Governance within the Olympic movement

In 2017 a review of the IOC governance structures and processes was carried out by the International Institute for Management Development (IMD). IMD made 22 recommendations to improve structures and processes for governance, and 11 recommendations for longer-term transformation of governance practices, noting that these would support the IOC on its path to continued governance improvement. In addition, seven dilemmas that the IOC will need to face in the next ten years were identified; these were seen as measures to ensure its governance practices keep pace with its evolving role and increasing societal expectation (IMD, 2017). Within the primary recommendations there was a call for a ‘professionally managed succession process’, including a need to articulate targets for gender and age diversity at the Executive Board level. One of the dilemmas listed was a review of the member nomination process (for a detailed analysis of the IOC members’ nomination and election processes, see the contribution of Krieger and Wassong in this volume). In July 2018 the IOC reiterated their commitment to the implementation of recommendation 27 of the Olympic Agenda 2020, related to the basic principles of good governance across the Olympic movement and to the implementation of the People Management 2020 programme, which is intended to improve gender equity and succession planning.1

Although board renewal is an increasingly discussed concept within the Olympic movement, there is limited evidence of it in practice, particularly through formally required board turnover. In an initial review of the governance practices of national federations in eight countries, Geeraert (2017) established that only 44% of the federations surveyed had term limits, which are a means of encouraging turnover. There was a mixed picture across the nations involved in the research with 100% of the federations in the Netherlands and Poland employing term limits, while no federation in Denmark and Montenegro did so. At the international level, only 20 of the 206 National Olympic Committees had renewal mechanisms enshrined in their constitutions, eight out of 35 International Federations had term limits and only six had rules set out for age limits for board members (Geeraert, Alm and Groll, 2014). The International Paralympic Committee has a term limit of four years, but no limit to the number of terms a person can serve on their Sport Technical Committees. In a study of United Kingdom National Governing Bodies (NGB), Walters, Tacon, and Trenberth (2011) found that only 27% of survey respondents had a strategy for board renewal, including initiatives for succession planning. Their study also found that only about half of the NGBs surveyed had specific limits on the total number of and/or consecutive terms for board members and, namely, for board chairs. By 2017, a follow up survey of sport boards found that 41% of boards reported that they still did not have a succession plan in place (Birkbeck, 2018). A lack of succession planning in sport organisations has also been identified in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand (Taylor, Doherty and McGraw, 2015).

Board renewal via the use of limited terms

Concerns around board renewal and tenure have, in the Olympic World, coalesced around the concept of 'limited terms’, where an individual’s time on the board is restricted to a maximum number of years (e.g. Council of Europe, 2012; Geeraert, 2015). For example, the Governing Council of the International Paralympic Council (IPC) is elected every four years and members can serve a maximum of three terms. The IOC has a mixture of practices in relation to term limits. In illustration, IOC members are elected for a period of eight years but their mandate can be renewed. The IOC has also chosen to manage board renewal by establishing an age limit of 70 years of age, except for members co-opted between 1966 and 1999, for whom the age limit is 80 years. The Session may, on the proposal of the IOC Executive Board, extend the age limit for any IOC member for a period of a four year maximum. In recent years some world governing bodies, including the International Association of Athletics Federations, International Cycling Union (UCI), and football, i.e. FIFA, have all introduced maximum limits of three terms of four years. The International Volleyball Federation also has a 12-year limit, but with a first term of eight years and a second term of four years. The International Swimming Federation, however, relaxed their limits from two to three terms alongside a deletion of age limit rules in 2015 in order to allow the current President Julio Maglione, from Uruguay, to stand for another term in office. Many other Olympic-related organisations, including National Olympic Committees and Continental Associations, have no such limits.

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