On 31 May 2016, the EU Sports Ministers met in Brussels for the formal Sports Ministers Council in order to discuss how governments can improve governance in sports against the background of recent corruption, match-fixing and doping scandals and the consequent negative impact on the credibility and positive values of sport. In her opening statement, Edith Schippers, Minister for Health, Welfare and Sport of the Netherlands, said that: “Sport is great fun, but only if the game is played fairly: not only on the field but also in the boardrooms of sports organisations and authorities. That is why the Netherlands’ Presidency has made integrity; transparency and good governance in sport one of its priorities."
Several member states have already taken action to review their legislation aiming to strengthen the integrity of sport and in particular the protection of young athletes. The Ministers agreed that sports organisations require support and cooperation and in some cases, the intervention of national governments, and recalled that the sports sector must respect the basic principles of good governance, such as skilled management, sustainable financing, accountability and transparency.
While acknowledging the principle of sport organisations’ autonomy, the Ministers underlined that if federations receive public funding, governments have the right to ensure that these funds are used properly. In addition, public authorities are responsible for establishing the legal framework and the criteria sports federations must comply with.
Moreover, the sports Ministers agreed that cross-border threats such as doping, corruption and match-fixing can be addressed more effectively through increased coordination between member states and that the structured dialogue with the sports movement must also be strengthened. Furthermore, the European Commission and a number of Member States called for a timely ratification of the Convention of Council of Europe on the manipulation of sports competitions.
The Council also adopted conclusions on enhancing integrity, transparency and good governance in major sports events. The text proposes several measures to implement these principles at national and European level at all stages of such events (feasibility, bidding, preparation, organization, evaluation, legacy), including after their closure.
Following the formal Council meeting, a structured dialogue took place between the EU sports Ministers and representatives of the IOC, EOC, FIFA and UEFA. During this structured dialogue, Mario Pescante as IOC Member, welcomed the dialogue and referred to the activities of the Olympic Movement with regards to the Olympic Agenda 2020. Niels Nygaard, President of the Danish NOC and Member of the EOC Executive Committee, confirmed this statement and stressed the added value of organizing these major sport events within Europe. EOC Athletes’ Commission Chairmen Jean-Michel Saive highlighted the need for clean sport and clean governance of sport.
On the occasion of the structured dialogue, a joint declaration was published to enhance a regular dialogue with the sport movement on topics related to major sport events where shared responsibilities of internal sport organisations and the Olympic Movement and governments of EU Member States and the European Union are involved. This declaration will be followed-up by a number of high-level meetings in the forthcoming years, with the first one being scheduled under the Slovakian Presidency of the EU.