On 2 July, the EOC EU Office organised a video-conference for its Annual Partner Meeting bringing together the sport movement and EU leaders to discuss the latest updates on EU policies and other issues facing the world of sport today, in particular the COVID-19 crisis. The meeting was also an opportunity for all partners to have a first exchange with Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, who showed a high motivation and energy to develop sport at European level in cooperating closely with sport organisations over her mandate.
In the first part of the meeting, the partners received the Commissioner’s statement and ambitions on the future of sport in which she emphasised the importance of using the post-crisis period to strengthen sport at all levels, from grassroots to top-level sport. To achieve this, she stressed the need to go beyond the funding available under the Erasmus+ programme by also looking to the structural funds at regional level to build “a real eco-system of sport”. Furthermore, with regard to the European sport model, she highlighted the importance to work on its preservation at EU level and in parallel, respecting the autonomy of sport organisations, which is an essential element for sport movement. She kindly invited sport movement to discuss with her on the main topics that need to be prioritised and challenges that are encountered by the sport organisations. Because as she mentioned: “we need to start from somewhere, and sport organisations are in the right place to talk about it”.
In addition to that, she highlighted the EU initiatives such as #BeInclusive Awards and the European Week of Sport to “popularize sport and physical activity”, however, according to her that is "not enough and we need to think now about innovation and new technologies and come with strong ideas and concreate actions to establish a permanent work”. Commissioner Mariya Gabriel concluded the exchange by welcoming another meeting to be organised soon to continue the discussions.
Following the discussion with Commissioner Gabriel, the partners received an update on EU sport policy, including e.g the future multi-annual financial framework, Erasmus+, the German EU Presidency and future EU Work Plan for Sport, as well as Green Deal and restriction on intentionally added microplastics on artificial turf.
For the second part of the meeting, the EOC EU Office invited external speakers. Christian Sachs, Head of the Berlin Office at the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) gave insights to DOSB’s public affairs strategy during the corona-crisis. Sachs explained the need to evoke trust among public authorities that organised sport is handling the crisis in a responsible and thoughtful manner. In this regard, DOSB published 10 general recommendations for safe sport during the contact restrictions that were very well received. He concluded that sports organisations in the future will have to expand their public affairs network, not only to the Sports Ministers, but also to high level officials in charge of health and safety.
The next speaker was James Carr, Head of Administration and Projects in the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF), who introduced the findings of the Third review of International federations (IFs) governance, published by ASOIF earlier in June. Thirty-one summer Olympic IFs were asked to check their governance against 50 measurable indicators covering five sections: Transparency, Integrity, Democracy, Development and Control Mechanisms before an independent moderation of the results. After having described the methodology and some concrete findings of the report, Carr presented some key conclusions:
· Substantial improvements in most IFs since 2018 review;
· Still significant gaps between best and weakest IFs;
· Level of resources matters but it is possible to achieve high standards with less than 20 staff members.
Then, he explained that an individual review of the results will be done with every IF while the methodology will be also used for benchmarking with other organisations in the frame of the International Partnership Against Corruption in Sport (IPACS).
Finally, Benoit Keane, a sports lawyer, provided an update on the EU competition policy issues related to sport, namely the recent hearing on the ISU case at the European Court of Justice, salary caps and the legal cases caused by the COVID-19 restrictions in Belgium, France, Netherlands and Portugal. After briefly recalling the outcomes of the Commission infringement decision on the ISU case where the Commission declared that ISU had broken competition law through eligibility rules that imposed a lifetime ban on skaters who took part in unauthorized events, he provided participants with information on the ISU hearing which took place on 12 June, in front of the EU General Court in Luxembourg. Secondly, Keane described the decision of a UK independent disciplinary panel on the claim by Saracens that the salary cap in “Premiership Rugby Limited” regime infringed EU and UK competition law as otherwise PRL’s charges could not be validly maintained. In this case, the panel found that there is simply no evidence of any adverse impact caused by the salary cap on the ability of elite rugby clubs to recruit players on the global market. The panel even ruled that the salary cap was, in fact, beneficial to competition. According to him, the Saracens decision could provide other sports organisations with more legal clarity as to why caps on salary in sport are not necessarily prohibited under EU competition law and, if correctly designed, can actually be considered as beneficial.
The EOC EU Office would like to thank all the speakers and partners for their active participation and contributions.