Unesco - Fair Play - The winning way

(qui jeue layalement est toujours gagnant)

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The basic principle of the Code of Sports Ethics is that ethical considerations leading to fair play are integral, and not optional elements, of all sports activity, sports policy and management, and apply to all levels of ability and commitment, including recreational as well as competitive sport.

The Code provides a sound ethical framework to combat the pressures in modern day society, which appear to be undermining the traditional foundations of sport - foundations built on fair play and sportsmanship, and on the voluntary movement.

The primary concern and focus is Fair Play for children and young people, in the recognition that children and young people of today are the adult participants and sporting stars of tomorrow. The Code is also aimed at the institutions and adults who have a direct or indirect influence on young people's involvement and participation in sport.

The Code embraces the concepts of the right of children and young people to participate and enjoy their involvement in sport, and the responsibilities of the institutions and adults to promote fair play and to ensure that these rights are respected.

Defining fair play

Fair play is defined as much more than playing with the rules. It incorporates the concepts of friendship, respect for others and always playing within the right spirit. Fair play is defined as a way of thinking, not just a way of behaving. It incorporates issues concerned with the elimination of cheating, gamesmanship, doping, violence (both physical and verbal), the sexual harassment and abuse of children, young people and women, exploitation, unequal opportunities, excessive commercialization and corruption.

Fair play is a positive concept. Sport is a social and cultural activity which, practiced fairly, enriches society and the friendship between nations. Sport is also recognized as an individual activity which, played fairly, offers the opportunity for self-knowledge, self-expression and fulfillment; personal achievement, skill acquisition and demonstration of ability; social interaction, enjoyment, good health and well-being. Sport promotes involvement and responsibility in society with its wide range of clubs and leaders working voluntarily. In addition, responsible involvement in some activities can help to promote sensitivity to the environment.

Responsibility for fair play

Involvement and participation in sport among children and young people takes place within a wider social environment. The potential benefits to society and to the individual from sport will only be maximized where fair play is moved from the peripheral position it currently occupies to centre stage. Fair play must be given the highest priority by all those who, directly or indirectly, influence and promote sporting experiences for children and young people. These include:

  • Governments: at all levels, and including agencies working with Government. Those involved in formal education have a particular responsibility.
  • Sports and Sports-Related Organizations including Sports Federations and Governing Bodies; Physical Education Associations, Coaching Agencies and Institutes, Medical and Pharmacological Professions and the Media. The commercial sector, including sports goods manufacturers and retailers and marketing agencies, also has a responsibility to contribute to the promotion of fair play.
  • Individuals including Parents, Teachers, Coaches, Referees, Officials, Sports Leaders, Administrators, Journalists, Doctors and Pharmacists; and those role models who have achieved levels of sporting excellence and fame; those who work on a voluntary or on a professional basis. Individuals may also have responsibilities in their capacity as spectators.

Each of these institutions and individuals has a responsibility and a role to play. This Code of Sports Ethics is addressed to them. It will only be effective if all involved in sport are prepared to take on the responsibility identified in the Code.


Governments have the following responsibilities:

  • To encourage the adoption of high ethical standards in all aspects of society within which sport operates.
  • To stimulate and support those organizations and individuals who have demonstrated sound ethical principles in their work with sport.
  • To encourage the education profession to include the promotion of sport and fair play as a central part of the physical education curriculum.
  • To support initiatives aimed at promoting fair play in sport, particularly amongst the young, and encouraging institutions to place fair play as a central priority in their work.
  • To encourage research both nationally and internationally which improves our understanding of the complex issues surrounding young people's involvement in sport and which identifies the extent of poor behaviour and the opportunities for promoting fair play.

Sports and Sports-related organizations

Sports and sports related Organizations have the following responsibilities:

In setting a proper context for Fair Play

  • To publish clear guidelines on what is considered to be ethical or unethical behaviour and ensure that, at all levels of participation and involvement, consistent and appropriate incentives and/or sanctions are applied.
  • To ensure that all decisions are made in accordance with a Code of Ethics for their sport which reflects the European code.
  • To raise the awareness of fair play within their sphere of influence through the use of campaigns, awards, educational material and training opportunities. They must also monitor and evaluate the impact of such initiatives.
  • To establish systems which reward fair play and personal levels of achievement in addition to competitive success.
  • To provide help and support to the media to promote good behaviour.

When working with Young People,

  • To ensure that the structure of competition acknowledges the special requirements of the young and growing child and provides the opportunity for graded levels of involvement from the recreational to the highly competitive.
  • To support the modification of rules to meet the special needs of the very young and immature, and put the emphasis on fair play rather than competitive success.
  • To ensure that safeguards are in place within the context of an overall framework of support and protection for children, young people and women, both to protect the above groups from sexual harassment and abuse and to prevent the exploitation of children, particularly those who demonstrate precocious ability.
  • To ensure that all those within or associated with the organization who have a responsibility for children and young people are qualified at an appropriate level to manage, train, educate and coach them, and in particular that they understand the biological and psychological changes associated with children maturation.


Individuals have the following responsibilities:

Personal Behaviour

  • To behave in a way which sets a good example and presents a positive role model for children and young people; not in any way to reward, to demonstrate personally, nor to condone in others unfair play and to take appropriate sanctions against poor behaviour.
  • To ensure that their own level of training and qualification is appropriate to the needs of the child as they move through different stages of sporting commitment.

When working with Young People,

  • To put as a first priority the health, safety and welfare of the child or young athlete and ensure that such considerations come before vicarious achievement, or the reputation of the school or club or coach or parent.
  • To provide a sporting experience for children that encourages a life long commitment to health related physical activity.
  • To avoid treating children as simply small adults but be aware of the physical and psychological changes that occur during maturation and how these affect sporting performance.
  • To avoid placing expectations on a child unrelated to his or her capacity to meet them.
  • To put the enjoyment of the participant as a priority and never place undue pressure which impinges on the rights of the child to choose to participate.
  • To take equal interest in the less talented as in the talented and emphasize and reward personal levels of achievement and skill acquisition in addition to more overt competitive success.
  • To encourage young children to devise their own games with their own rules, to take on the roles of coach, official and referee in addition to participant; to devise their own incentives and sanctions for fair or unfair play; and to take personal responsibility for their actions.
  • To provide the child and young person and child's family with as much information as possible to ensure awareness of the potential risks and attractions of reaching levels of high performance.


Fair play is an essential and central part of successful promotion, development and involvement in sport. Through fair play, the individual, the sports organizations and society as a whole all win. We all have a responsibility to promote FAIR PLAY - THE WINNING WAY. (Qui joue loyalement est toujours gagnant.)