PtG Article 13.07.2023

Book 28 September and contribute to strengthening athlete power in sport

Athlete influence on sport policies is at the core of the conference held by the SAPIS project on 28 September 2023 in Leuven, Belgium. The conference is co-hosted by the Interdisciplinary Centre for Ethics and Regulation in Sport (ICERiS) at KU Leuven and the first 50 registrations are free.

In recent years, athletes have become visible also outside the sports field. Athletes increasingly speak up when their rights are not respected or their safety threatened. They voice their opinions through political activism and union engagement, and they are pushing harder for reform in sports governing bodies and public policies.

This positive development presents itself against a problematic backdrop: A number of international sports scandals ranging from institutionalised doping to sexual abuse and widespread corruption, have made it evident that the athletes affected are often not consulted or heard, and not invited to help shape solutions.

How can athletes get a lasting influence on the decisions that affect their sport, their daily lives, and their careers?

This is the core question to be discussed between athlete representatives and other key stakeholders at the conference ‘Strengthening Athlete Power in Sport’ on Thursday 28 September in Leuven, Belgium, during the European Week of Sport. The conference is co-hosted by the Interdisciplinary Centre for Ethics and Regulation in Sport (ICERiS) at KU Leuven, and takes place at the Faculty Club, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Backed by the EU Erasmus+ programme, the Strengthening Athlete Power in Sportproject (SAPIS) has united athlete groups and academics to analyse how to strengthen the influence and representation of athletes in sports governing bodies.

Over three years, the SAPIS project partners have conducted literature reviews to map existing best practices, interviewed athlete representatives, sports officials and advocacy groups across Europe and beyond, and held – and will continue to hold – regional conferences creating dialogue with key stakeholders.

Join the debate

At the conference on 28 September, we invite you to join the debate on some of the key questions regarding athlete representation, among others:

  • How can sports organisations best cooperate with athlete committees, athlete associations, and advocacy groups?
  • What does democracy mean in practice for athlete representatives?
  • Should lawmakers in Europe be more active in supporting athlete representation?
  • What is the relation between human rights and athlete rights?
  • How can different types of athlete groups best work together?
  • Which trends will shape the future of athlete representation?

The programme runs from 9.30-16.30. Further details on content and speakers will be communicated soon. So far, you can count on meeting the SAPIS partners as panelists and moderators:

  • Anna Semenova, European Elite Athletes Association
  • Panu Autio, JPY – Football Players Association of Finland
  • Chiel Warners, NOC*NSF – The Dutch Olympic Committee*Dutch Sports Federation
  • Alberto Carrio Sampedro, Pompeu Fabra University, Spain
  • Andy Harvey and Mike McNamee, Swansea University, UK
  • Mojca Doupona University of Ljubljana, Slovenia
  • Arnout Geeraert and Maarten van Bottenburg, Utrecht University, the Netherlands
  • Jens Sejer Andersen, Play the Game, Denmark

The first 50 registrations are free. The following registrations cost 70 euro covering:

  • Coffee breaks and lunch
  • All programme activities
  • Print versions of the SAPIS Good Practice Guide and the final report

Register for the conference here

We hope to welcome you 28 September in Leuven. Meanwhile, you can read more about the SAPIS project and find publications from the project below.

Read more about the SAPIS project


Strengthening Athlete Power in Sport (SAPIS)

See reports from the project

PtG Publication June 2023
Strengthening Athlete Power in Sport - A guide to opening new ways in sports governance
Basketball players. Photo: Getty Images/Icon Sportswire
PtG Publication September 2021
Strengthening athlete power in sport - A multidisciplinary review and framework