Lesson from Cookson v McQuaid - boring rules matter

Posted by Rowland Jack on 29 September 2013

(Word cloud of news coverage of UCI election on 27-8 September 2013)

Brian Cookson was elected as UCI President on 27 September at the end of a bitter campaign, ousting the incumbent Pat McQuaid. While intense debate was always likely given the doping and other issues to have afflicted the sport in recent times, the whole process was made much worse by rules which left too much room for interpretation.

The Irish and Swiss cycling federations both initially nominated Pat McQuaid then reversed the decisions. Subsequently, the validity of new nominations by the federations from Morocco and Thailand was questioned right up until the election took place. Some of Brian Cookson’s supporters saw that the most certain way to ensure the success of their candidate would be to have his opponent ruled ineligible. Inevitably, this detracted attention from the important debate about the future of the sport.

That the rules governing elections in an International Federation are inadequate should come as no surprise – there will always be more interesting and more immediate concerns for the organisation to consider. In addition, any rule changes affecting elections may threaten the positions of those in authority at that time, which reduces the likelihood that these measures will be prioritised.

The UCI is by no means alone in being held back by statutes which are not fit for purpose. Since 2011 several organisations and individuals have published papers on FIFA including recommendations for changes to the statutes. No doubt many other International Federations could also benefit from a thorough review.

The Basic Indicators for Better Governance in International Sport (BIBGIS) assessment tool developed by Professor Jean-Loup Chappelet and Michaël Mrkonjic also highlights some specific issues to resolve which might result in a smoother electoral process in future for the UCI.

Taking into account these and analysis of FIFA by Mark Pieth’s Independent Governance Committee, Roger Pielke and Transparency International, here is a non-exhaustive list of aspects of the UCI statutes to consider reviewing (purely in relation to the electoral process):

- Process and timing for nominations of candidates

- Sources of funding for election campaigns and controls to prevent/protect the incumbent President from using federation resources to support their campaign

- Separation of powers between elected officials and the staff

- Transparency of remuneration of senior officials

- Limits to terms of office

- Independent member(s) on the executive body

Now that the election is over, let us hope that stakeholders in the sport will work together to return cycling to the prominent and respected position it deserves.

Meanwhile, other sports should take note that boring rules matter.

Lesson from Cookson v McQuaid - boring rules matter

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