Written evidence from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Updating the Foreign Affairs Committee on developments on IOC recognition of Overseas Territories
1. In the 2008 report on the Overseas Territories, the previous Foreign Affairs Committee made the following recommendation:
"We conclude that it is wrong for some Overseas Territories to have access to the benefits of International Olympic Committee (IOC) recognition while others do not. We recommend that the FCO should make representations to the IOC about recognition for all the UK Overseas Territories." (Seventh Report of 2007-08, paragraph 136).
2. In its reply, the then Government stated that:
"We will consider what more might be done on behalf of all the Territories, taking account of the broader issues that are likely to be involved and the outcome of an ongoing case brought by one Territory which is currently before the courts." (Cm 7473, para 54)
3. The Committee Secretariat wrote to the FCO on 29 June 2011 to ask for a memorandum from the FCO updating it on any developments on IOC recognition of Overseas Territories that have taken place since 2008, and also setting out the current Government's policy on this issue.
4. Since the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s response of September 2008, the Swiss Federal Courts have twice ruled in favour of the International Olympic Committee in respect of Gibraltar’s bid for individual recognition. The Gibraltarian plaintiffs are currently awaiting the outcome of a further appeal and unless that appeal is successful, Gibraltar will continue to fall under the remit of the British Olympic Association (BOA). The decision confirms the amendment to the Olympic Charter in 1996 which defined ‘country’ to mean ‘an independent state recognised by the international community’, as the basis for determining NOC applications. Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands had all been recognised by the IOC before 1996.
5. The practical effect of the Court decision is that there is little prospect of securing IOC recognition of Overseas Territory NOCs without an amendment of the Charter. The Government also believes that there is little prospect of securing the necessary majority of votes to amend the Charter to reverse the 1996 amendment.
6. The British Olympic Association (BOA) continues to act as the representative NOC for those Territories that are not recognised by the IOC. The BOA wrote to all UK Overseas Territories in February 2011 to explain that as long as the existing requirements under the Charter remained, Territories should focus their energies on the development of their sporting infrastructure and work with the BOA to ensure that any athlete eligible to compete at the Olympic Games as part of Team GB be given the opportunity to do so.
7. Any individual from Territories not recognised by the IOC who holds a valid British passport (all citizens of the Overseas Territories are entitled to a British passport following entry into force of the British Overseas Territories Act 2002) is eligible to compete for the Great Britain Olympic Team (Team GB) provided that: a) they are affiliated to the relevant British National Governing Body of sport (NGB) which is a member of the BOA; and in turn is affiliated to the appropriate International Federation of that sport; and b) they meet the Olympic qualifying standards for their chosen sport.
8. The BOA’s efforts have already resulted in success. Shara Proctor of Anguilla, a 22-year-old long jumper, made her debut at the European Team Championships in June 2011 representing Great Britain, where she took third place with a jump of 6.6m.
9. The Government agrees with the Committee that the present position is unsatisfactory. We will continue to work with the BOA to ensure that opportunities for the Overseas Territories to engage with Team GB, continue.
10. A copy of the BOA’s policy on this matter is enclosed.
1 August 2011
British Olympic Association (BOA) Policy:
Support for UK Overseas Territories
The British Olympic Association (BOA) is the National Olympic Committee (NOC) for Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands and UK Overseas Territories which do not have their own National Olympic Committees.
The following Crown Dependencies fall under the remit of the BOA:
· Isle of Man
· Channel Islands: Baliwick of Jersey, Baliwick of Guernsey (includes Guernsey and its dependencies)
The following UK Overseas Territories fall under the remit of the BOA:
· British Antarctic Territory
· British Indian Ocean Territory
· Falkland Islands
· Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands
· St Helena and St Helena Dependencies (Ascension and Tristan da Cunha)
· South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands
· Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia
· The Turks & Caicos Islands
The following UK Overseas Territories have their own NOC and are not connected to the BOA:
· British Virgin Islands
· Cayman Islands
Eligibility for Team GB
Any individual who holds a valid British passport is eligible to compete for the Great Britain Olympic Team (Team GB). In addition, individuals must be affiliated to the relevant British governing body of sport which is a member of the BOA and in turn is affiliated to the appropriate International Federation of that sport.
