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EU Athletes position on Major Sporting Event in the context of the EU Expert Group “Good Governance”

Jun 8, 2015 | Uncategorized

This paper presents the agreed position of EU Athletes and UNI Europa on Good Governance according to the agenda of the EU Expert Group and the topic of Major Sporting Events.

EU Athletes is strongly supportive of greater sustainability, higher protection  standards of human and workers’ rights and overall better governance of both the awarding and running of mega sporting events to the mutual benefit of the athletes, sport industry and communities in the host cities/countries.

Recent developments have once again highlighted the need for good governance to be integral to the running of sports federations, particularly with regards to the awarding of sporting events and financial transparency. It is essential that sports federations are subject to international and national laws on corruption and bribery. These need to be effectively enforced. We do believe that equal opportunity is relevant to good governance. Therefore, major sport events should be an unmissable opportunity for women athletes to develop their full potential in a genderfriendly

MSEs provide a perfect context for increasing female athletes’ visibility, and bringing their issues to the centre of attention. That may only be conceivable if sustainable gender equality policies are established and strictly respected leading to concrete changes. We are also convinced that any economic legacy from major events must be built on sound and responsible economic and business policies with regards to accepted frameworks such as the UN Global Compact 10 guiding principles.

The high profile and monopolistic position of the sports federations is cause to require higher standards of governance, not least importantly the recognition of athletes, who participate in mega sport events, as workers. In many sporting events athletes are being deprived from recognition of their employee status, despite earning significant income, both directly and indirectly by playing or participating in their sports during those events and providing their labour in subordination to sport
organizations or clubs.

In this regard we would like to make the following recommendations for the deliverable related to “awarding of Major Sport Events, especially in relation to democracy, human rights and labour rights “ of the Expert Group:

Regarding athletes’ rights:

There needs to be a specific section on athletes’ rights within the recommendations of the Expert Group. This should include :

  1. The collective and individual workers’ and human rights of athletes must be respected during the major sport events
  2. Sport organization may not deprive the athletes of their right to commercialize their IPR during and around the event without compensation. Athletes’ contribution to the commercial value should allow them to significantly participate in the generated revenue.
  3. The athletes’ freedom of speech and the freedom of association in and around the events may not be infringed.
  4. The provision of a safe, viable (ie social security provisions) and protected working
  5. environment for athletes should be recognized as an absolute duty of the competition organizer *.

* Study on epidemiology of injury in sport olympics, 2008, 2010, 2012. At least 11% of the athletes incurred an injury during the olympic games and 7% of the athletes’ an illness. Future initiatives should include the development of preventive measures tailored for each specific sport and the continued focus among sport bodies to institute and further develop scientific injury and illness surveillance systems.

For sporting organization:

Given the monopolistic nature of the sport movement it must be subject higher standards of governance, amongst others with regards to participation in collective bargaining, revenue sharing, transparency, sustainability, democracy, fundamental rights and anti-corruption. There is an urgent need for appropriate checks and balances to overcome the potential for exploitation of a dominant market position. The recognition of trade unions must be the number one recommendation.

  1. The stakeholders who contribute to the economic base of a sport must be recognised and a well-governed sport organisation must be accountable to their stakeholders including the athletes
  2. Well governed sports organisation respect the basic individual and collective rights of the athletes, including the freedom of association and embrace partnership with them through their professional association and collective bargaining
  3. Improve transparency and democracy: corruption and conflicts of interest in sport have a substantial and negative impact on the position of sports people, all actors in sport must tackle this problem and the Commission has an important role to play in promoting European values within international sports federations.
  4. Elimination of all forms of forced and compulsory labour and of the discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.

Participation in Olympic Games, World Championships or other major sporting events is an ultimate goal of most of athletes. It is essential to point out that organizing an event in breach of basic human rights principles goes not only against the values of sport but also against personal values of athletes.

The lack of employment stability and the sanctions imposed by some federations in the case of an athlete’s non-participation with his national team, are forcing them to compete in those events with no other options. No objection is possible since these major events are their only means of subsistence and the only places where their sport results may allow them to gain money afterwards. This abuse of a dominant market position strongly infringes with athletes’ economic rights.