AUTONOMY AND ACCOUNTABILITY
What is Autonomy?
Autonomy means a degree or level of freedom and discretion allowed to an organisation which includes not being controlled by others or by outside forces. Autonomy has to be understood in a twofold perspective: political autonomy and financial autonomy.
In the field of sport, independent voluntary sports organisations must have the right to establish autonomous decision-making processes within the law. This autonomy can mainly be jeopardised in two cases: within the sports field (e.g: a club by a federation/ a federation by an NOC) or within the relation between sports organisations and local, regional, national or supra-national governments.
Another important part of autonomy is the financial issue. In the field of sport, financial autonomy means that sports organisations have diversified sources of incomes which allow them to avoid a total dependency on one public or private actor.
The Olympic Charter provides a clear definition of the IOC's view on autonomy. The fundamental principle 5 of Olympism states that: "Recognising that sport occurs within the framework of society, sports organisations within the Olympic Movement shall have the rights and obligations of autonomy, which include freely establishing and controlling the rules of sport, determining the structure and governance of their organisations, enjoying the right of elections free from any outside influence and the responsibility for ensuring that principles of good governance be applied".
As sports and political bodies are not always following the same agenda, this concept of autonomous self-regulation for sports organisation has been endorsed by the EU, within its good governance principles for sport, as the best option to ensure that "effective governance structures are in place as this is more likely the result in better sports policy and minimise disputes or challenges both from within sport or outside".
What is Accountability?
For an organisation, the call for accountability mostly means that responsibilities, competencies and tasks have to be clearly assigned. It also includes the responsibility for money or other entrusted property
In concrete terms, accountability exists in a relationship where the performance of tasks or functions by an individual / body, are subject to another’s oversight, direction or request that they provide information or justification for their actions. The question of accountability is foremost a question of structure. An organisation has to be structured in such a way, that everybody can understand which tasks belong to whose area of responsibility.
According to the EU principles on good governance in sport, “sports bodies should establish clear levels of oversight and accountability for their various decision making bodies to ensure that powers are exercised appropriately and consistently with the objectives and functions of the relevant body”.
This objective is perfectly in line with the IOC universal principles of good governance which endorsed a system where “the executive body shall be accountable to the General Assembly, (…) the management shall be accountable to the executive body, (…) All employees shall be accountable to management”.
On the one hand, from an efficiency perspective, accountability is very important, because it prevents tasks from being completed twice. On the other hand, accountability enables control, because only if positions are connected to clear and openly communicated expectations then those who endue these positions can be held responsible for their actions.