Sport is a Right; a Right Set in Law
“Sport is everywhere today. It has gained ground in all areas of private and public life across the globe. Sport for all and elite sport. Sport played by multitudes, and sport at the highest level. It has become a business, a public health tool, and a political issue. The PyeongChang 2018 Winter Games, when we notably saw the two Koreas walking side by side at the opening ceremony, was a worldwide illustration of this: sport is also an imposing diplomatic lever.
Sport is everywhere. However, for a long time it was a private undertaking, far from being the subject of politics or legal matters. But times have changed. The Member States of the Council of Europe have chosen sport, which is now seen as a tool for social inclusion, health and education. Since 1992, the Council of Europe’s European Sports Charter has defined a framework for developing sports policies based on shared values. Not all countries have always had the same view of sport on a European scale: above all, its place in society and the priorities of sports policies have sometimes reflected divergent political visions. While some countries have a long tradition of encouraging grassroots sport, others have policies that are very focused on obtaining results in international competitions or developing professional sport. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that these differences have not disappeared.
Not all countries have approached the issue of sport, during confinement and in their recovery plans, from the same angle. Even though in several European countries, the health crisis has resulted in an increase in individual sports, this has not prevented the fact that Member States of the Council of Europe today all recognize the importance of sport. They agree on its role and impact on all levels of society. For two years, sport has been promoted as a right. The right to sport. This evolution is not inconsequential. Without the slightest reservation, it expresses the will of States to promote the benefits of sport for social inclusion, health and education. The right to sport is closely linked to the exercise of civil and political rights, such as those codified by the European Convention on Human Rights, and of economic, social and cultural rights anchored in the European Social Charter.
The year 2020 will further strengthen this development. The Enlarged Partial Agreement on Sport (EPAS), which brings together 39 countries, has organized the 16th Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Sport, which is being held via video-conference since yesterday, November 5th. This meeting takes place every two years and also brings together partner organizations, including Peace and Sport. This 2020 edition will mark a strong commitment from European States to consider the issue of human rights more in the field of sport.
In the recent past, there have been many examples showing that human rights are regularly threatened in the domain of sport. The right to a fair trial in disciplinary proceedings, children’s rights to physical integrity, and the protection of economic and social rights in sport are just some examples. The Athens Ministerial Conference will examine the decisive role that governments, as well as the sports movement, can play in terms of respect for human rights in sport. It will also discuss the need to revise the European Sports Charter, in order to boost the practice of sport today. In sports clubs of course, but also supervised by local communities, in businesses or even in associations not necessarily affiliated with the traditional sports movement. In order to optimize benefits for both individual people and societies, sports policies will have to evolve to better cover issues such as human rights and integrity. They will have to go further than dialogue between the sports movement and sports ministries in order to encompass all concerned stakeholders. Sport is everywhere. Its borders have disappeared.”