Liam Morgan

The New Year offers people across the world the chance to wipe the slate clean and make a fresh start.

It gives them the opportunity to banish the memories of the previous 12 months and look into the future rather than dwelling on the past, and the mantra strongly resonates with sport as a whole, which will be looking to move on from a tumultuous year, the likes of which has never been seen before.

Few could quite have predicted what we witnessed in 2015, with corruption and doping scandals largely overshadowing what we witnessed on the field of play. Never before has the word corruption become so intertwined with the everyday lexicon of sport.

The powerbrokers in the respective governing bodies in athletics and football, two of the world’s most popular sports, were supposedly the principle culprits, with alleged state-supported doping in Russia also grabbing the headlines for the wrong reasons.

It proved to be a year none of us will forget in a hurry and it came to an end in fitting fashion as FIFA President Sepp Blatter and UEFA chief Michel Platini gave us all an early Christmas gift when they were both banned for eight years for breaches surrounding a "disloyal payment" of CHF 2 million (£1.3 million/$2.1 million/€1.8 million) made by the Swiss to the former France captain in 2011.

The pair were two of the main villains of the piece in 2015 along with former International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) President Lamine Diack, who has now been accused of “active” rather than “passive” corruption for his alleged role in covering up systemic doping from Russian athletes.

Even Diack’s replacement Sebastian Coe has been caught in the crossfire over his association with sportswear giant Nike, before his chief of staff and IAAF deputy secretary general Nick Davies temporarily stood down while the Ethics Commission investigates allegations he suggested delaying naming Russian athletes who had tested positive for banned performance-enhancing drugs.

Banned FIFA President Sepp Blatter has been one of the main villains in 2015
Banned FIFA President Sepp Blatter has been one of the main villains in 2015 ©Getty Images

While the scandals in both sports have dragged the reputation of sport to its knees, piercing the heart of something we all know and love, the introduction of criminal authorities should be seen as a positive step on the long road to redemption.

It is important this momentum continues in a bid to rid sport of seemingly deep-rooted corruption as we look forward to a fascinating year of sport ahead, with the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro the centrepiece to an intriguing upcoming 12 months.

The Games in the Brazilian city, the first to ever be held in South America, will bring the Olympic Movement together at a time when the very entity every member cherishes is on the rocks.

Those who are due to compete in the event would scarcely believe what has occurred in the past year and they will all surely be asked questions on their stance on cheating and whether they themselves have strayed into the murky world of doping.

Aside from the bribery, the greed and despicable behaviour of a select power-hungry group, one of the worst aspects of the crisis surrounding athletics in particular - with weightlifting also clearly struggling with doping problems - is that what we have seen in 2015 has caused a great many of us to question the validity of sporting achievements.

Every time an athlete wins a medal or a race in a quick time, the first thought is not one of praise but one of suspicion. This case is perfectly illustrated by Britain’s Mo Farah, who wrote his name into the history books once again by sealing the 5,000 and 10,000 metres triple double at the World Athletics Championships in Beijing in August.

Due to his links with controversial coach Alberto Salazar, Farah has never quite been able to escape accusations of wrongdoing and as a result, even the British public seem to have a certain apathy towards the Somalian-born athlete, who received just 31,311 of the more than a million votes cast for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award last month.

Former IAAF President Lamine Diack is also under criminal investigation for his part in corruption within athletics
Former IAAF President Lamine Diack is also under criminal investigation for his part in corruption within athletics ©Getty Images

Farah is one of the 10,500-odd athletes expected to descend on Rio for the Olympic Games who have the chance to make us all forget, even ever so slightly, the scandals that have engulfed sport in 2015 by putting on a spectacular show bereft of doping and cheating.

The same could be said of the footballers from the 24 competing nations at Euro 2016 in France. While the reputation of their sport remains tarnished and tainted by the alleged actions of Blatter and co, the eagerly-anticipated competition is the perfect platform to get us all talking about what makes football the beautiful game again. Such talk has been rare of late.

Euro 2016 will be held a few months after Blatter’s successor is due to be appointed at the Extraordinary Elective Congress in Zurich on February 26, a key off-the-field event in 2016 which is sure to shape the future of world football’s governing body.

Yet the absence of an outstanding candidate in the five-strong race for the FIFA hot-seat may prove an obstacle to turning the fortunes of the organisation around, although Asian Football Confederation President Sheikh Salman bin Al-Khalifa, UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino, Jordanian Football Association chief Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, Frenchman Jérôme Champagne and South African businessman Tokyo Sexwale will all feel they are capable of doing just that.

While they may harbour hopes of being FIFA’s saviour, they will know it is not a quick fix, as will the likes of Coe.

IOC President Thomas Bach offered a strong New Year's message in which he vowed to continue to fight against corruption in sport
IOC President Thomas Bach offered a strong New Year's message in which he vowed to continue to fight against corruption in sport ©Getty Images

Both the Briton and the newly-elected head of world football’s governing body will be two pivotal cogs in the anti-corruption machine in 2016, along with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, who has already demonstrated his willingness to tackle the issue with the implementation of several good governance measures within the organisation.

It is a responsibility the German is taking seriously, offering a strongly-worded New Year’s message in which he vowed to continue the fight against doping and wrongdoing in sporting governing bodies.

“When Olympic Agenda 2020 was adopted one year ago, my message to everyone in the Olympic Movement was change or be changed,” Bach said.

“One just needs to look at the events over the last 12 months to realise that this message is even more urgent today to safeguard the credibility of sports organisations and to protect clean athletes.

“Undoubtedly, recent developments in some sports cast a shadow across the whole world of sport.

“As the role and relevance of sport in society continues to grow, so do the expectations of the public vis-à-vis the integrity of athletes and sports organisations.

“It is our shared responsibility in the Olympic Movement to provide new answers to new questions.”

Here’s hoping the sporting powerbrokers have the right answers in 2016.