Sport and democracy policy is where political systems/governance and sports meet, ensuring that the initiatives are in line with the values and principles of the government of the day, regional bodies (e.g., the European Union, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), and that of the international organisations (e.g., United Nations).

Such policies revolve around the need to uphold several main themes, such as fairness, democracy, inclusivity, accountability and transparency. Sport and democracy policies often use sport to promote such themes/principles to local communities.

Some key themes in sport and democracy policy are:

Accountability and transparency

Policies are drafted and/or adopted to ensure accountability and transparency in the governance structures and processes within all sports bodies. They include transparency in the tabling of accounts, fair elections, and regulations that prohibit any form of discriminatory practices. 

Promoting gender equality, equity and inclusiveness

Every individual within the community - regardless colour, creed, economic standing, or physical ability is able to contribute to, and play an active role in the sporting eco-system.

Rights and respect

Those involved in sport must be granted the freedom of expression, association and fair representation. This applies to all – from athletes to coaches, sport officials to even fans. Children too must be encouraged and allowed to participate in sport actively, without fear. A safe and conducive sporting environment must be created to ensure those involved have the right to participate in their respective sport and that their participation is respected.

Education and awareness

This is where sport and democracy polities and incorporate democratic values into the sports education programmes, enlightening those involved in sport about the need to uphold democratic rights, human rights and to ensure that sport remains clean, fair and ethical.

Protecting the integrity of sport

There have been increasing efforts to reduce and prevent practices that undermine the integrity of sport. One example is the 2018 Kazan Action Plan, which has five policy areas on the topic:

  1. Safeguard athletes, spectators, workers and other groups involved 
  2. Protect children, youth and other vulnerable groups 
  3. Foster good governance of sports organizations 
  4. Strengthen measures against the manipulation of sports competitions 
  5. Ensure an adequate anti-doping policy framework, its implementation and effective compliance measures

3. Putting sport and democracy into practice

Here are some ways of how and where sport and democracy may take shape:

  • Democratic behaviour and values within a sports activity or sports NGO (intragroup)
  • Physical activity that promotes democracy across various groups (intergroup)
  • Sport as a tool to contribute to democratic societies (grassroots/community level)
  • Governance, government processes, and political elections that affect sports bodies (national level)
  • Sports governing bodies’ use of high-profile global sports events to promote human rights (international level)
  • Sports venues/spaces to promote participation in election voting
  • Sports events to promote trust in government institutions
  • Athlete activism to promote human rights and the elevation of underserved people and voices

Democratising the sport for development sector (e.g., ensuring different voices are heard, distributing resources in a more equitable way, addressing power imbalances between different parts of the world). sportanddev and 16 partners have launched the “Reshaping Sport and Development” campaign to advocate for better equity, access and inclusion in the sector.

Image by Edwin Andrade

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This section was developed with the generous support of the Swedish Postcode Foundation.