 2013). There are case studies showing how inadequate transparency contributes to corruption. In the domain of sport, transparency seems to be lacking regardless of the establishment of organisations like the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) which is responsible for regulating corrupt practices in sport, which in this case relates to the use of performance enhancing substances (Brooks, Aleem & Button 2013). Specifically, even though WADA is responsible for testing the use of performance enhancement substances and administering punishment to those found guilty, the sanctions that the organisation imposes differs depending on the substance, nation, and the sport. Furthermore, Yeh and Taylor (2008) point that few people receive punishment when they are found to engage in doping despite its prevalence, which points to WADA’s laxity in dealing with the issue. This is actually the case in the world of sport, whereby the manufacturers of performance enhancing substances seem to be one step ahead of the governing bodies. Moreover, several cases of match fixing are often unnoticed (Yeh & Taylor 2008).

The last indirect factor contributing to corruption relates to the amount of wages that public workers receive, which is another recurring theme cited in the various sources reviewed (Andreff & Szymanski 2006; Hardy, Loy & Booth 2009; Smith & Stewart 2010). This can also be observed in the world of sport. A recurring theme in the sources analysed was wage disparity. For instance, there is a high disparity in players’ salaries in the football leagues across Europe; as a result, in certain situations, players who are paid far less, as is the case in Eastern Europe, are more likely to look for ways of increasing their income, just like public sector employees engage in corrupt deals to supplement their income (Connor & Mazanov 2010). Furthermore, in the sport industry, embarking in more dubious activity might lead to other incentives such as sponsorship agreements and bonus. Athletes, just like other individuals, wish to be the best in their trade and win gold medals; however, failing to achieve their goals increases the probability that they might exhibit immoral and unethical behaviour.

4.2.3 Organisational Dynamics

Where the analysis of corruption at an organisational level in the management literature is scanty, an emerging theme in the sources analysed is that the organisational structure often facilitates corruption, and so is the orientation of the organisation. For instance, Pinto, Leana  and Pil (2008)assert that in results-oriented organisations and those having an incentive system for rewarding positive performance, employees are motivated to engage in corrupt behaviour; therefore, making an internal factor contributing to corruption. The choice for low performing individuals would be whether or not to engage in corrupt dealings in order to receive the incentive payments that high performing individuals get. Additionally, when high performing individuals are not provided with the expected or promised compensation, they might also opt to engage in questionable activities. Andreff and Szymanski (2006) argue that the decision to substitute the promised compensation for the high performance that was delivered was the one taken by the Chicago White Sox players in 1919. In this scandal, Chicago White Sox players intentionally lost to Cincinnati Reds in exchange for money from gamblers.

Moreover, the competition environment acts as a source of pressure. Morgan (2007)illustrates that it may be costly for an organisation that refrains from engaging in corrupt dealings. Therefore, according to Morgan (2007),corruption is expected. In the sport sector, the deeply rooted culture of doping in the cycling sport during the 1990s offers an example of where the competition pressure and the need to be successful to meet the stakeholders\ interests resulted in the widespread use of performance enhancing substances by athletes. In another source, it was revealed that competitive pressures in the world of sport, the acceptance of corruption in particular cultures, the unlikelihood of being caught and being punished, and the complex bureaucracies contribute to corruption (Jennings 2011).

Another common theme in the secondary sources analysed in this study that contributes to corruption in sport is the three downward spirals of corruption existing in organisational dynamics. The first spiral relates to the spiral of diverging norms, wherein people who engage in corrupt practices may rationalize their actions by refusing to be accountable for corruption but instead opting to blame others (Den Nieuwenboer & Kaptein 2008). The habit of blaming others takes place at the organisational level, whereby both international and national organisations tend to defend their corrupt dealings as a means of  achieving greater economic value and that corruption is something unpleasant but necessary. Corrupt individuals often employ rationalisation tactics and are inclined to perceive their corrupt behaviour as not violating any values or rules. They argue that their behaviour does not cause individual harm. Moreover, they maintain that people who are not within the organisation are not in a position to criticise the behaviours and actions taking place within the organisation (Den Nieuwenboer & Kaptein 2008). The underlying observation is that corruption may be institutionalised within an organization and become the norm although inconsistent with society’s norms.

The second organisational dynamic that contributes to corruption is the spiral of pressures. A common theme in the sources analysed is that high performance pressures breeds corruption in that people are motivated to engage in any form of corruption with the hope that their performance will be increased (Den Nieuwenboer & Kaptein 2008). For instance, in the business world, putting pressure on employees to increase profit margins, market share and sales can place considerable stress on them. To validate these pressures, there is a high chance that organisations will provide employees with incentives which make them accept these performance levels (Ashforth et al. 2008). People might even feel that maintaining this performance requires them to violate rules. Thus, the pressure to perform well increases the pressure to engage in corrupt dealings. Moreover, novel employees joining the organisation are likely to witness this form of behaviour and consider it the norm in the organization.

The third organisational dynamic contributing to corruption is opportunity (Hardy, Loy & Booth 2009; Judge, McNatt & Xu 2011). A common theme expressed by various commentators is that the risk of being caught and punished as a result of engaging in corruption is insignificant to effectively deter prospective perpetrators from committing acts of corruption (Andreff & Szymanski 2006; Brooks, Aleem & Button 2013; Jennings 2006). Additionally, a sub-theme relating to opportunity is that corruption occurs when the expected returns are more than the expected values associated with the penalty.  When managers of an organisation are fail to acknowledge corruption and issue punishment to those exhibiting corrupt behaviour, or are themselves corrupt, then there is no underlying incentive for stopping the behaviour.

