Former CEO of the Football Association (FA), Alex Horne Speaks With Andrew Whelan

Andrew: After a long and successful career in the sports sector, how will you be helping Kroll’s clients?

Alex: Spending more than a decade at the FA has provided me with a very clear picture of the challenges faced by clubs and organisations when undertaking financial and commercial transactions, investigating internal issues, and managing reputational concerns.

Sports organisations are becoming subject to increased regulatory and public scrutiny. The amount of money entering the sports sector from global sources continues to rise, and that reality goes hand in hand with a growing importance of preserving brand integrity by organisations and athletes alike. On a daily basis, they must carefully balance promoting their profiles with safeguarding their reputations.

There are three key areas where I think Kroll’s experience and expertise adds value to sports clients – namely due diligence, investigations, and digital protection.

Andrew: What kind of common pre-transaction challenges are sports organisations experiencing?

Alex: Sports organisations are conducting more and more business with counterparties across the globe. They need to be cognizant of the reputational risks involved in transactions with prospective investors and commercial partners. Understanding people’s backgrounds and connections can also play an essential role in highlighting risks associated with the recruitment of key personnel and athletes.

Crucially, Kroll’s global network of offices enables them to work on-the-ground and provide valuable insight into individuals and organisations around the world, including China and the Middle East.
Andrew: What other types of internal issues are they facing?

Alex: Premier League and international football clubs, Formula One racing teams, investors, players associations, international leagues, governing bodies, regulators, and athletes are all dealing with unforeseen challenges on a regular basis. These include shareholder disputes, IP theft, fraud and corruption, and leaks of information. Kroll’s investigators can help them understand their position and how best to protect their commercial assets and reputational integrity.

Andrew: What issues are in play in terms of digital protection?

Alex: Athletes, high-profile personalities, and organisations within the sports industry invest a lot of time and resources promoting their profiles and brands online. The global, multilingual, and indelible nature of today’s 24-hour digital world, and the countless “connections” that are made, all heighten risks to individuals and brands when every action is scrutinised, whether on social media, blogs, or elsewhere.

For instance, the availability and accessibility of personal information online has contributed to an upward trend in the exploitation of prominent athletes for nefarious means, including fraud, extortion, intimidation, or blackmail. Similarly, athletes or players being considered by clubs may have issues in their personal social media history, or be closely associated with unsavoury individuals/organisations/matters that could potentially cause reputational damage.

Kroll’s investigators are experts in identifying sensitive information that exists in the public domain. Moreover, on a daily basis, our teams encounter the very latest methods used by criminals who exploit this information for unlawful purposes. We can assess the social media activity and the close environs of individuals for evidence of suspected criminal or inappropriate behaviour. Kroll also uses specialist tools to scour the web (including the dark web), monitoring all third party references to an individual 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This includes monitoring social media profiles of members of the public, blogs, forums, and other areas of the web for any references that could pose a reputational or even physical threat.

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