We have been hearing and reading a lot recently about bribery and corruption in sport - not least regarding the 'beautiful game' and the corruption allegations in FIFA - and, unfortunately, this is a subject which will continue to dominate the news stories and agenda in the foreseeable future.
On 1 July, a new Act, the Bribery Act 2010, came into force in the United Kingdom, which is wide reaching and tough and will have important implications for the world of sport, especially in relation to the provision of corporate hospitality. The new UK Act is considered to go far beyond the requirements of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices, which, itself, is regarded as a formidable measure designed to eradicate corruption from business and, to use the well-known sporting metaphor/cliche, provide 'a level playing field'.
Like the US Act, the new UK Act is extra-territorial in its reach and those involved in the promotion and commercialisation of sport at the international level need to bear its provisions in mind, when developing, drafting and executing various sports marketing corporate arrangements and agreements. (1)
The new UK Act creates a new corporate offence, which can only be countered by the commercial organisation concerned (as defined in the Act) showing that it has 'adequate procedures' in place to avoid the kind of bribery foreseen by the Act. Clearly, those commercial organisations that already have such policy and operating procedures in place need to review them and ensure that they come up to the expectations and stringent requirements of the new UK Act. A fortiori, those that do not have any at all had better get their act together and introduce such procedures pretty quickly. Equally, the staff of such organisations need to be made fully aware of them and participate regularly in compliance training programmes. Such programmes also need to be fully documented.
The Act has teeth: breaches of its provisions can lead to fines and/or imprisonment of up to ten years being imposed on offenders. In fact, these penalties are comparable with the heavy fines imposed by the US Authorities under the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
The UK Ministry of Justice has issued some very helpful guidelines on the interpretation and application of the new measures. These are available by logging onto: www. …