Good Governance

The Commission’s White Paper on Sport, released in the summer of 2007, was met in Chapter 6.5Thi Its section 4 is entitled ‘The Organisation of Sport’, and it notes that the Commission ‘can play a role in encouraging the sharing of best practice in sport governance’ and that it ‘can also help to develop a common set of principles for good governance in sport, such as transparency, democracy, accountability and representation of stakeholders (associations, federations, players, clubs, leagues, supporters, etc.)’. The Commission accepted that ‘most challenges can be addressed through self-regulation respectful of good governance principles, provided that EU law is respected’, and expressed itself ‘ready to play a facilitating role or take action if necessary’.

In the Communication of January 2011, ‘Developing the European Dimension in Sport’, which was met in Chapter 6.11, the Commission returned to this theme.i42 Its section 4, also entitled ‘The Organisation of Sport’, declares that ‘Good governance in sport is a condition for the autonomy and self-regulation of sport organisations’ and asserts that there are ‘inter-linked principles that underpin sport governance at European level, such as autonomy within the limits of the law, democracy, transparency and accountability in decision-making, and inclusiveness in the representation of interested stakeholders’.

An EU Expert Group on ‘Good Governance’ held its first meeting in December 2011. In October 2013 the Group adopted ‘Recommendations on the Principles for Good Governance of Sport in the EU’.[1] [2]

The Recommendations portray good governance as ‘a set of standards and operational practices leading to the effective regulation of sport’; good governance is a concern that stands above the adoption of specific sports regulations, but ‘the application of good governance principles should facilitate the development and implementation of more effective sports regulation’.^

The Recommendations are a rather impressive piece of work. There is no attempt to dictate what should be done nor to seek to elevate the EU to a position of prime responsibility in arranging governance in sport. The aim, in short, is to prepare a framework of best practice. The EU seeks to offer a model or models.

The Introduction to the ‘Role of the EU’ deserves to be set out in fulfil

Whilst sport is by definition a global phenomenon and good governance principles are not intrinsically linked to any particular territory, the European Union, for its particular role and mission, can provide guidance for the good governance of sport at national, European and international level. For instance, the EU is an organisation based on values and on the rule of law which it has the task to promote. This includes the following:

  • — Decision making systems based on separation of powers between the legislative, executive and judiciary bodies;
  • — Public procurement based on the principles of impartiality, transparency and equal opportunities;
  • — Recognition of social dialogue and of the role of social partners in the fields of labour law and employment.

In addition, the EU is uniquely positioned to facilitate the exchanges of good practices, transfers of knowledge and the networking of stakeholders active at national and international level. In this respect, the EU institutions have a role to play in ensuring that good governance principles adopted at EU level are recognised and implemented in all the Member States. The EU can also facilitate the promotion of principles of good governance in sport beyond its borders with both sporting bodies and public authorities of third countries.

In this way the EU is framed as a means to add value to governance in sport. It is a facilitator. Annex I contains a list of best practices identified by the projects in the field of good governance supported by the Commission’s 2011 Preparatory Action in the field of Sport. Two are explained relatively fully—these cover democracy and minimum standards (Rugby League) and sport for good governance (Dutch Olympic Committee)—and there is further detail on matters of practice.

One might be forgiven for thinking the Commission was over-optimistic when it referred to the value of the work on good governance principles in sport undertaken by the Expert Group in the context of an appeal ‘to put pressure on FIFA and other relevant bodies to genuinely combat corruption in the sport’.[3] [4] [5] [6] And, as explained in Chapter 2.3.4, the EU’s responses to the recent revelations of criminal conduct at FIFA which led to the resignation of its President, Sepp Blatter, occurred after the fact and, in their high-minded tone, were unappealingly opportunistic.^ However, the EU admittedly lacks the resources for intensive investigation of crime, and there are doubtless less intractable problems than FIFA where the EU can generate an interest in improving the quality of sporting governance by advocating greater transparency and accountability. The Resolution of the Council and of the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States of 21 May 2014 on the European Union Work Plan for Sport 2014-17 promises continuing attention to the promotion of good governance.^8 That Resolution is cited at the beginning of a set of conclusions adopted by the Council at its meeting of 30 and 31 May 2016 on enhancing integrity, transparency, and good governance in major sport events.149 The conclusions carry an unmissable flavour of ‘too little, too late’, but it would be churlish to deny that the EU has at least the potential to become one of the several actors that are needed to push for improved governance in international sports federations.

  • [1] Recommendations on the Principles for Good Governance of Sport in the EU accessed 29 November 2016.
  • [2] ibid 5. 145 ibid 5-6.
  • [3] Question for written answer E-003340/14 to the Commission Diane Dodds, answer given byMs Vasiliou, 30 May 2014 [2014] OJ C341/79: Subject: Corruption in sport.
  • [4] European Parliament Resolution of11 June 2015 on recent revelations on high-level corruptioncases in FIFA [2016] OJ C407/81.
  • [5] [2014] OJ C183/12. See Ch 6.11.
  • [6] accessed 29November 2016.
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