Statement on the Judgment of the General Court – International Skating Union Eligibility Rules

Statement on the Judgment of the General Court – International Skating Union Eligibility Rules

EU Athletes welcomes the General Court Judgment in Case T-93/18 International Skating Union v Commission announced yesterday. The judgment confirms that the rules of the International Skating Union (ISU) providing for severe penalties for athletes taking part in speed skating events not recognised by it are contrary to EU competition law.

The decision is the result of a courageous decision of two Dutch speed skaters, Mark Tuitert and Niels Kerstholt to challenge their sports restrictive and unfair rules. The General Court upheld that, by depriving the athletes of a chance to compete in commercial events by imposing unfair and disproportionately punitive rules, the ISU abused its dominant market position to pursue its own commercial interests to the detriment of athletes and organizers of competing events.

Paulina Tomczyk, EU Athletes General Secretary said: ‘The General Court’s decision reaffirms that the sport organizations engaging in an economic activity have to operate within the EU law. The ruling provides welcomed clarity of the limits of the concept of the ‘Specificity of sport’. It’s an important step towards making the global sport governance fairer and making sure it respects athletes’ rights and interests.’

EU Athletes has been supporting Mark and Niels since their initial complaint back in 2014. We have represented the interest of the European athletes that are or might be affected by similar unfair rules imposed by their sport governing bodies. The skaters and EU Athletes intervened in the proceeding at the General Court in support of the Commission.

We would like to express our thanks to Bas Braeken and Jade Versteeg from Bureau Brandeis, who represented us and the skaters as third interested parties in the case and as well as to Ben van Rompuy for his ongoing support.

EU Athletes President, Brendon Batson OBE underlined the crucial role of the athletes in bringing a positive change in the world of sport: ‘Once again, we applaud Mark and Niels for their bravery and commitment to pursuing this case, which will significantly improve the situation of thousands of athletes around the world and help to modernise sports competitions. It is also an important message to sport federations that they should work in partnership with the stakeholders, especially the athletes, to develop the rules and the sport itself’.

Statement

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PROLead Erasmus+ project about to enter its next phase

PROLead Erasmus+ project about to enter its next phase

PROLead is a collaborative partnership Erasmus+ project coordinated by EU Athletes. Partnership include German Sport University Cologne and 8 player associations from different countries and sports. Focusing on the topic of dual careers of athletes, the project aims to enhance leadership skills of athletes, as well as volunteers and staff of player associations, by designing and implementing leadership courses at the European and national level.

The work plan of the 3-year project (January 2020-December 2022) has been affected by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. While the project team was dedicated to implementing the activities as initially planned, it was necessary to adjust the timing and the format of the events to adapt to the current situation.

The first research and consultation phase have been closed, with the Report following the desktop research and literature review of leadership education for athletes completed earlier this year. Currently, the project staff is working on preparation of the European Leadership Course, which will be designed following the recommendations from the Report, as well as input of player associations and their experiences related to delivering education sessions to athletes efficiently.

The European Leadership Course will start in January 2021 and will be delivered via online sessions to athlete associations volunteers and staff.

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Impact of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic on players and their associations

Impact of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic on players and their associations

On 14th of October 2020, EU Athletes held an online exchange with the member player associations, in order to discuss the current situation in different sport and countires regarding the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on sport, athletes and their associations. The summary of the key points from the discussion can be found here.

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EU Athletes supports Belarusian athletes and calls for the release of Yelena Leuchanka

EU Athletes supports Belarusian athletes and calls for the release of Yelena Leuchanka

EU Athletes shares serious concerns expressed by the international community regarding the situation in Belarus. We stand in solidarity with nearly 700 athletes and other persons from Belarusian sport who have called for, among others, new elections, end to police violence and assistance to all victims of illegal actions of the regime in their open letter[1]. The Free Union of Athletes has become a source of inspiration for the protests, despite the risks for their professional and personal situation and safety.

As the protests continue, participants are reportedly being arbitrarily detained by the police and subject to torture and other ill-treatment. Top basketball player Yelena Leuchanka was arrested at Minsk airport on 30th of September, while trying to leave the country for a scheduled medical treatment. She was sentenced for 15-day prison sentence, for violating an administrative code regarding the organization and holding of mass events.

We condemn the arbitrary and violent treatment of the protesters and using any other type of pressure or repressions, including sporting and economic, against the Belarusian athletes. We are dedicated to protecting and promoting the rights of all athletes in Europe and we are following this matter while cooperating with international player associations movement and human rights experts.

EU Athletes calls upon international organizations, governments the Olympic movement and sport organizations to demand and do everything in their power to assure:

  • Immediate release of Yelena Leuchanka and closure of any proceedings against her.
  • Respect and protection of the human rights of Belarusian athletes, including freedom of expression and freedom of association.
  • That no athletes suffer any further sporting, legal or other retributions for their activism.
  • Support the athletes’ demand for the full restoration of democracy, rule of law and human rights in Belarus.

[1] https://www.pressball.by/pbonline/other/87900

Photo: Yelena Leuchanka, Instagram

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Covid-19 impact on players and their player associations

Covid-19 impact on players and their player associations

Today EU Athletes publishes the results of its preliminary research on impact of Covid-19 on players and their player associations. The results are based on the questionnaire sent to EU Athletes’ member player associations, with 29 associations from more than 15 countries and wide range of sports participating.

The results clearly confirm the importance of player association movement, with the membership of associations growing and demand for services increasing. It demonstrates that, especially in the times of crisis, player associations are the ones that offer athletes the support they need. At the same time, many of player associations are expecting financial deficits and can be preoccupied about their long-term sustainability, but have not been receiving public financial support that would allow them to continue to offer support to their member athletes.

It is to be noted that athletes’ worker status and rights were identified as an important issue. Nearly half of associations have had cases of athletes’ contracts being unlawfully terminated or modified by the employers. When it comes to players not being able to receive government financial support, lack of contract or the type of contract and the employment status were indicated most often as reasons.

Looking to future, the player associations are worried that there will be fewer professional contracts in sport and reduced salaries for those still working as athletes and identified mental health concerns as a likely outcome for players from the pandemic. Almost half of the respondents thought the impact of Covid-19 will be worse for women’s athletes, which should lead to considering targeted support for elite-level women’s sport.

For Paulina Tomczyk, the General Secretary of EU Athletes: ‘First of all, this report clearly confirms the essential role of player associations, especially in the time of crisis, and this should be acknowledged and supported. There is also an urgent need to address issues such as athletes’ worker status and their labour and other rights. Current situation demonstrates that abuses in this area put athletes in particularly vulnerable position.’

The report is followed by recommendations, adopted by the EU Athletes General Assembly on the 18th of June, aiming to address the negative impact of Covid-19 on players and their associations. EU Athletes remains committed to dialogue with the sport sector, governments and European organizations in order to overcome the current crisis but also to make sport more sustainable and resilient in the future.

Find the full report here.

For any inquiries please contact Paulina Tomczyk, EU Athletes General Secretary paulinatomczyk@euathletes.org

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