Compliance & Soccer: Soul Mates?



While watching the final World Cup game yesterday, I kept thinking of how it could be compared to compliance. With Roy’s recent posts about comparing the compliance profession to surgeons and firemen, I was inspired to do the same with soccer. As I watched, I thought about how the teams worked and how each player has a specific role. I googled to see the exact descriptions of what each position does; still, nothing fit. Then it hit me: Compliance professionals aren’t the players, they’re the referees.

Unlike the players, who measure their success in goals, the referees measure their success in fairness. If you look at the broader scope, the duties of the referees and the duties of a compliance officer are very similar. So similar, in fact, that if you replace the compliance-specific words with soccer-specific words in the 7 Elements, you can see just how much they overlap:

1. Establish Policies, Procedures and Controls
2. Exercise Effective Compliance and Ethics Match Oversight
3. Exercise Due Diligence to Avoid Delegation of Authority to Unethical Individuals
4. Communicate and Educate Employees Players on Compliance and Ethics Programs the Rules of the Game
5. Monitor and Audit Compliance and Ethics Programs Game Rules and Enforcement for Effectiveness
6. Ensure Consistent Enforcement and Discipline of Violations
7. Respond Appropriately to Incidents and Take Steps to Prevent Future Incidents

Not only that, the personal traits needed of referees are strikingly similar to those of successful compliance officers as well. Former FIFA referee, Thomas Bobadilla, describes the characteristics of successful referees (emphasis is his):

“Regardless of the level of officiating referees need to be good at connecting with people so they can be seen by players and coaches as a partner who will help have a safe, fair and fun game; fit to be able to keep up with play and have a good chance of influencing good behavior with presence; ability to read the game in terms of technical, physical and mental skills of the players in order to apply the appropriate level of foul recognition; and the wits to help resolve conflict before it becomes ugly to the game.”

Think of how all of these traits would be helpful for a compliance officer to be successful at their jobs, and how everyone on both teams can benefit from a strong, independent compliance function.


  1. …. and then there are the “FIFA elites” could this equate to a Board of Governors who are beyond the scope and “reach” of the referees?

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