Euroleague Basketball affirms Athens Principles on universal right to play sports

Mar 02, 2018 by Print
Euroleague Basketball affirms Athens Principles on universal right to play sports

Euroleague Basketball on Friday became the first sports league and the first basketball entity in the world to sign The Athens Principles on the Right to Participate in Sport, which call on the sports industry as a whole to help ensure that as many people as possible are able to play the games they love without encountering discrimination or prejudice.

Jordi Bertomeu, the president and CEO of Euroleague Basketball, signed the principles at a pre-game ceremony before Real Madrid hosted Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul in a Turkish Airlines EuroLeague game on Friday evening. He was joined by Florentino Perez, Real Madrid President, who signed the Athens Principles on behalf of his club; Ozan Balaban, Vice President of the Board and Director of Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul Basketball, who signed for his club; Christian Karembeu, Strategic Advisor to Olympiacos FC; and Stephen Ortega, Visiting Scholar at Harvard University.

"We are proud that Euroleague Basketball, representing clubs throughout Europe, will be the first sports organization to take up these Athens Principles," Mr. Bertomeu said. "All of our 40 clubs have embraced One Team, our corporate social responsibility program, whose values mirror those of The Athens Principles, by using basketball as a tool to help improve the lives of at-risk groups in their communities. To join in with these leading football clubs and the academics at Harvard University to continue bringing those values around the world is a pleasure for us."

The Athens Principles on the Right to Participate in Sports were unveiled in September of 2017 at a conference -- Reinforcing, Crossing and Transcending Borders: Soccer in a Globalized World -- that was organized by the Weatherhead Initiative on Global History at Harvard University, supported by Simmons College and sponsored by Olympiacos FC. The Athens Principles were created by a group of academics who hope to provide new initiatives and innovative approaches so that sports teams and organizations will become more involved in ensuring that all people have the right to participate in sports.

"Sports is emotion, sacrifice, devotion, solidarity, the will to overcome, feelings, passion. What's more, sports has the marvelous capacity to able to make something better of this world. For that reason, the most important sports clubs and institutions have an immense responsibility towards society. Our teams are able to generate dreams and hopes in millions of people," Mr. Perez, the President of Real Madrid, said. "Today, Real Madrid, Fenerbahce, the EuroLeague and Harvard University come together in an ambitious project in which we hope to keep contributing to a more just society. We are signing The Athens Principles on the Right to Participate in Sport, with which we identify fully and which are associated with our institution for more than 115 years."

To date, the football clubs Olympiacos FC, FC Barcelona and FC Porto have signed the Athens Principles. These signings will lead to a third conference on Social Responsibility and Inclusion in Sports, to be held at Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A. from May 31 to June 2 of this year.

"The Athens Principles are an attempt to ask those who are the most privileged in the sporting industry to guarantee that all people who so desire have the opportunity to participate in the games and sports that they love," Mr. Ortega said.

The Athens Principles on the Right to Participate in Sport


Sport provides life skills and values that have a long lasting impact on people's lives. It builds confidence, inspires youth, and helps overcome prejudice. It has the power of transcending borders and bringing people together, regardless of their race, gender, religion, culture or nationality.

The sport industry has grown significantly over the last few decades. Sport teams have worldwide followings and passionate groups of supporters who come from different social backgrounds. This broad base of support contributes to clubs' widespread presence in social media and to the increased attention that sport organizations receive from the press.

This expanded visibility enables clubs and their players to influence public discussions and to embrace the added social responsibility that comes with such influence. This responsibility extends to ensuring that as many people as possible are able to play the games they love, without encountering discrimination or prejudice.

The responsibility of clubs and their players in promoting universal participation is even more crucial at a time when the number of displaced people in the world escaping conflict or persecution has reached its highest point in history. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 20 people are displaced from their homes every minute, a high percentage of whom are unaccompanied children and disabled men and women.

In the spirit of achieving universal participation, the 2015 UNESCO Sport Charter1 reaffirms that the right to participate in sport is a fundamental right for all. However, many people in the world are still deprived of this right because of lack of opportunity, lack of access or prejudice. It is therefore the responsibility of clubs and sport associations to help extend the benefits of participation in sport to individuals in all communities, especially those who are marginalized or vulnerable.

Guided by our social responsibilities and reflecting the rights and duties established in the UNESCO Sport Charter, we clubs and sports organizations agree to promote, support and implement the following 12 Principles:

1. This Declaration is a common standard of achievement for all clubs, teams, players and sports associations of all sports, to the end that every individual and company should strive, through education and example, to promote respect for these rights and to progressively secure their effective recognition and observance.

2. Every human being has a fundamental right to participate in sport without discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, or national or social origin. Furthermore, no distinction should be made on the basis of the political or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs. Clubs and sport associations should actively campaign against and refuse to engage in any such discrimination at both youth and professional levels.

3. Participation in sport should be based on the principles of healthy and honest competition and respect for all competitors.

4. Initiatives that encourage the participation of displaced people, whatever their civil status, in sporting activities should be supported.

5. Sport for young people should be first and foremost about participation, physical activity and having fun.

6. Girls should have as much access to sport and sport teams as boys, particularly in school and in youth games and leagues.

7. Everyone should have equal access without discrimination to sport training, resources and services, as well as the opportunity to participate in all supervision and decision-making at all levels of sport.

8. Clubs and sport associations agree to encourage greater participation in sport in conflict ridden or economically depressed areas and, when possible, to contribute financial resources, including providing used but appropriate equipment for the use of those people who lack adequate resources to participate in sport.

9. Adequate and safe places, facilities, equipment and dress-options should be provided to meet the needs of all participants in sport, bearing in mind the different needs associated with people of different cultures, genders, ages and abilities.

10. Sport facilities should be made more accessible to a greater percentage of the global population.

11. An International Day of the Right to Play should be declared to affirm the right to participate in sport as a universal and fundamental right and to promote the principles set out in this Declaration.

12. Initiatives should be developed to create partnerships with researchers and NGOs whose work will be helpful to implementing these principles.