Several UK Overseas Territories, which fall under the remit of the BOA, have sought individual recognition from the IOC (i.e. to be able to form their own NOC). The matter is governed by rules within the Olympic Charter, specifically:
3. Recognition by the IOC:
2. The IOC may recognise as NOCs national sports organisations, the activities of which are linked to its mission and role. The IOC may also recognise associations of NOCs formed at continental or world level. All NOCs and associations of NOCs shall have, where possible, the status of legal persons. They must comply with the Olympic Charter. Their statutes are subject to the approval of the IOC.
Bye-law to Rules 28 and 29:
1.2 At least five national federations included in an NOC must be affiliated to the IFs governing sports included in the programme of the Olympic Games.
31. Country and Name of an NOC
1. In the Olympic Charter, the expression "country" means an Independent State recognised by the international community.
The IOC changed the Olympic Charter in 1996 to only acknowledge independent states as recognised by the international community, as the basis for determining future NOC applications. Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands applied for and were granted recognition by the IOC before the 1996 amendment came into force; they became NOC‟s in 1936, 1976 and 1982 respectively. (This was the same for other territories, e.g. Hong Kong, the US Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and the Netherlands Antilles).
Since the change to the Charter, most notably, Gibraltar has sought to be recognised by the IOC as an NOC which resulted in a four year legal process through the Swiss Courts. In 2008, the judgement was ruled in favour of the IOC and thus Gibraltar remains under the jurisdiction of the BOA. The Turks and Caicos Islands have also applied for independent NOC status and been declined several times by the IOC on the grounds that they do not fulfil the Charter requirement of being an „independent state‟.
It is clear that as the Olympic Charter requirements remain, the UK Overseas Territories which fall under the remit of the BOA, do not fulfil the criteria to be recognised as independent NOC‟s by the IOC.
The BOA‟s advice to those UK Overseas Territories therefore, is that while the existing requirements under the Charter remain, they should focus their energies on the development of their sporting infrastructure and to work with the BOA and the relevant British governing bodies of sport (NGBs), to ensure that any athlete eligible to compete at the Olympic Games as part of Team GB is given the opportunity to do so.
Specifically, the BOA commits to providing greater support to the UK Overseas Territories in the following areas:
Engagement with British NGBs:
As outlined above, any athlete with a British passport is eligible for selection to Team GB, provided they meet the qualification standard and are affiliated to the relevant British NGBs (which is in turn affiliated to the relevant International Federation). Therefore, in order to ensure that any athlete from the UK Overseas Territories is known by the high performance system within each NGB (and thus cannot „slip through the net‟) it is paramount that the British NGBs are aware of and have good relationships with their counterpart NGBs in the UK Overseas Territories.
Such relationships can also foster opportunities for athletes, coaches and support staff from the UK Overseas Territories to learn from the British NGB in the form of experience sharing, work placements and training camps, for example.
The BOA will:
· Seek a list from all UK Overseas Territories of the NGBs which currently operate and whether they are recognised by the International Federations of those sports.
· At the meeting of the National Olympic Committee, highlight this policy to its member NGBs and encourage direct communication with any NGBs from the UK Overseas Territories (providing contact details as gathered above).
· Thereafter, the BOA will annually review the communication between its member NGBs to ensure their responsibilities to their UK Overseas Territory counterparts is working effectively.
The BOA has not and will not discriminate against any athlete eligible to compete for Team GB (eligibility as outlined above). In the past it appears some UK Overseas Territories have not recognised that an athlete with a British passport is eligible and that the BOA in some way was "preventing athletes from being selected". This is not the case and the BOA will communicate this to all UK Overseas Territories.
