IPACS Steering Committee
Minister, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
IPACS is still a young initiative, taking on a daunting but essential challenge.
Corruption and cheating by a dishonest minority have cast a long, dark shadow over the sporting world.
The people in this room today are here because we share an understanding of the need to lift that shadow:
To ensure that transparency replaces secrecy, that corruption has nowhere to hide, and that the public has justified faith in sport and in its institutions.
This meeting is an opportunity to consider the progress that has been made, the lessons that can be learned, and how we can move forward to achieve yet more.
I know that the three task forces that are driving forward IPACS’ work have had a mixed experience when it comes to advancing their work.
Today, we will hear more about the reasons for that and consider our collective response to overcoming the barriers that the teams have encountered.
This is crucial because IPACS will be judged on the basis of what it achieves: and rightly so.
Together, we must ensure that the machinery we have put in place delivers real results now, and without distraction.
Clearing that hurdle will be important for unlocking further ambitions.
For our part, the Council of Europe continues its work to identify the gaps in which corruption may still take root and the measures that national authorities and governmental bodies can take to close them.
Our Enlarged Partial Agreement on Sports, EPAS, is where these initiatives are discussed and take shape.
And our Macolin Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions - our best known instrument in this regard – originated there.
It will enter into force this September and is the gold-standard treaty for preventing match-fixing.
To this end, national platforms serve not only to coordinate action and information within a member state, but between states too, so that each can learn from the experience of the other.
The Convention’s impact is already being felt in countries that have signed, not just within Europe, but far beyond our continent too.
Australia, for example, has already signed and intends to ratify by the end of year – and there is significant interest from a number of countries in the Pacific region.
We are now working on setting up the Convention’s Follow-up Committee, which will be responsible for its implementation.
And the Council of Europe is eager to share with all-comers the benefits that the Convention can bring.
But of course we want to share more than that.
Our experts are hard at work on other aspects of this topic too.
For example, we are working to stop corruption in the context of major sports events.
This means that bidding processes must be fair, open and in line with the highest standards of integrity.
There should be a system, including a control mechanism, for managing conflicts of interest that may arise within International Sport Organisations when they award the hosting rights for a major sports event.
The Council of Europe has developed numerous standards in this area, particularly through GRECO evaluations.
And I know that the OECD has done similar work, and that these standards could be used in the bidding and selection process.
Similarly, when those International Sports Organisations are selecting countries for major sports events, they should take into account relevant findings by international anti-corruption monitoring bodies, whether GRECO, the OECD or the UN.
Countries that are unwilling to act against corruption should not host such prestigious events.
Awarding them such an honour not only encourages further corrupt practice, but risks its infiltration into sports too.
Speaking from a Council of Europe perspective, I know that GRECO stands ready to extend its expertise in these areas to organisations present in this room today, as we all seek to learn from one another.
That expertise, and GRECO’s evaluation methodology, have been built up over many years of work in the area of public sector integrity.
And it is in the public sector that the most attention has been paid to tackling corruption over recent years.
But corruption in the private sector is of course illegal too: something that is clearly confirmed in our Criminal Law Convention on Corruption.
Nonetheless, there remain far fewer reported cases of private sector corruption, and a recent GRECO study of bribery cases at national level found that there are still significant legal and practical obstacles to prosecuting such crimes in sport.
Why is this?
Reasons include classifying the sport sector as “not for profit”, thereby placing it outside the scope of some national anti-bribery provisions;
Limited incentives – and no explicit legal obligation – to report bribery in the private sector;
And persistent gaps in the protection for whistle-blowers in sports.
To tackle this third example, the Council of Europe has developed standards that the EU has recently agreed to include in a Directive.
This is a very significant step forward, but it must now be translated into practice, and any attempt to lower these standards must be stopped.
We are open to doing more in this area, which is also the subject of ongoing work by our Parliamentary Assembly, but we need action to deal with every impediment to tackling corruption in this sector.
This is also why our Committee of Ministers adopted last December an EPAS Recommendation on the promotion of good governance in sport.
I hope that this meeting and further work will flush out the ideas and build the momentum that will allow us to achieve even more together.
Ladies and gentlemen, there exists in our societies today a greater intolerance towards corruption – and rightly so.
There is therefore an onus on the people in this room to take action, and an expectation that we will do so.
We now have the opportunity to create a virtuous circle in which IPACS is seen to co-ordinate action against this kind of crime in the sport sector.
The better we do, the more credibility we will have, and the more pressure will build on other countries from all continents to work with us and adopt the standards and practices that should stamp corruption out of sport.
IPACS can be the catalyst then not just for effective and realistic action among current member states, but around the world.
After all, sport is a global phenomenon, and so should be the high standards that ensure fairness for spectators and participants alike.
There are no shortcuts to that important prize.
IPACS must first be honest about the challenges ahead, and the progress that we have been able to make.
That way we can work to address our own shortcomings, support one another in moving forward, and reach greater heights.
This is the challenge, and we are ready to rise.