Each of these three organisational dynamics has been applied when studying corruption in the world of sport, offering a likely explanation as to why sport officials or athletes engage in corruption by looking at various case studies. The first spiral – the spiral of diverging norms – is evident in the 1919 Chicago Black Sox scandal, when players were paid by gamblers for fixing the outcome of the World Series (Brooks, Aleem & Button 2013). Later, it was found that the team’s owner had promised to pay the players huge bonuses. This promise did not materialise. The players stated that the unfulfilled promise was the reason why they behaved that way.

The spiral of pressures in sport is a dominant theme expressed in various sources (Andreff & Szymanski 2006; Connor & Mazanov 2010; Hardy, Loy & Booth 2009; Judge, McNatt & Xu 2011). Being at the peak of an athlete's  sporting career or just being successful provides vast opportunities to athletes, both off and on the field. However, when athlete is successful but relies on performance enhancing substances, the problem then becomes maintaining this level of success, which often compels athletes to continue relying on performance enhancing substances in order to maintain the success, resulting in a spiral of pressure.

The third organizational dynamic, spiral of opportunity, is applicable in the world of sport. A recurring theme in the various sources analysed is that sporting organisations are not recognising, acknowledging, or dealing with corruption in their ranks, which in turn offers athletes an opportunity to be corrupt (Heidenheimer & Johnston 2011; Judge, McNatt & Xu 2011). When corruption is tolerated, it becomes difficult punish the perpetrators. An example illustrating how the spiral of opportunity contributes to corruption in sport in the difficulties that Major League Baseball is having dealing with athletes who use steroids because this practice started in the 1970s and MLB did nothing to address the issue, and it has a reached a point where the culture of steroid use in the league is common (Brooks, Aleem & Button 2013).

4.2.4 Corruption is Entrenched in Society           

Another common theme found in the secondary sources analysed in this research is that corruption in sport can be attributed to the fact that the cheating culture has been allowed to develop to a point that it is now ingrained in society. This means that people tolerate cheating behaviour, believe that achieving goals require cheating, and that perceive every person as engaging in cheating (Boyle & Haynes 2009; Brooks, Aleem & Button 2013; Kochan & Goodyear 2011). When people and organisations perceive the country as corrupt, they are likely to be corrupt as well. Also, when members of an organisation are of the view that it is corrupt, they too are likely to show corrupt behaviour. In the world of sport, there is a widespread view that every athlete is cheating; thus, one is likely to cheat because others are also perceived to be cheating (Judge, McNatt & Xu 2011). Thus, as it relates to sport, Andreff and Szymanski (2006) opine that cheating is the norm, which makes it difficult to prevent people from engaging in such behaviours. This view is also echoed by others (Brooks, Aleem & Button 2013; Crittenden, Hanna & Peterson 2009; Kew 2003). Moreover, sport governing organisations tend to be ignorant of corruption; thus, their members also exhibit corrupt tendencies.

4.2.5 Incompetency and Inadequacy of Sport Governing Bodies

The incompetency and inadequacy of sport governing organisations is another theme that emerged as contributing to corruption in the sport business. The likelihood of being caught when engaging in corruption depends partly on the efficacy of the legal system where the corrupt activity is documented. The same line of thought can be replicated in industries, especially the sport sector. In this regard, various articles reviewed express the same concern that the chances of an official or an athlete being caught and disciplined depends significantly on the competence and adequacy of the sporting governance body as well as the policies adopted to monitor corruption (Maennig 2005; Gorse & Chadwick 2015; Masters 2015).  It has been suggested that the social stigma associated with committing acts that could be considered corrupt if caught, to a large extent, is dependent on the predominant expectations and norms of a particular culture (Maennig 2005). Moreover, regardless of the stigma, numerous authors are of the view that the risk placed on the athlete's reputation or illegal penalties are significantly low that payoffs are justified (Andreff & Szymanski 2006; Ashforth et al. 2008; Judge, McNatt & Xu 2011; Maennig 2005; Senior 2006). Thus, irrespective of the norms, corruption is largely perceived as something that is beneficial, especially in the world of sport.

When a behaviour considered corrupt is criminalised, a distinction is created between business activities considered legitimate or illegitimate. In the sport industry, the WADA was created in 1999 with the aim of protecting the integrity of sport. In order to execute its mandate, this anti-doping body established regulations and rules that offer a theoretical distinction between clean athletes and athletes who embark on cheating by using performance enhancing drugs. WADA also punishes athletes using diverse sanctions (Brooks, Aleem & Button 2013). The approach by WADA clearly indicates what is expected of athletes. Nevertheless, even the organisation’s global presence, manner in which sanctions are implemented differ significantly across countries. In the same way the economic justification of anti-corruption legislation safeguards companies from unfair competition in global and domestic markets, so is the role bestowed on  WADA in safeguarding the integrity of sporting contests as well as stakeholders’ interests (Brooks, Aleem & Button 2013). From this case, it can be argued that WADA is complacent when enforcing its mandate, which in turn breeds corruption in the form of doping.

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