New Charity Ethical Principles – worth a look for sport

Posted by Rowland Jack on 23 January 2019

At first glance, the Charity Ethical Principles published on 18 January 2019 by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) in the UK are not only welcome and commendably short, but also look to be highly relevant for the sport sector.

The principles, produced following a significant consultation exercise, are intended to provide a framework “for the ethical execution of charitable purpose” for charities of any size or type.

It is anticipated that the principles should complement governance frameworks and existing codes of conduct rather than substituting for them.

The principles are:

• Beneficiaries first

• Integrity

• Openness

• Right to be safe

Each principle is followed by a short explanatory note and a few sentences of guidance on how charities should act in order to “uphold” the principle.

For example, part of the explanation of “Beneficiaries first” states that the interests of the charity’s beneficiaries and the causes they work for “should be at the heart of everything charities and those who work and volunteer in and with them do.”

On the theme of “Integrity”, charities are advised to act to ensure “their resources are managed responsibly and their funds are properly protected, applied and accounted for, including policies and procedures to combat the risk of bribery, fraud, corruption and extortion.”


Relevant to sport, and a useful reminder

While the content of the Charity Ethical Principles will be broadly familiar to observers of recent developments in the governance field, a couple of specific points do serve as useful reminders on topics that may not feature as prominently as they should in guides to governance and behaviour in sport.

Firstly, the principles explicitly highlight the role of volunteers, who are every bit as vital to the work of sports organisations as they are to charities. For example, in relation to the “Right to be safe”, the document states that each person “who volunteers with, works for or comes into contact with a charity should be treated with dignity and respect, and feel that they are in a safe and supportive environment.”

Secondly, it is worth considering how the concept of “Beneficiaries first” could be applied to sport. Traditional sports federations usually have as one of their core objectives the development of the sport. Participants, potential participants and those involved in the sport in other roles, such as fans and officials, are relevant here, whether or not they are actually linked to a formal organisation in the structure of the sport.

Putting the interests of the beneficiaries at the heart of everything sports organisations do is a simple idea which many would support but it could well be difficult to achieve in practice, considering the competing interests which are often at stake.

The NCVO deserves credit for a very good piece of work as the Charity Ethical Principles have the potential to play a useful role in the governance of the sector. It is to be hoped that the sports world will also pay heed.

New Charity Ethical Principles – worth a look for sport

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