A short review of the Italian Association of Sport Attorneys' 'Sport and Women' conference in Rome

Published 01 November 2019 By: Carlo Rombola

Business Woman Sport

On Tuesday 1 October 2019, at CONI (Italian National Olympic Committee) “Salone d’Onore”, there took place one of the most important female sports event ever organized in the “immortal city”.

The convention, organized by the Lazio branch of the Italian Association of Sport Attorneys (AIAS), aimed to talk about the topic of equal opportunities in the sport world.

The matter is very important; it is strongly debated these days, particularly in Italy where unfortunately it’s not yet possible to assert that the same legal guarantees are afforded to male and female athletes. The reason for this, in the author’s opinion, can be found in an old cultural context that gives privileges to men who still hold most of the important positions in sports and have stronger legal protections for their contracts and legal status as professional athletes. Nevertheless, fortunately there are now some outstanding female exemplars who, on their own, have stood out in a generally chauvinist system, and they were invited to talk to the audience about their personal experience.

The CONI President, Giovanni Malagò, host of the event, introduced the meeting, emphasising that the CONI particularly cares about the topic of equal opportunities, due to its across-the-board importance in all the federal sports affiliated with it.

Mr. Malagò paid specific attention to the reforms that occurred in 2018, which had introduced a “female quota” into the sports world. This consists of the obligation for all affiliated federal sports to commit to elect at least the 30% of woman members to their federal council, starting from the next mandate.

What is interesting to note is many women hold positions1 even into the management system of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which means not only that the international community particularly cares about the topic, but also the gap between the number of male and female members within the administrative and management systems of the sports world keeps shrinking.

Discussing this topic, there were also some people who held perhaps more nuanced opinions on equal opportunity. For example, Franco Chimenti, Vice Vicarious President of CONI, didn’t agree with having a mandatory percentage of “female quote”; rather, he believes that women should have the same opportunities as men to hold positions, and be appointed on merit not simply because they are women.

Furthermore, Mr. Chimenti brought up a data point that didn’t make us think positively about the reality of equal career opportunities: nowadays, in Italy, all 44 sport federations affiliated with CONI are managed by a male president.

As far as female athletes are concerned, the legal framework is even worse. Law n. 91/81 (on professional sport) not only doesn’t concern every sport (when issued, only six ‘professional’ sports were acknowledged: soccer, golf, basketball, cycling, motorcycling and boxing, which has subsequently been reduced to just four with motorcycling and boxing ruled out), but also doesn’t equally regard both genders: indeed, the Italian female athletes are not safeguarded by the law in terms of their employment relationships with the clubs, including social security, health care and pensions. The main reason for this is that the female sports competitions don’t generate enough profits to be considered professional.

The institutional greetings, which involved the chiefs of the Bar Association of Rome (the President Antonino Galletti, the Vice President Mauro Mazzoni and the Councillor Grazia Maria Gentile) and of the AIAS (the President Salvatore Civale, Priscilla Palombi, member of the Association Executive Board, and Alberto Fantini, Coordinator of the Lazio Section), were followed by three discussion tables moderated by Enrico Lubrano, Professor of Sports Law at the LUISS Guido Carli University in Rome.

The first table, which focused on leadership in the sports’ sector between quotas for women and sport culture, was opened by Cristiana Capotondi, Vice President of the Lega Pro at the FIGC (Italian Football Federation), who pointed out how the differences between men and women could be an extraordinary opportunity for growth, instead of being a problem of coexistence in the workplace.

The same opinion was reaffirmed by Rosanna Ciuffetti, Director of the School of Sport at CONI, and Valentina Scialfa, Member of the Sports Agents Commission at CONI, both rightly emphasizing that women are still in an absolute minority among managers, technical personnel and sports agents.

However, in the opinion of Stella Frascà, Member of the FIGC Federal Council, the road to professionalism remains a long one still, and getting there to fast even risks being counterproductive without an adequate weighting on the costs and prospects of this change.

Valeria Panzironi, Director of Legal Affairs Company Sport & Salute S.p.A. and Francesca Vici, Head of External Institutional Relations of FIH (Italian Hockey Federation), made an important contribution to the discussion also: according to the managers, the quotas for women are still indispensable for the purpose of encouraging female leadership.

The second table on Sports Justice and the activity of Lawyers, Public Prosecutor and Judges in the sport world, was attended by important representatives from each category, who reported to the audience their experiences as executives and legal professionals. The speakers included Barbara Agostinis, Member of the College of Guarantee for Sport at CONI, Maria Cecilia Morandini, Deputy Prosecutor at the Italian Boxing Federation, Lina Musumarra, President of the Federal Court at the Italian Equestrian Sports Federation, Piero Sandulli, President of the Court of Appeal at the FIGC, Arianna Terzulli, Federal Prosecutor at the Italian Tennis Federation, Flavia Tortorella, Lawyer and Mario Vigna, Deputy Public Prosecutor of the National Anti-Doping Prosecutor's Office.

The day was closed by the third table, which reflected upon the concrete possibilities of introducing professionalism into Italian women's sport. Speakers with different professional experiences expressed their opinion on this controversial and unpredictable topic: Domenico De Marinis, Professor of Fashion and Industrial Property Law at the University of International Studies in Rome, Ilaria Pasqui, Director of FC Internazionale Women Team, Monica Ruffo, Legal Affairs at Company Sport & Salute SpA , Giulia Saba, athlete of the Paralympic women's basketball Italian national team, Guglielmo Stendardo and Carlo Rombolà, members of the Sports Law and Sports Activities Commission at the Rome Bar Association.

The author would like to thank Mr. Emanuele Bocchiardo and Pierfrancesco De Felice for their contributions to the piece.

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Carlo Rombola

Carlo Rombola

Carlo is an Italian qualified lawyer based in Rome, who has been dealing with sport law matters for more than ten years, cooperates with domestic and international legal journals and is author of several publications, both on digital and paper-printed supports.

He is also founder and managing partner of the law firm Studio Legale Rombolà & Associati, with offices in Rome and Milan, assistant in sport law at LUISS Guido Carli university of Rome and member of the editorial committee of the Rivista di Diritto Sportivo of CONI and of Olympialex Review.

Carlo often participates, as advisor and speaker, at conferences, round tables and business meetings held by the most important international associations of lawyers and sport operators.

In 2017 he wrote as main author the book Profili di Diritto Internazionale dello Sport, published by Rubettino Editore. Carlo speaks both English and Spanish languages and advices Italian and foreign athlets, managers and sport agents.

Carlo is often invited to join radio and tv programs, as a recognized expert in sport law.

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