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Informal Guidance to National Governing Bodies on the Participation of Russian and Belarussian sportspeople in a neutral capacity

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28tth March 2022

1. Following the illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the UK Government has taken a number of actions against Russia and Belarus in relation to sport. With regard to the participation of individuals in sporting events, the Government’s aim is to minimise the ability of Russian and Belarussian individuals to be seen to represent their nation - and therefore deliver reputational and other benefits by association - without unduly penalising those who truly intend to participate in an entirely neutral capacity.

2. This guidance sets out the Government position on individual sportspeople - including athletes, administrators, coaches and other ancillary staff - from Russia and Belarus participating in a neutral capacity. It seeks to inform the decisions of national governing bodies (NGBs) in relation to upcoming events and competitions. This includes the actions of UK sportspeople participating in events overseas against Russian or Belarussian sportspeople. Scope.

3. These decisions are ultimately a matter to be taken independently by NGBs but, given the severity of the situation, the Government values the ongoing cooperation of the sport sector in ensuring as consistent an approach as possible.

4. This guidance seeks to cover elite sportspeople, as well as those on an ‘elite pathway’, but not those participating in grassroots-level activity.

5. It applies to Russian and Belarussian individuals who are not permanently resident in the UK (including dual citizens), though there may be instances where an NGB or event organiser deems it appropriate to seek a commitment from a UK resident in order to ensure that the basis of an individual’s neutrality is clear.

6. This guidance is targeted at NGBs and event organisers with a UK- or England-wide scope. The Government will engage with Devolved Administrations to seek a consistent approach to this issue. Wider policy position.

7. As per the previously agreed international joint statement1 , the Government maintains that:

  • Russia and Belarus should not be permitted to host, bid for or be awarded any international sporting events.

  • Individual athletes selected by Russia and Belarus, administrators and teams representing the Russian or Belarussian state should be banned from competing in other countries, including those representing bodies, cities or brands that are effectively representing Russia or Belarus, such as major football clubs.

  • Wherever possible, appropriate actions should be taken to limit sponsorship and other financial support from entities with links to the Russian or Belarussian states. Individuals participating as ‘neutrals’.

8. In circumstances where the International Sport Federation has permitted individuals to participate as ‘neutral’, the Government requests that national governing bodies (and/or the event organiser where relevant) only permit this in England where the responsible person has written confirmation from the individual that:

  • They are not doing so as a representative of the Russian or Belarussian state; and

  • They are not in receipt of funding aligned to the Russian or Belarussian state, including sponsorship from companies operated or controlled by persons with strong links to the Russian state; and

  • They have not, and do not intend to, express support for the invasion of Ukraine, the Russian or Belarussian regimes, or their leadership.

9. Crucially, this is not a public statement - though it will be implicit that sportspeople will have made such a commitment - and the Government is not seeking a statement that is critical of the Russian regime, to avoid the potential for any undue personal risk being incurred by the sportspeople involved.

10.Where an individual fails to provide such a confirmation in writing, we request that the NGB does not permit them to participate. If they later renege on this commitment - or new information comes to light that demonstrates to the NGB that the commitment was made on false pretences - we would request the NGB to take reasonable steps to remedy the situation. This is ultimately at the discretion of the NGB but could (subject to legal implications, and the rules of the event etc.) include subsequently banning the individual from future events or withholding prize money.

11. National Governing Bodies and event organisers are also requested to take steps to ensure neutrality of Russian and Belarussian individual athletes, including but not limited to:

  • No Russian or Belarussian flags - in presentations, broadcasts, or as part of competitors' attire.

  • No Russian or Belarussian anthems.

  • Limiting the potential for pro-Russian or Belarussian statements to be made or symbols to be displayed (e.g. the ‘Z’ sign) so far as is reasonably practicable.

12.Conversely, NGBs are encouraged to enable sportspeople to display signs of solidarity with Ukraine, and the Ukrainian people.

13.Where an NGB or event organiser decides not to permit Russians or Belarussians to participate in any capacity, the Government will support that position. Brits competing overseas.

14.We will work with like-minded nations in an attempt to agree this position internationally. However, in a scenario where a sporting event is taking place outside the UK, we request that NGBs advise athletes against competing against a Russian or Belarussian who is an active supporter of the Russian or Belarussian state or the invasion. This will typically mean they have made positive statements about Putin, the invasion or the Russian state in the last few months, or are known to be in receipt of funding aligned to the state (such as sponsorship from a state aligned company or funding from a state aligned governing body). This judgement may ultimately require some discretion on the part of the sportsperson and NGB, and the Government will continue to engage with NGBs to work through any such issue. The Government recognises that NGBs will not have an in depth understanding of the funding arrangements for all foreign sportspeople, but requests that NGBs make best endeavours to mitigate these risks.

15.Where a UK sportsperson decides not to compete against a Russian or Belarussian individual, the Government will support that position.

Ongoing dialogue:

16.The Government recognises that this guidance may not address all the complex scenarios that are faced by NGBs/event organisers. The Government will continue to work closely with NGBs/event organisers to discuss issues arising.

Any queries should come to the BEF (Lynne.Bailey@bef.co.uk) in order to remain informed and to provide the single point of contact with DCMS.