The Independent Mali Basketball Abuse Investigation – Important Lessons For International Sport
On 10 June 2021, a New York Times reporter sent an email to the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), indicating that the New York Times was in the process of investigating allegations of systemic sexual abuse of female basketball players in Mali. The investigation was based on information received from Human Rights Watch and others, who claimed to have spoken to multiple victims of alleged sexual abuse by certain named Mali Basketball Federation (FMBB) officials.
On the same day, i.e., 10 June 2021, the FIBA Secretary General contacted the FIBA Independent Integrity Officer, Professor Richard H. McLaren, O.C., requesting that he proceed with an investigation into the allegations and provide an independent report to FIBA upon its completion. The report of Professor McLaren and his investigative team was published on 14 September 2021 (FIBA Report), and it contains damning findings against the FMBB and various individuals connected to it.
The content of the FIBA Report highlights both the importance of addressing the risks of abuse in sport, and the significant challenges in doing so effectively - particularly from the viewpoint of an international federation. While there are a great many things that can be taken from the FIBA Report, this article identifies a few specific points that should be of interest to international federations and might be helpful in informing their approach to promoting and embedding safe sport. Specifically, it looks at:
- Universal themes relating to abuse in sport
- The need for a proactive approach and monitoring in respect of national federations
- ‘Safeguarding’ v ‘disciplinary’ regulation
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I am an experienced and practically minded sports lawyer, working as a partner in our Media, Entertainment & Sports Group at Bird & Bird in London.
Having trained and qualified at a major city firm, I began my career as a sports lawyer in 2011, working as an in-house lawyer at The FA. In 2014 I went back into private practice with a highly respected boutique sports law firm, before joining the market-leading practice here at Bird & Bird in 2016.
As a consequence, I have experience of advising a wide range of sports organisations (including national and international governing bodies, event organisers, clubs, and rights-holders) across a wide variety of legal issues. I have developed a deep understanding of the wider practical challenges faced by such organisations.