The Council of Europe - 800 million Europeans


Working for tolerance, equality, democracy and access for all in sport

The Council of Europe has followed a two-pronged strategy for maintaining the integrity and the virtues of sport:

  • promoting sport for all as a means of improving the quality of life, facilitating social integration and contributing to social cohesion, particularly among young people. The role of sport as an introduction to democracy and civic responsibility, especially among youth leaders, was one of the main themes of the joint Council of Europe/European Commission project carried out as part of the European Year of Education through Sport (2004);
  • protecting sport against the dangers it currently faces, i.e. doping and violence.

The Council of Europe has always considered sport as important because it sets a good example, plays a part in social integration, especially for socially disadvantaged groups, contributes to the health and well-being of the population and promotes ethical values.

Democracy in sport

The “Sport for All Charter”, adopted in 1975, changed the European sports scene and helped democratise sport as never before.

The Charter, which was updated in 1992 and revised in 2001 and is backed up by the Code of Sports Ethics, provides the framework for the sports policy to which every European country should subscribe. According to the Charter and the Code, sport must:

  • be accessible to everybody;
  • be available to children and young people, in particular;
  • be healthy and safe, fair and tolerant and based on high ethical standards;
  • foster self-fulfilment at all levels;
  • respect the environment;
  • protect human dignity;
  • resist any kind of exploitation of those engaged in sport.

Combating doping: fostering clean and healthy sport

The aim of the Anti-Doping Convention (1989) is to combat doping in sport in an active and co-ordinated way. A Monitoring Group is responsible for supervising its implementation. The Convention lays down a number of common rules requiring parties to take a series of legislative, financial, technical and educational measures in order to:

  • restrict trafficking in doping substances;
  • step up dope testing and improve dope detection techniques;
  • support education and information programmes;
  • ensure that the penalties imposed on offenders are effective.

An additional Protocol to the Anti-Doping Convention came into force on 1 April 2004. The aim of the Protocol is to ensure the mutual recognition of doping controls and to reinforce the application of the Convention by means of a binding control system. The Convention has been ratified by forty-six member states of the Council of Europe to date, as well as by Australia, Belarus, Canada and Tunisia.

Together with the European Commission and the member states of the European Union, the Council of Europe helped set up the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). It has two seats on the WADA Foundation Board and makes an active contribution to the Agency's policy. The drafting of the World Anti-Doping Code, with its various standards, is an example of the close co-operation between the Council of Europe and WADA.

The Council of Europe Anti-Doping Convention also served as a basis for drafting a Unesco convention against doping, which aims to bring together the largest possible number of states to combat doping and to give formal recognition to WADA.

Combating violence: fostering tolerant and safe sport

The European Convention on Spectator Violence and Misbehaviour at Sports Events and in particular at Football Matches was drawn up in 1985 and has been ratified by forty-one European countries. The Convention’s Standing Committee monitors compliance with the anti-violence measures set out in the Convention and issues practical recommendations (for example, a list of 70 items to be checked before any major sports event).

In particular, the Convention recommends:

  • policing grounds and access routes;
  • separating rival supporters;
  • strictly controlling ticket sales;
  • excluding trouble-makers;
  • restricting alcohol sales;
  • conducting security checks;
  • clearly dividing responsibilities between organisers and the authorities;
  • designing grounds and temporary stands to guarantee spectator safety.

The Convention has been reinforced by numerous recommendations on such subjects as stewarding, preventing racism and xenophobia, police co-operation, the exchange of intelligence and social and educational measures for the prevention of violence.

There are also recent Council of Europe publications on the role of local and regional authorities in preventing violence and a project on the role of fan clubs in preventing violence is in progress.

Sport, tolerance and fair play

Following a Round Table on Sport, Tolerance and Fair Play in 1996, National Ambassadors for Sport, Tolerance and Fair Play – most of them former athletes – were appointed in more than half the member states. Their role was to encourage fair play, tolerance and respect for others in sport and to set up programmes to teach tolerance and other ethical values through sport. Preventing racism and other forms of discrimination in sport has been an integral part of their work.

Social cohesion and sport

The role that sport can play in furthering social cohesion is another area where the Council of Europe has contributed to democracy, particularly among young people.

Considerable emphasis has been laid on providing sports programmes for minority groups such as migrants, refugees, the unemployed, prisoners, young offenders and people with disabilities. The programmes were either carried out in conjunction with central, regional or local government or entrusted to the voluntary sports sector in the countries concerned. Social cohesion through sport has had a special and very important role to play in the reconstruction and reconciliation process in south-east Europe.

The Ballons rouges project

The Ballons rouges project was designed to show the contribution that physical exercise can make to the physical and psychological health and lifestyles of those living in difficult circumstances (for example refugees in a particular country or in refugee camps, people living in collective accommodation, etc). The 2004 summer camp for young refugees and displaced persons in Azerbaijan was a perfect illustration of the Ballons rouges project.

Honouring commitments

A monitoring scheme was introduced in 1998 to find out how member states applied the European Sports Charter and the two conventions. By the end of 2009 sixteen countries had been visited by an evaluation team appointed by the relevant committee. Five countries carried out their own evaluations. Numerous advisory visits were also made to help countries implement the policies and programmes necessary to comply with the requirements set out in these instruments. All of the ensuing reports were published.

The additional Protocol to the Anti-Doping Convention includes an article stipulating that the parties must authorise an evaluation visit. The Convention is therefore one of the few international conventions with a strict monitoring system.

Sport for All

The Sprint Programme

The Sports Reform, Innovation and Training programme (SPRINT) was set up to help new member states reform their sports structures.

The programme covered such issues as:

  • the democratisation of the sports movement;
  • the promotion of sport in governments’ general policies;
  • the participation of all population categories in sports activities.

To ensure that the principles set out in the European Sports Charter were put into practice throughout Europe, various ad hoc activities (training and promotion seminars) encouraged the practical application of particular articles of the Charter such as:

  • protecting sport from harmful influences (combatting intolerance and encouraging fair play);
  • preventing discrimination in sport;
  • publicising the links between sport and health;
  • defending the importance of sport in the education of young people;
  • exchanging information on new types of sports facilities;
  • investigating the economic impact of sport;
  • ensuring good governance in sport.

A political organisation set up in 1949, the Council of Europe works to promote democracy and human rights continent-wide. It also develops common responses to social, cultural and legal challenges in its 47 member states.
2002 - The Council of Europe Information Office - Tbilisi.