That said there is some concern that if an athlete from the UK Overseas Territories was selected and did compete for Team GB at the Olympic Games that it would preclude them from competing for their country at other international events. This again, should not be the case. The parallel example is athletes competing for their Home Nation, Wales for example, on the international stage whilst still remaining eligible to compete for Team GB at the Olympic Games and vice versa.
In order to seek clarification the BOA will:
· Work with the sports federations within the Overseas Territories who are unsure of the rules around eligibility for national representation and Olympic representation within their International Federation, to ensure that there is no barrier to represent both their territory internationally and Team GB at the Olympic Games.
· Commit to negotiating with International Federations and the IOC if anomalies exist whereby UK Overseas Territory athletes would be excluded from representing their country on the international stage if they are to compete for Team GB at the Olympic Games. We do not anticipate any such circumstances.
· Provide template letters to British NGBs which can be sent to their International Federation, clarifying the UK Olympic representation of British NGBs with regard to the Overseas Territories.
Funding and Support:
Unlike the majority of NOCs, the BOA receives no government or National Lottery funding; it is a not-for-profit, autonomous organisation. The UK sports system is currently funded through a mixture of National Lottery, exchequer funding, and funds raised from the private sector which is distributed to sport through the Sports Councils (UK Sport and the four Home Nation Sports Councils). For high performance sport, the funding is directed to the NGBs who provide the framework for athletes to train and compete.
The BOA therefore, does not directly fund athletes or NGBs, rather as a membership organisation it provides services to current athletes, Olympians and NGBs – for example in Pre-Games Preparation Camps and sports science/medical support. It is therefore out of the BOA‟s jurisdiction to fund sports programmes of any kind (including in the Overseas Territories). Any request for funding for sport should be directed to the Sports Councils and funding for an athlete with the potential to compete for Team GB should be directed to the relevant British NGB, in the first instance.
As a result of London hosting the Games in 2012, the BOA‟s commercial rights have been transferred to the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG), to ensure LOCOG can generate the revenue required to stage the Games. As such, the BOA cannot raise funds through traditional sponsorship channels as it had done previously and must now increase its fundraising activity in order to make up the considerable shortfall which is more apparent given the increase in the BOA‟s responsibility and status as a host nation NOC.
The BOA is a small organisation (60 staff) and particularly in this demanding period in the lead up to 2012, its resources are stretched to capacity. However, the BOA is committed to supporting the Overseas Territories in the following areas:
· The BOA will provide an individual member of staff as a point of contact for all UK Overseas Territories. More generally, the BOA will seek to engage with the UK Overseas Territories, gaining a better understanding of their high performance sports structures and identifying areas where we can support them in the future.
· The BOA will introduce the relevant sports organisations in the UK Overseas Territories to the United Kingdom Anti-Doping Agency (UKAD) in order to provide information and support in anti-doping education.
· The IOC‟s Olympic Solidarity programme aims to provide assistance to NOCs, particularly those most in need, to help develop sport in their country. NOCs can apply for grants in various areas including for sports development and Olympic Games subsidies.
· The BOA will communicate to all UK Overseas Territories when an Olympic Solidarity grant application process is released by the IOC. If an UK Overseas Territory believes they have a project, programme or individual which meets the criteria for that particular grant, the BOA will include the example in their process of grant selection and if successful, will work with the Overseas Territory to formulate an application to Olympic Solidarity on their behalf.
British Olympic Foundation
· The BOA‟s charitable arm, the British Olympic Foundation (BOF) works to promulgate the Olympic Values through youth and sport programmes. Again, it is resource limited and works with other agencies to produce education materials and run programmes in the education and youth sectors.
· The BOA commits to providing the UK Overseas Territories with access to BOF materials for use and providing a contact whereby advice can be sought with regard to the development of youth and sport programmes.