Report from the 4th Meeting of the European Commission Expert Group “Integrity”

Updated: Oct 24, 2019

The fourth meeting of the European Commission Expert Group on integrity took place on 5–6 June 2019 in Helsinki, Finland. ENGSO was represented by ENGSO EU Advisory Committee co-chair Mikkel Larsen, Senior Policy Advisor at the NOC and Sport Confederation of Denmark, the Danish ENGSO member.

The meeting was opened by the representatives of Finland, the host of the meeting and the future presidency of the EU Council, who also gave a short update on the process of forming a Finnish government after the national elections on 14 April. This was followed by an update by EU Commission (Yves Le Lostecque, Head of the Sport Unit), which focused on the evaluation of the last EU Sport Forum, which from the EU Commission point-of-view had been a great success with more than 500 participants; the 2019 Erasmus+ sport call which closed on 4 April and had received 743 applications; new preparatory actions & pilot projects which will close in July and focus on sport as a tool for integration of refugees, fighting radicalisation & exchange and mobility in sport; the BeInclusive EU Sport Awards; the European Week of Sport and the Tartu Call for a Healthy Lifestyle.

The update was followed by a roundtable from participants. This centred around many expressions of satisfaction with the Macolin Convention finally entering into force on 1 September this year.

The first session of the meetings focused on the topic of corruption. The European Commission gave an update on the study of mapping corruption in sport. This study had coursed a heated debate at a previous Expert Group meeting, as some felt it was lacking in several areas. The European Commission assured that most comments from both members and observers are taken on board, and that despite the study was considered finalised, revisions have been made. The revised version was circulated to the group and would be uploaded on the EC Sport Unit website.

This was followed by a presentation by the future Finnish Presidency of the European Council. The Finnish Presidency had three overall focal points in the area of sport: promote the negotiations on the multiannual programmes (Erasmus+ Sport), implementation of the EU Work Plan for Sport focusing on the fight against corruption & safeguarding children in sport, and ensuring coordination of the EU positions for the WADA meetings. The future Finnish Presidency then continued with a more detailed overview of their priorities on corruption in sport. This overview initiated a discussion among participants, which highlighted a feeling that a greater consideration now needed to be placed on the human factor. It was felt that we reach a point, where codes and policies have been formulated, promoted and signed up to, but if we can’t now change the human factor (culture) then it will not make a big difference.

In line with the priorities of the future Finnish Presidency, the next – and most extensive session of day one – focused on Safeguarding Children in Sport. This session was initiated by a presentation on a study aimed at mapping what initiatives on safeguarding children in sport exist, explore some legal initiatives, and come up with recommendations. While the study was yet to be finalised, initial findings were presented. This presentation of initial findings highlighted a few points, including safeguarding should be seen as more than only child protection, the lack of standalised data in Europe, and that a culture of evaluating effectiveness of initiatives was lacking in sport. This presentation raised a few questions, and the group raised the problem of what constitutes regulated activity? Meaning what activities do an individual need to perform before needing to go through a vetting process.

The future Finnish Presidency then presented a “you are not alone” project, which aims to prevent abuse and violence in sport. This was followed by a presentation on expected activities by the Finns during the presidency. Such activities would obviously be highly depending on the final findings of the previously presented study on safeguarding children. The Expert Group was also ensured that the previous work of the group would be in taken into account when the final Council Conclusion would be drafted.

Day two was dominated by two sessions; one on good governance and one on match fixing. Two prominent presentations were delivered during the good governance session: one by Debra Mountford, OECD, and Mariana Trandafir, UEFA. OECD presented the recommendations on Global Events & Local Development. UEFA presented the newly established principles for all UEFA member associations, this is part of the overall UEFA strategy based on 4 pillars (Football, Trust, Competition & Prosperity), governance being covered under trust.

The European Commission then updated the participants on a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Commission and UEFA. The MoU is a political statement in which the two partners agree to work together on different topics. Promoting good governance in football and sport is one of these areas.

The match-fixing session again was dominated by two presentations. The first presentation was by the Council of Europe updating on the process going forward as the Macolin Convention will enter into force on 1 September. Also updates on the Group of Copenhagen (network of national platforms) and the KCOOS+ project were provided for the members of the group. The final presentation was by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), who gave updates on the work of UNODC that could be of interest to sport.

Concluding the meeting, the European Commission gave a short update on the preparation of the drafting of the report of the Expert Group on Integrity. Drafting will start just after this meeting, with the aim of circulating it prior to the next meeting. The draft report will therefore be the key point for discussion at the next meeting and will consist of a summary of the activities of the four meetings of the group.

The next meeting will – unless a member country volunteer to host it – take place in Brussels on 12–13 November.