The Council of Europe and Sport: a history in brief
In the realm of sport, Europe was perceived as a geographical area and a community long before the will for co-operation began to assert itself at the political level.
At the foundation of the Council of Europe on 5 May 1949, the ten founding members declared their intention to carry out “common action in economic, social, cultural, scientific, legal and administrative matters”, leading to the adoption of the European Cultural Convention in 1954. Sport was brought within the institutional ambit of the Council of Europe in 1976 with the creation of the Steering Committee for the Development of Sport (CDDS). This committee was assigned the task of actively promoting the fundamental values of the Council of Europe (human rights, parliamentary democracy, rule of law) in and through sport - which was thus also expected to honour the Organisation’s ideals!
The main thrust of Council of Europe policy on sport has been to uphold certain principles: the independence and self-regulation of sport; the prevention of certain adverse phenomena (such as doping and spectator violence). Sports activities throughout Europe are supported and guided by the adoption of a hundred or more Council of Europe texts (recommendations, declarations, resolutions and conventions).
The independence of sport has constituted an essential principle in the dialogue between governmental and non-governmental representatives of the sports sector. States are interested not only in the development of sport, but also in sport’s potential influence on other areas of official action such as prevention of discrimination, promotion of health, and integration.
The strategic documents European Convention on Spectator Violence1, Anti-Doping Convention2 , European Sport Charter and Code of Sports Ethics3 have not merely influenced sports activities at the European level, but also form a worldwide reference for the enlightened commitment of public authorities to healthy sport.
Importance of sport in Europe
Modern sport is an important economic sector that today represents an average of some 2% of each European country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and affords employment opportunities and specialist openings which help increase European competitiveness.
Sport is the principal activity organised on a non-governmental and voluntary basis in Europe, and has more participants and voluntary workers than any other activity.
Sport is also the most widely covered activity on the broadcast media and in the press. The major championships attract an audience of several billion.
European sport is the best organised in the world and has a calendar crowded with top-class matches. Its championships and events are followed all over the world and command the highest fees for sales and broadcasting, thereby showing the rest of the world one of Europe’s essential cultural activities.
Sport is a fundamental pillar of civil society. It constitutes a universally accessible and readily understandable means of disseminating certain essential values in day-to-day life; sport is the most widespread type of non-formal activity next to school or work. If played properly, sport makes for the promotion of the following in particular:
- democracy and participation;
- personal commitment and individual motivation;
- social integration and cohesion;
- education and health;
- respect for others;
- co-operation and competition abiding by rules;
- development of “sport business” in a limited number of disciplines;
- good governance, ethics, independence (conflicts between law and sport)
- health (obesity), transformation of community-based and voluntary activity.
Actual needs of Council of Europe member states in the sports sector
The European sports movement is extensively organised within a geographical entity corresponding to the “Greater Europe” of the Council of Europe. These states face common challenges and share a model for sport.
It is therefore indispensable that a common platform be developed for the states belonging to this wider Europe in order to resolve common problems at the European level, discuss matters arising at the level of each state, and establish a common European position for influencing the decisions of the international community.
However, the Council of Europe member states have not all attained the same level of development in sport and thus do not have the same experience of it. Although the rules and standards applicable to the various sports are the same everywhere, there are marked social, cultural, economic, organisational and spatial differences between states. Consequently, the impending needs will require an approach that must be differentiated in some respects.
Council of Europe competence regarding sport
The specific approach adopted by the Council of Europe, which has brought together the governments and the interested NGOs, has allowed dialogue and profitable co-operation to be initiated on the basis of a common aim.
Through the years, the Council of Europe has built up significant competence in specialised areas concerning quality assurance in sport, thanks to the agreements adopted at the political level, not only in Europe but worldwide.
How can the Council of Europe meet the sports needs of states?
In the Action Plan of the Third Summit of the Council of Europe (Warsaw, 2005) the Heads of State and Government reaffirm the great importance attached to the furtherance of sport.
The European Ministers meeting in Moscow for their 17th informal meeting in 2006 stressed the need to conceive new forms of pan-European co-operation, and encouraged the Council of Europe to continue its action in the realm of sport. They came out in favour of establishing an Enlarged Partial Agreement on Sport (EPAS)4.
The EPAS created in May 2007 was established on a permanent basis by the Committee of Ministers on 13 October 2010. It is intended to establish international standards and develop a framework for a pan-European platform of intergovernmental sports co-operation in order to promote sport and make it healthier, fairer and better governed.
It prepares the way for better-directed action where sport is concerned, and strengthens partnerships with the sports movement. Through its Consultative Committee, the sports NGOs will be able to participate in the process of determining the EPAS programme of activities.
1 1985, a few months after the Heysel tragedy which left 39 dead and hundreds injured, ratified by 41 states.
2 1989, prepared just after the 1988 Olympic Games, seriously blemished by doping; the first international instrument ever issued in this area.
3 1992, revised in 2001.
4 An Enlarged Partial Agreement on Sport is an agreement by various Council of Europe member countries to join in carrying out a specific activity in a given field, sport in this instance, in collaboration with the countries not belonging to the Organisation and representatives of national and international organisations and federations of the sports world.