Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to welcome you to the Council of Europe at an important time for one of our crucial conventions.
All of us here today know the importance of the Manipulation of Sports Competitions Convention.
And value the Macolin Roadmap as a practical route to its implementation.
This treaty is the only international, legally-binding instrument that can secure and sustain effective global co-operation against the manipulation of sports.
Its scope is wide, including the challenges posed by match fixing, illegal betting, bad governance, insider information, conflicts of interest, and the use of clubs as shell companies.
Its rule of law-centred approach takes into account the impact of these wrongs on athletes, sport and society as a whole.
And it draws on the Council of Europe’s experience and capacity to develop an inclusive co-operation framework with states and other international stakeholders, sharing with them our deep experience in standard setting and monitoring mechanisms.
So it is in everyone’s interests that the Macolin Convention comes into force as soon as possible – and regrettable that for some individual European governments eager to ratify, the process is currently blocked at European Union level.
I had the privilege last June of speaking in the European Parliament about this issue.
In my intervention I expressed my hope that the institutional deadlock would be resolved quickly and that EU member states could move forward with ratification.
Speaking candidly, I am disappointed that this has not yet happened – but I am confident that it will in due course.
And it will certainly be difficult for EU citizens to understand why they are not benefitting from the protections established by a Convention that the European Union itself helped to write.
On the positive side, there are other, individual countries whose national parliaments are doing important work now, preparing the ground for ratification.
We have ten non-EU member states that have already signed, but that have not yet ratified.
And with 30 signatures and 3 ratifications so far, we need just two more for the Treaty to come into force.
So that moment is approaching: it is not a matter of if, but when.
And I urge all of you here today to press upon your own authorities – wherever possible – the benefits of making that happen.
Because it is essential to create a solid legal co-operation space to guard against malpractice.
Nothing else can provide the same degree of certainty, protection and redress.
Without ratification there will always be cases of the Convention’s terms being selected on an à la carte basis when what is needed is the coherence and interdependence of the package as a whole.
We see that today.
I say this not to be critical – rather, it is because the measures already put in place by many countries have been so successful that it is important to remind ourselves of where they still – inevitably – fall short.
In fact, I would go so far as to say that I have never seen the terms of a Convention implemented so widely and so effectively before ratification.
There are people in this room who have had a hand in that – and to you we owe our thanks.
With the Macolin Roadmap to hand, the Council of Europe has been working since 2016 with key stakeholders, institutions and professional networks in order to put in place all aspects of the Convention, so that countries are compliant and standards are raised now – and so that they are ready to ratify in the future.
For this we have deployed a three-pronged approach.
First, we have increased dialogue between networks of actors and interests in this area.
Second, we are implementing the Keep Crime Out of Sport project, along with other States and non-States partners, to create a political and legal environment that is more favourable to the fight against sports manipulation.
And third, we established the Group of Copenhagen: 22 countries that exchange information, experience and expertise in order to better implement the Macolin Convention’s standards.
One of the key requirements is of course the creation of National Platforms that serve as an information hub; co-ordinate the fight against the manipulation of sports competitions; and transmit to public authorities any possible infringements of laws or sports regulations referred to in the Convention.
The progress made by a number of countries has been remarkable.
But it remains incomplete and uneven, not least when those National Platforms lack legal recognition.
So we must use the resources at our disposal to maintain the forward momentum: fulfilling the Convention’s requirements and building a solid bridge to ratification for EU member states, Council of Europe member states and countries from around the world that share our vision of an effective Convention, global in reach.
Today, you are central to making that happen.
We are fortunate to have an audience comprised of people from such a diverse range of countries, organisations and professional backgrounds.
You are all very welcome here.
And I hope that you will take this opportunity to learn from one another about the progress and the stumbling blocks that each of you has encountered – not least with regard to the establishment of those all-important National Platforms.
I hope that this will equip and motivate you to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the measures that you have already put in place.
And I hope that in doing so you can demonstrate to national authorities and international organisations that now is the time to remove the obstacles to ratification and embrace the Macolin Convention.
Because, together, we have achieved so much since the Treaty was adopted in 2014: and, together, the progress will continue.
Ladies and gentlemen, when nations sign international conventions, they do so because their authorities believe that it is in the interests of the people they represent.
But for people on the ground, those conventions sometimes feel distant, remote or even irrelevant.
Not this one, not the Macolin Convention.
Sports are the aspect of civil society in which the largest numbers of people are involved: competitors, organisers and, of course, the millions of supporters and spectators who follow them.
They are a leveller, in which people from backgrounds of all kinds can connect to one another.
This is about equality, honesty and integrity.
Our challenge – your challenge – is to help put in place the legal system that will both carry those values forward and re-establish the trust that has been shaken by events of recent years.
Millions of people will respect you for it.I wish you well.