A member of the British Parliament, John Nicolson, who sits on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, has joined leading athletes in expressing their concerns after it emerged that a firm of which World Athletics President, Lord Sebastine Coe, is executive chairman, CSM Sports and Entertainment, had been profiting from deals with the company that owns World Athletics’ commercial rights, reports telegraph.co.uk.
The situation caused particular concern because terms of the contract between World Athletics and Dentsu, the Japanese conglomerate, were renegotiated during Lord Coe’s presidency.
Nicolson was also surprised to learn that Lord Coe had not declared any of the lucrative deals struck between CSM and Dentsu as a potential conflict of interests for the sport’s ruling body. The Scottish National Party MP said that he would write to Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, seeking an inquiry as a matter of urgency.
“I am concerned by the findings of this investigation,” Nicolson said. “Given that Lord Coe was appointed to this role following lobbying by the UK Government, I will be writing to the Culture Secretary to request him to bring forward an investigation as a matter of urgency.”
Lord Coe, who replaced Lamine Diack as World Athletics president in 2015, has insisted that his position as CSM executive chairman does not conflict with his role at the head of the sport’s ruling body and has not prevented him from working objectively for the good of athletics.
Lord Coe also stressed that CSM had never solicited work directly from World Athletics, just as he promised when he became president in 2015. The former Olympic champion added that he had always abided by the federation’s strict code of compliance around conflicts of interests.
By the terms of rule 3.1.2 in the code’s guidelines around “conflicts, disclosures and gift rules”, staff are required to disclose all “significant interests whether or not considered to be in actual or potential conflict with the interests” of the federation.
An example of such a potential conflict is defined as “a position as an employee … [of] an entity or organisation which is in a contractual relationship … with any entity, organisation or person likely to benefit from the assistance of the IAAF”.
The code also says that staff are required to declare any shareholding of at least five per cent or “any other position or financial investment amounting to a material influence over any entity or organisation”.
A spokesperson said Lord Coe had not declared any of the deals struck between Dentsu and CSM, or any of the business advantages that CSM has enjoyed as a result of the relationship, because he “is not involved in the day-to-day running” of the business and this meant they were “not of material relevance” to the federation.
Lord Coe has also not declared his shareholding in CSM’s parent company Chime HoldCo Ltd. A spokesperson said this was because it represented a “negligible percentage” and therefore was not a breach of the federation’s code. The percentage was not disclosed. Chime was valued at £374 million when sold to Providence Equity and WPP, the advertising giant, in a joint-takeover in 2015.
Nicolson said: “Someone in Lord Coe’s position cannot be making objective decisions – or offering objective advice – for the good of athletics where he holds personal financial interests.”