Opening speech by Mr Christos Giakoumopoulos
Joint event of the Council of Europe,the Ministry of Sport of the Russian Federation and the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (University) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Russian Federation: "Development of a new training course: Rights and obligations in sport"
Moscow, 26 October 2017
Distinguished Members of Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlemen, dear colleagues,
I am delighted to be here today –a first time in my new capacity as Director General - for the launching of a very timely and valuable project. A project which exemplifies the Council of Europe’s capacity as a unique platform to develop pan-European cooperation in virtually all spheres of our lives. Sport is not an exception.
The last convention of the Council of Europe to have been ratified by the Russian Federation as late as three weeks ago (3 October) is the one dealing with safety, security and service approach at sports events. This makes our meeting all the more timely and this also brings the number of the Council of Europe’s conventions to which Russia is party to 62. Overall, a quite impressive body of law.
As you may be aware, the initiative to enhance the awareness-raising and training on rights and obligations in sport was made by the Council of Europe’s leadership as late as this summer at a high-level conference in Kazan.
Our Deputy Secretary General Ms Battaini-Dragoni announced a proposal to develop a new, tailor-made curriculum on rights and obligations in sport, so that high quality education and training to combat doping be made accessible to all: athletes, coaches, legal professional and more.
This initiative has been based on two important premises.
First it is based on the Anti-Doping Action Plan which has been agreed by the Council of Europe and the Russian authorities since last year. This Action Plan aims in its third pillar at designing education programmes in sport-related areas. As we all know, education cannot do everything, but one can do nothing without education. We therefore attach tremendous importance to the third educational pillar of the Anti-Doping Action Plan. I am confident that the full implementation of the Action Plan will be yet another success story in Russia’s membership in the Council of Europe.
The second premise for our joint initiative is the role played by the Council of Europe HELP Programme as a unique pan-European platform offering a new type of on-line training and education. HELP programme initially targeted legal professionals but are being increasingly extended to other fields. It is well-known to our Russian partners, including the leading universities and professional academies, not least to MGIMO which hosts our meeting today.
The Council of Europe has amply proved its capacity to provide high-quality education and training to enhance the implementation of the values and legal requirements enshrined in its numerous conventions. We are happy that the time has come for education and training on our sport conventions.
The new course on the rights and obligations in sport will benefit from the Council of Europe extensive expertise on sport-related issues arising from its activities under the three important conventions in this field: the European Convention on Spectator Violence and its revised version which I have already mentioned, the Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions, the Anti-Doping Convention and its Additional Protocol.
That being said, the legal material we plan to include in our work will not be limited to those specialised conventions. You are no doubt aware sport-related activities increasingly raise legal issues under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) with an increasing number of cases being brought to the European Court of Human Rights. Right to respect for private and family life, freedom of expression, property rights, the principle of “no punishment without law” are invoked by athletes. The questions on the application of the procedural safeguards enshrined in the right to a fair trial in sport-related disputes will also be addressed in the course.
All those topics will be covered from a two-fold perspective of international and national Russian law, thus integrating national and international legal sources together in a single course. We would ensure that a novel and effective course be elaborated by the best Russian and international experts and include along with the legal texts the relevant case-law of national and international judicial bodies. The course could be then put on-line accessible to all: legal professionals, coaches, sport managers, and not least the athletes themselves.
Sport is usually considered as having much autonomy from states’ regulations. But this autonomy is limited, when sport is viewed in terms of its manifold impact on human lives.
Today the powers of sports organisations to set rules, monitor and penalize athletes are very extensive and therefore the actions of these organisations might encroach on the fundamental rights so much as to engage the responsibility of public authorities. This is at least the rationale behind the various complaints being with national and international courts.
Numerous questions arise in that regard. What is the interplay between the rules of sport and other international and national rules? What is the courts’ jurisdiction for ensuring compliance with those rules? To what extent do the norms of international law apply to the rules of sport.
The course to be developed will definitely not answer all these questions. But it will allow to get a snap-shot of the state of play on the legal side and raise the legal awareness of all those concerned.
Another important challenge will be to make the course adaptable to the continuously changing legal environment. Sport is an international phenomenon. And it is becoming more international every year. Therefore more and more sport-related standards will continue to appear at international level. Lawyers, sport professionals and coaches need to be aware of the development of such standards and should be capable of their effective application. We therefore believe that our modern tailor-made online educational programme on rights and obligations in sport will be on high demand.
As the Council of Europe’s leadership has already made it clear, we are ready to run our initiative beyond Russia. I am convinced that other countries will take great interest in such educational and training activities and use this experience in their jurisdictions. The pilot experience in Russia could thus stimulate valuable multilateral activities within the Council of Europe and beyond.
I am confident our new joint project will have a good run and thank the Minister of Sport, Mr Kolobkov, for your personal engagement in this promising activity. Thanks a lot to MGIMO for yet another joint initiative we will be running together. And I am grateful for the trust you continuously place with the Council of Europe, the only pan European international institution of which Russia is a member for more than 20 years!
 Conference of Ministers and Senior Officials Responsible for Physical Education and Sport, Kazan,13-15 July 2017
 Convention on an Integrated Safety, Security and Service Approach at Football Matches and Other Sports Events