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Embedding human rights, democracy and the rule of law in sport


Sport is faced with numerous, ever-changing threats, often of a transnational nature. Protecting its integrity requires strong international cooperation and the involvement of all the stakeholders. That is the position held by Bjørn Berge, Deputy Secretary General at the Council of Europe.


The Council of Europe’s strategic priorities in the field of sport until 2025 are based on one vital aim: ensuring that human rights, democracy and the rule of law are firmly embedded in sport, and through sport, in society. We need integrity in sport.Sport is faced with complex, constantly evolving threats, such as doping, violence at sporting events, match-fixing, or the world-scale commercialisation of sport. At both the national and the international level these threats challenge the integrity of sport and the values which all sports should representand transmit.


The Council of Europe is promoting and encouraging international cooperation, partly through a unique forum bringing together governments, sports organisations and NGOs: the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Sport (EPAS). The European Sports Charter, prepared by EPAS and adopted by the European Council’s Committee of Ministers two years ago, clearly defines our roadmap. It states that the integrity of sport includes the personal integrity of every person involved in sport, integrity in competitions to guarantee fair play, and organisational integrity based on good governance and exemplary sporting organisations.To guarantee the efficacy of this cooperation, on 27 September 2023 the Committee of Ministers adopted a Declaration on Sport Integrity, through which the 46 Member States of the Council of Europe stress the need to ensure a global approach to protect and promote sport integrity effectively. This Declaration heralds a new era for the Council of Europe’s involvement in the field of sport for the coming years. 2024 is a key year, with two major sporting events in Europe: Euro 2024 in Germany and the Olympic and Paralympic Games in France.


Our work uses a series of tools which we developed together in the Council of Europe. It is based mainly on judgements from the European Human Rights Court, which are binding for the 46 CoE Member States. There are also the three treaties specific to sport : the Anti-Doping Convention, the Macolin Convention on match fixing and the Saint-Denis Convention on an integrated safety, security and service approach at football matches and other sports events.

A roadmap: The European Sports Charter

Sport integrity also requires international cooperation, because the threats to sport are often transnational in their nature. When it comes to threats from organised crime, the Council of Europe benefits from expertise thanks to its specialised bodies such as the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) and the Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (MONEYVAL).


The Memoranda of Understanding with partner organisations, such as the World Anti-Doping Agency, UEFA and FIFA, define the common objectives and tools for our joint fight against corruption in sport, amongst other priorities.Today, the Declaration on Integrity means we can go further.
All the stakeholders must play their part. The fact that the Declaration calls for stronger cooperation to combat
cross-border crime linked to sport only adds to the urgency of the issue: the international network of Magistrates (MARS) set up by EPAS will make an essential contribution.Our Member States will have the chance to discuss these questions at the 18th Council of Europe Council of Ministers for Sport to be held in Porto (Portugal) from 8 to 10 October 2024.


While this year also marks the 75th anniversary of the Council of Europe, and we continue to work for unity, our decisive role in creating links between stakeholders, governments and the sports bodies remains as important as ever. The current state of affairs makes it increasingly necessary to unite around our values, and sport is an activity which is particularly favourable to this union.


This article was published in the magazine Sport and Citizenship n°57 : protecting sport integrity



Sport et citoyenneté