European Parliament recognises key role of independent news media in Sport

02 February 2017

The importance of independent reporting on sport was given political recognition today (February 2nd) when the European Parliament voted to adopt a report on sports policy, which aims to drive forward the fight against corruption in sports organisations, to support grass-root sports and calls for a zero-tolerance policy towards doping. Following a short presentation of the report, the members of the European Parliament sitting in plenary, overwhelmingly backed the report by 522 votes to 76.  

Speaking before the vote, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsics alluded to the key role of the news media, arguing the Parliament’s report was welcome and timely since “sport has never been more closely scrutinised than it is today either through technology, social media or investigative journalism and this has uncovered some home truths about sport.” He called for good governance to be “embedded within the culture of sport, becoming part of its DNA” in order to safeguard the integrity of sport.

In response to the serious ethical challenges like doping, match fixing and corruption in Sport, the Parliament calls on sports organisations at all levels to put forward concrete proposals to improve good governance by 2018. Hannu Takkula, the report lead, said: “recent scandals in the governance of national, European and international sports organisations show that it is high time to react.”

With this objective and echoing News Media Coalition arguments throughout the legislative process, the final report “stresses that sport bodies should ensure necessary access and news-gathering opportunities at all sport events for independent news media to fulfil their role as important and critical observers of sport events and administration of sports.”

Takkula’s report takes a zero tolerance approach to corruption and encourages sports federations to adopt principles of good governance. “Governance structures of sports federations as well as their money flows must be made more transparent” he insisted.

MEPs Julie Ward, Notis Marias and Bogdan Wenta, a former professional sportsman turned politician, all spoke of the need to restore trust at a time when sports’ reputation and the image of federations is seriously tarnished. Marias urged action against the federations which, he argued, have become “ad-hoc monopolies that violate competition rules within the EU and also abuse their dominant position in the EU Sports market.”

The report evaluates sports policy since it was introduced in the Lisbon Treaty in 2009 and reflects on the European Parliament's position on sport for the European Commission’s mid-term review in spring 2017. While the ‘own-initiative’ Parliament report is not-binding, it will influence how the European Council and Commission tackle the 'Sport Action Plan' for the next three to five years.

In order to track progress on the report, Takkula has also proposed an annual meeting in the European Parliament bringing together the Council, Commission, Sports federations and other interest groups.

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