STATEMENT: Political Neutrality of Governing Bodies & Federations in Sport
Updated: Jul 14, 2021
In the wake of a statement from UEFA and the incorporation of the rainbow colours in their social media profiles ahead of the EURO 2020 fixture between Germany and Hungary, equitysport have made a short statement on political neutrality.
Political neutrality is taking a position of complete impartiality, without the influence of political ideology, attitude or bias.
It is disingenuous for a sports governing body or international federation to simultaneously claim neutrality whilst also campaigning, however passively, according to a specific moral code, e.g. inclusivity for the LGBTQ+ community - something that is not universally accepted by its membership or by wider society.
Taking any position on issues like LGBTQ+ rights, racism, xenophobia, or sexism, however enlightened, is inherently political. All the while a sports governing body, federation or organisation looks to involve themselves, profit or benefit in any way from the sociopolitical or cultural debates of the moment they cannot at the same time claim to be politically neutral.
A governing body or federation in sport may well decide to be politically apathetic (disinterested) or it may take up a position of political abstention (a refusal to partake), but that requires it to also abstain from making judgements, campaigning or advocating in areas beyond its direct purview. Such a position would also mean that sport would have to surrender its claims as a force for good within wider society and be content with a role of nothing more than entertainer.
We, at equitysport believe that a position of neutrality, abstention or apathy in the face of injustice, inequality or discrimination is not only a political decision, but also a moral failing. It is right for these organisations to take an active role in supporting the development of a more tolerant, inclusive, diverse and egalitarian society; however it is important to recognise that with those commitments comes responsibility.
With sport increasingly at the frontline of ideological confrontation, for a major governing body to claim political neutrality as a defence when faced with a commercial and diplomatic inconvenience, is at best, unethical, and at worst, utter cowardice.
This are not issues to be toyed with, picked up when convenient, only to be dumped when potentially contentious. The time for ethics-laden window dressing in sport has long past. The future belongs to those who mean what they say, and act accordingly.
equitysport is a UK-registered charity (1189559) that exists to advance and promote equality, diversity and equal opportunity in and through global sport. Through free-form development, targeted advocacy, vocational training and education programmes the charity seeks an inclusive and equitable sporting ecosystem that lives up to the true values of sport. Notes to Editors For interviews or further comment, please contact the team via: firstname.lastname@example.org