Past, Present and Future of Play the Game

For the past ten years, Play the Game has been an active advocate in sports on an international, national and local level.

The organisation, established by the Danish Institute for Sport Studies, highlights the latest sport developments and innovative solutions to all things sports related. Their aim is to promote ethical sports governance, transparency and freedom of expression within the world of sports.

“I believe that the best service we can render if we really want sport to play a positive role in our daily lives, our communities and our world, is to do our best and establish some sort of truth,” said Play the Game’s International Director, Jens Sejer Andersen, in an essay on the fundamental ideals behind the conference.

The first Play the Game conference was held in 1997 at the Sport, Media and Civil Society in Denmark. 109 sports journalists and researchers from 34 countries discussed the issues of anti-doping in cycling, sports transition into entertainment, and sport's role in globalizations. During this conference, the Sports Intelligence Unit was also established. It serves as an independent network for individual sports journalists and researchers.

Through the conferences’ exposure to sports corruption and injustice, Play the Game has also had the ability to create a variety of standing foundations. The National Sports Governance Observer is a federation between sports groups and academics in eight European countries. The main goal of the group is to monitor and assess the need for good governance within the sports community.

Leading into their tenth conference, Play the Game has grown to almost 500 participants across five continents. With more than 40 sessions and 150 speakers, participants will discuss issues of sexual abuse, technology and sport, and the media’s role in sports coverage that are pressing in the sports community.  

“Play the Game is a great opportunity to network with industry professionals who are interested in governance,” said Geoff Schoenberg, a research fellow at the Center for Sports Research in Australia. “I believe we really need to promote governance in countries with developing sports systems as effective governance could spark the change needed in these countries.”

Although the organization has made strides to better sports governance, the question still remains of how much change has been made. Since the first conference in 1997, anti-doping has been a major theme for Play the Game and will remain a topic of discussion this year.

From the social and environmental setbacks following the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and the financial unrest prior to the Summer Olympics in London 2012, the local impact of hosting mega-events continues to raise questions.

Play the Game’s efforts for change in sports are pressing and continue to push for dialogue among athletes, coaches, researchers and journalists.   

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