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15th meeting of the EPAS Governing Board: Discussion on Closed leagues and competitions

Strasbourg 15 June 2021
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As delivered

 

Dear colleagues, dear friends,

It is a pleasure to begin by congratulating you Mr Husting on your re-election as Chair of EPAS’ Governing Board. This is testament to the esteem in which you are held and your obvious dedication to the good governance of sports.

Again, many congratulations.

***

I am pleased to have the opportunity of opening this discussion on an important, controversial and still live issue facing European football. 

The sudden announcement in April of proposals for a European Super League caused widespread shock and concern. 

This initiative was quickly challenged by governments, sports organisations and European institutions alike. 

And Lord Foulkes, the Parliamentary Assembly’s Rapporteur on football governance, was among those who spoke out. 

For my part, I wrote to you, Mr Chairman, calling for an urgent exchange between public authorities and the sport movement to address the implications of such a proposal.

And I was pleased to inform the Committee of Ministers (CM) of the swift, full and positive reply that you sent.

Certainly, as Europe’s platform for intergovernmental sports co-operation;

And as a catalyst for dialogue between public authorities, sports associations, and NGOs;

EPAS has a direct interest in ensuring the good governance of football, with a future that is ethical, merit-based, inclusive and fair.

How can we – or the sporting world – accept a proposal for a Super League that would exist outside the authority of UEFA or any other structure of regulatory sports governance?

And how do we respond to an initiative designed for elite commercial gain, at the expense of support for national and local competitions?

The questions are many.

Yes, nine of the original twelve clubs aligned with this proposal have now pulled out.

But three have not.

And there now outstanding legal issues between the protagonists.

This matter is not resolved.

And even if it were, it raises the question of what should be done in similar circumstances further down the line.

This is the first time that this kind of issue has been addressed within the structures of the Council of Europe.

But your willingness to look at it is both right and a reflection of the seriousness of the situation.

In our exchange of letters, Mr Chairman, we touched upon the importance of solidarity, openness and sporting merit, regulation and integrity, and inclusion underpinned by dialogue with players, their unions and key stakeholders – with fans foremost among them.

These principles also underpin the ongoing revision of the European Sports Charter.

We are now entering the final stages of that process which was strengthened by the important resolution adopted at the 16th Ministerial Conference on Sports.

And I spoke about this at last week’s Committee of Ministers’ meeting, where it enjoys strong support among the 47 governments.

So, this is indeed the right moment to discuss what is required of closed leagues and competitions to ensure that they align with the Charter’s values, principles and provisions;

This would be very timely, and I welcome it.

The Charter itself reflects our common determination to ensure that ALL sports are governed with full respect for human rights and the rule of law, in line with the values and expertise we have in common in Europe and within the Council of Europe;

And it builds confidence by bringing every party to the table in open dialogue and consultation.

Mr Chairman, association football is the most popular and successful sport in Europe today.  

It is played and followed by millions.

And, as an elite sport, is generates enormous revenues.

Its success is welcome.

But for the beautiful game to keep its sparkle, it must be accountable, accessible and close to its fans.

I look forward to hearing the perspectives of others here today.

Thank you for your attention.