With the globalisation of the sector, sports integrity
has come to resemble other management challenges,
like labour relations, corporate social responsibility,
and environmental sustainability, which straddle
national boundaries and lie at the meeting point
of ethics, politics, the public interest, and com-
merce – a grey zone between government regula-
tion and private autonomy. The importance of these
issues for the reputational and financial well being of
organisations affiliated with sport grows with public
engagement. Consequently, it becomes vital for
organisations to conduct themselves in these areas
in ways the public perceives as acceptable.
However, the stakeholders involved in regulating
such matters –multinational enterprises, civil-soci-
ety groups, NGOs, and even sports federations – are
neither normally subject to any one country’s legal
framework, nor do they have the legitimacy of
national governments. Consequently, their actions
can be open to question, and they seldom possess
the organisational machinery or expertise either
to establish uniform industry regulations or codes
of conduct or to ensure compliance. One way to
establish legitimacy is to bring together relevant
stakeholders to design and implement integrity
management programmes together in multi-stake-
holder initiatives. These can take a number of
different forms, but for sports the most relevant are
monitoring organisations.
One of the most successful and influential examples
is the Fair Labor Association (FLA), a multi-stake-
holder initiative that brings together CSR-committed
companies, universities, and civil society represen-
tatives to improve working conditions in sports
footwear and clothing factories around the world.
FLA members have to adopt a Workplace Code of
Conduct, based on International Labour Organization
standards, conform to a practical monitoring, reme-
diation and verification process to achieve those
standards, and inform consumers about company
participation and compliance.
The FLA and its monitoring methodology emerged
from a multi-partite negotiation convened by
President Clinton in 1996, after a number of cases
in which global clothing and shoe manufacturers
were found to be operating sweatshops in South-
east Asia. Clinton challenged the industry, trade
unions, NGOs, and government to guarantee that
products be manufactured under acceptable labour
conditions. The Apparel Industry Partnership, a new
coalition of companies, took up the challenge and
helped to create the FLA to regulate the industry
worldwide in 1999.
Since its founding, the FLA has achieved legitimacy
by developing a transparent and inclusive audit
methodology. Central to this was the use of inter-
national and local dialogue with key stakeholders
to define the compliance issues to be addressed,
and remedial strategies to be adopted. It has also
continued to strengthen its structure, broaden its
oversight, and increase its reach. Today, the FLA
has 32 leading brands affiliated as participating
companies and 12 participating suppliers. These
operate over 4,000 factories employing more than
four million workers worldwide, primarily in the
footwear and clothing sector.
i A. van Heerdenn and S. Bosson, “Private Actors and
Public Goods - A new role for the Multinational Enter-
prises in the global supply chain”,
Revue management et
2009/3, 23, pp. 36-46.
Creating Legitimate Regulation across Boundaries:
The Fair Labor Association:
GUARDING THE GAME Preserving the Integrity of Sport
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