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Maud de Boer-Buquicchio

Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe

 

Parliamentary Assembly

Committee on Culture, Science and Education

Hearing on good governance and ethics in sport
Paris, 6 December 2011

 

“The Council of Europe and challenges in sport policies”

 
 
Dear Members of the Parliamentary Assembly,
 
Last week, I opened in Strasbourg a Conference organised by Council of Europe staff to mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. This year, we welcomed two paralympic medallists, Béatrice Hess and Raphaël Voltz, who spoke to us about their experiences.  
 
For me, their stories exemplify everything which is best about sport: the determination to give the best of oneself, to overcome obstacles, and to meet together with others to share a passion.   In particular, they both spoke of the persons who had supported them in their careers – their coaches, sporting associations and fellow sportspersons from across the world – and of their wish to give something back to other young sportspersons through involvement in the voluntary sector.
 
This is what sport should be about – human endeavour, shared values and an ethical approach which recognises the role of sport in society. 
 
Unfortunately this vision of sport is sometimes threatened.
 
I am all the more pleased therefore to continue here today our fruitful work together to protect the integrity of sport, and I would like to pay tribute to the Parliamentary Assembly and in particular to your Rapporteur Mr Rochebloine for having put this issue high on your agenda.
 
Since the preparation of the Council of Europe’s Code of Sports Ethics in 1992, the sports world and its practices have evolved rapidly. With this evolution, the challenges in ensuring the respect of good ethics are all the more pressing. 
There is now an awareness at the political level and within sport itself of the problems relating to human rights and the rule of law which are damaging the sporting world and everything that this represents in the eyes of the public. 
 
Last June the Parliamentary Assembly organised a hearing on the issue of match-fixing, in which I had the pleasure of participating, and work in this area is progressing well.   Your Rapporteur, Anne Brasseur, is currently finalising her report to the Parliamentary Assembly on this topic. From the intergovernmental side, in September the Committee of Ministers adopted a Recommendation (CM/Rec(2011)10) on the promotion of the integrity of sport against manipulation of results, notably match-fixing.  On the basis of this Recommendation, the EPAS is currently working on a feasibility study that will be presented at the next Ministerial meeting in Belgrade (15 March 2012).   All the relevant stakeholders, including governments, sport movements, European institutions and betting operators are involved in this process, which is a clear sign of the transversal co-operation and willingness to find responses.
 
Today, you will focus on three issues, raised in Mr Rochebloine’s report, namely:
Ø     the “financial fair-play rule”,
Ø     the protection of young sportsmen and women
Ø     and thirdly, corruption within sport federations and organisations.
 
These problems affect all sports, though they are most visibly-raised as regards football, due to the huge global popularity and financial stakes involved in this sport today.   
 
Let me say a few words on each of these topics.
 
1. “Financial fair-play"
 
The concept of financial fair-play, developed by UEFA in the context of European football clubs, is especially relevant in a time of economic crisis.  The sums involved in football are now phenomenal, and the effects are only too evident in the vicious circle of bidding wars leading to almost unbelievable salaries to top footballers, spiralling debts for clubs, and a growing monopolisation of the professional sport by a small group of clubs at the top who have the means to continue raising the stakes.
 
It is clear that sport as a whole can only eventually suffer from this trend. Quite apart from the effects on the sportspersons themselves, who one might say are treated as financial assets rather than as athletes, the risks to the rule of law in this high-capital market are numerous: the creation of suspicious capital or even money laundering and the vulnerability of clubs to bankruptcy which provides a fertile ground for scourges such as doping, match-fixing and exploitation of athletes.  
 
The growing gap between the commercialisation of sport and sport as a human endeavour and entertainment is evident and must not be ignored. We need to keep in mind the basics and remember why human beings have always practised and watched sporting events. 
We must bring the governance of sport back to a level where athletes, clubs and countries can compete on a more equitable and sustainable level.   
 
The adoption of the principle of financial fair play, backed up by appropriate sanctions from the sports movement itself, would be a good basis for redressing the balance, and should certainly be encouraged and supported by the authorities. 
 
2. The protection of young sportsmen and women
 
I would now like to turn to the issue of the migration of young sportsmen and women - which is not necessarily in the spotlight of the media, but which can bring real threats to fundamental human rights. This topic is all the more pertinent to us in the Council of Europe today, since it intersects two of our priority areas – children’s rights, and the protection of human rights in the field of migration.  
 
We know that more and more sportsmen and women migrate from the countries of the South to Europe, or even within Europe, to make a career in sport.  The lucky few achieve success and professional status, but all too many find themselves in a very vulnerable situation and end up in a black hole of illegality, with all the risks that entails: poverty, trafficking and exploitation.  
 
Of particular concern to me is the involvement of children and teenagers in such migrations, and the dangers this poses to their physical and psychological well-being. I am concerned that their fundamental rights are being put aside by the lure of future success and profits, and that they may themselves not be in a position to make informed decisions and choices, given the stakes involved and pressure from their agents but also from families.
 
The commercialisation of sport means that there are potentially high profits to be made for those acting as intermediaries, and the temptation is there to put profit above the good of the young persons involved or the good of the sport as a whole.   
 
Like many migration-related issues, this is a complex question.   Our response can only be developed by involving all stakeholders – governments from countries of origin and destination countries, the sports movement, clubs and sports agents.  
 
A draft Recommendation on issues related to migration has now been prepared by EPAS, taking this approach, and this hearing today is a good sign of parliamentary support for work in this area. I am expecting that the recommendation will be finalised during the next Conference of Sports Ministers in Belgrade in March, for submission to our Committee of Ministers.  
 
3. Corruption within sports federations and organisations
 
Finally, let me to turn now to the third issue under discussion today: corruption within the sport movement. 
 
Corruption within sports federations and organisation is a known phenomenon, and a specific report on this topic was presented to the Conference of Sports Ministers held in Athens in 2008.   I would like to mention also the work carried out by Andrew Jennings, who is here today, and his call for transparent and non-corrupt sport organisations.
 
The question of corruption in sport is not explicitly covered by the Council of Europe Convention against Corruption, adopted in 1999.  We need to see therefore how best to cover this question.
 
In its recent work to defend integrity in sport, the Council of Europe has focused on one specific type of corruption, namely the manipulation of sports results, about which I have spoken earlier.  Nevertheless, the more general issue of corruption within sports organisations remains on the agenda. The authors of the feasibility study on a possible convention on match-fixing could also consider whether this convention or another instrument could also include the other types of corruption in sport. 
 
Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
Sport should demonstrate the best of what humankind is capable. It should demonstrate exemplarity, and serve as an inspiration. This is all the more true in times of crisis, when we need more than ever to hold fast to our common values and our sense of community and solidarity.  
 
In all the areas of sports ethics, we need to work together, between governmental authorities, parliamentary representatives, the sports world and civil society. This is not an area in which governments can impose legal rules and punitive measures without the involvement of the sporting world itself.
 
In this way, we can ensure that the autonomy of the sports movement is safeguarded, within a framework of good governance which has been endorsed by the different stakeholders.  
 
Dear friends,
 
Last week we celebrated together with Council of Europe Goodwill Ambassador, Tomi Ungerer, his eightieth birthday. Tomi has the gift for showing us the essential with a few brushstrokes. Let me leave you with a few of his words:
 
“La vie est un sport.  Et si on veut bien le jouer, il faut du fair play ».
 
Let us remember that fair play in sport is not just for the game itself; it is a lesson for fair play in life.
 
Thank you for your attention.