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  • Row Over European Championships


    (ATR) The European Olympic Committees say a dangerous precedent could be set preventing European sports federations from competing in multi-sports events such as the EOC’s European Games.

    European Championships board members (Getty Images)
    The EOC accuses the European Sports Championship Management of failing to communicate a contract clause with federations they say could do just that.

    In a letter to EOC president Pat Hickey last week, the European Sports Championship Management (ESCM) offered assurances there is no issue of restriction of trade against European sports federations tied into contracts for inaugural multisports events in Berlin and Glasgow in 2018.

    But three unnamed federations complained to the EOC about a clause that would effectively allow the ESCM, the commercial arm of the European Sports Championships, to exclude federations from participating in future NOC-driven events.

    The EOC responded Tuesday, expressing serious concerns and demanding the removal of a “restrictive clause” in the ESCM contract it issued to European federations.

    Baku, Azerbaijan hosted the inaugural European Games in 2015. (Getty Images)
    Soon after the EOC statement was released, Around the Rings was told the clause had been dropped. But EOC leaders were left fuming when they found out through media and not official channels of the change to the agreement between European federations and the ESCM.

    A spokesman for the European Championships Board, made up of federations, admitted to ATR today that the clause referred to by the EOC was in a confidential early draft document “that has since been superseded”.

    “There is no clause in any existing agreement and no intention to include such a clause in any future agreement that has the effect of preventing any European Federation from participating in any other multi-sport event,” he said.

    President Pat Hickey and other top EOC officials are said to be stunned they have yet to receive a formal communication from the ESCM or European Championships Board.

    "The EOC has not received an unequivocal guarantee from ESCM that the restrictive clause in question had been withdrawn from their proposed contracts for the European federations,” an EOC spokesperson told ATR.

    “Therefore we welcome the statement from ESCM but also look forward to receiving an official confirmation from them of the complete withdrawal of the clause, and any similar or related clauses, at the earliest opportunity. This will then bring the matter to a close.”

    EOC president Pat Hickey (Getty Images)
    EOC officials suggest the ESCM tried to sneak the clause in before quietly dropping it due to objections. The EOC claims that commercial rights-holders could block federations taking part in regional events organized by, for example, the Pan American Sports Organization, the Olympic Council of Asia or the EOC.

    The controversial clause states that the federations “shall not enter into any agreement for the integration of the Event and/or any other official EF competition requiring the participation of national federations and elite athletes in any other multisport event during the term of this agreement and until one year after the end of ESC 2018 subject to Clause 13.5.”

    Clause 13.5 stipulates that if ESCM proposes a host city to the European Federations for 2022 on similar terms to the current agreement then the European Federations shall be contractually bound not to compete in any other multi-sport event for the years 2022 and 2023.

    A spokesman for the European Championships Board said the letter to the EOC last week, which failed to specifically reference that the clause was dropped, was designed to “clear up any misunderstandings”.

    It was signed by the co-chairmen of the board, European Athletics president Svein-Arne Hansen, and Paolo Barelli, European Aquatics chief, and copied to the other members.

    Among the assurances made were that “Whilst all participating Sports Federations are committed to including their senior European Championships in the inaugural 2018 event, the European Championships Board does not and will not prevent any of the sports from participating in other multi-sport events.”

    The EOC is keen to protect the future of its flagship competition, the European Games, which was held for the first time in Baku last year.

    Russia is the preferred bidder for the 2019 edition. But the EOC is working on a backup plan if the IAAF decides against lifting the suspension on Russia due to the string of doping scandals and allegations of a state-sponsored cover-up that have jeopardized the country’s participation at the Rio Olympics.

    “Our position is more than just protecting the integrity of EOC properties such as the European Games and the European Youth Olympic Festival; our stance is taken to ensure that new commercial entities cannot be allowed to erode the longstanding right of Olympic Movement stakeholders to stage their own established events,” the EOC said in a statement on Tuesday.

    Reported by Mark Bisson

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