An Agency Theory Perspective on Corruption in Sport: The Case of the International Olympic Committee

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Daniel S. Mason University of Alberta

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Lucie Thibault Brock University

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Laura Misener University of Alberta

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This article discusses agency problems in sport organizations in which the same individuals are involved in both the management and control of decision making. We focus our analysis on the case of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) by reviewing the behavior of selected IOC members with regard to the bidding process for the Olympic Games and the resulting reform attempts made by the IOC in an effort to address issues of corruption. After a review of examples of corrupt behavior on the part of IOC members, agency theory is introduced to discuss IOC reforms and provide some suggestions for future reform. We propose incorporating other stakeholders (in addition to the IOC members), such as corporate partners, media conglomerates, and other members of the Olympic movement (e.g., athletes, coaches, officials), into management and control functions. More specifi cally, it is suggested that these stakeholders comprise a board that oversees the operations of the IOC (similar to the IOC’s current executive committee) and be given the ability to remove and/or sanction IOC members who act self-interestedly to the detriment of the Olympic movement. Thus, by delegating the control function of decision making to a board and the management function to internal agents, greater accountability for all organization members can be achieved.

Mason and Misener are with the Faculty of Education and Recreation, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, T6G 2H9; Thibault is with the Department of Sport Management, Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario, L2S 3A1.

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