Understanding Participation, Inclusion, and Social Responsibility in Global Sports

The Legend of Greek football Olympiacos, in partnership with Harvard University, is hosting a conference on “Participation, Inclusion, and Social Responsibility in Global Sports” at the stunning premises of Harvard University, to foster awareness on football’s social responsibility especially in relation to vulnerable groups.

The third conference in the series on Soccer and Globalization, which is part of Harvard University’s Weatherhead Initiative on Global History and is also being supported by Simmons College of Boston, MA will pick up on themes first explored in the first two conferences, “Soccer as a Global Phenomenon” (Cambridge, MA 2016) and “Reinforcing, Crossing, and Transcending Borders: Soccer in a Globalized World” (Piraeus, Greece 2017).

The collaboration between the Weatherhead Center and Olympiacos, which generated the initiative the “Principles”, first signed by Evangelos Marinakis, president of Olympiacos FC. The “Athens Principles” call on the world’s biggest clubs and leaders to do much more to influence the public debate and contribute in much greater proportion to social responsibility to guarantee that as many people as possible are allowed to participate in the sports and games that they love.

This major societal effort launched by Evangelos Marinakis and Olympiacos FC has been warmly acknowledged and supported by the great clubs of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Sporting, Fenerbahce, as well as Euroleague Basketball and AIPS, the International Sports Press Association, whereas now Nottingham Forest joins in on the people’s right to play the games they love without encountering discrimination or prejudice.

Nevertheless, Olympiacos family and Evangelos Marinakis are used to being a pioneer, when it comes to social responsible actions and solidarity to fellow humans. With the vision of changing the world at the Club’s core, Olympiacos is one of the biggest donors and supporters of the 100% UNICEF Campaign, saving hundreds of thousands of children worldwide through vaccinations. Olympiacos was also the first club within the football community to raise funds for the millions of people affected by the Haiti earthquake and by the Pakistan floods. Strenuously continuing his charitable and social awareness efforts, the President of Olympiacos, Mr. Evangelos Marinakis, stood next to the refugees stranded in the port of Piraeus, distributing over 3.00 portions of food and clothing items. Whereas at a local level, Olympiacos has for some time been active in developing and implementing programmes to provide material assistance to displaced persons.

With the Principles in mind to affirm the right to participate in sports as a universal and fundamental right, the third conference at Harvard University is focused on participation and inclusion in global sports with an attempt to expand beyond soccer into a cross-section of sports and contemplate on what is to be done to address inequalities.

The opening event was held at Loeb House, once the home of Harvard’s Presidents. Before the speech by Barcelona President, Josep Maria Bartomeu, Nicholas Randall QC, on behalf of Nottingham Forest, signed “The Athens Principles «In a world that is often very very unfair, which is often loaded against the underprivileged and the disadvantaged, sport still has that ability for the underdog to succeed. And the reason for that is because it is authentic and that is why I think it has such a huge place in everybody’s hearts throughout the world and the global spread of football in particular is been utterly incredibly. It’s wonderful to be here and we signed these principles with the view that we will now take all the steps that we can in conjunction with the organizers to trying to spread the word and I’m sure that other clubs in England will follow as well. I think if all of us can get one other club one other organization to sign up the ripple effect will be outstanding». These were his words while signing this significant and historic document.

The event was concluded, just before the official dinner, with the speech by Barcelona president. «We want to respond to all of these challenges while applying the culture of excellence that has made us so different and which we wish to share with everyone else who is equally convinced that a better future is always possible. The more stakeholders, agents, entities are involved in this culture, the better the results will be. That is one of the responsibilities that we cannot ignore”, said, Mr. Bartomeu.

The conference, which is organized around four sessions on topics on race, gender, immigration, and social responsibility in global sports features amongst others former soccer stars Lilian Thuram, Christian Karembeu, Emilio Butragueño, and well-known representatives from an international roster of teams, clubs, nonprofits, writers and filmmakers, including the Boston Red Sox Foundation, UEFA, the Seattle Sounders foundation and the Right to Dream Academy. In the spirit of achieving universal participation these conferences and the “Athens Principles” aspire to unveil the unique world changing potential of the power of sports to effect multilevel social change with its global reach.

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