Turkey: Somewhere In The Mist: Autonomy Of Turkish National Sports Federations

Last Updated: 5 April 2017
Article by Abdulkadir Guzeloglu

In international sports practice, it is a widely-recognized principle that governance of sports bodies, whether on domestic or international level, should be purified from any governmental interference for achieving a sustainable level of autonomy. Indeed, this standard is closely safeguarded by the International Olympic Committee so that it exercises its regulatory functions through imposing severe sanctions.1 Nevertheless, it is occasionally observed that decisions of governmental authorities carry potential of jeopardizing independence of national sport federations.2

Having these in mind, it is informative to present legal structure of National Sport Federations (''NSF'') as to autonomy, in another vibrant and momentous jurisdiction, Turkey. Indeed, rationalization of Turkish NSFs' existence in terms of autonomy holds a supremely crucial position, since autonomy reflects a multifaceted perspective and may be maintained by means of numerous legal and regulatory methods.

Primarily, the Law on Establishment and Duties of General Directorate of Sports (''Law No:3289'') is the main legislative source that sets out numerous matters regarding NSFs, including governance structure, authority and existence of their competent organs.3 Specifically, Annex Article 9, titled Independent Sports Federations, plays a crucial role. In this vein, this article will examine and reveal current atmosphere within the concept of autonomy that NSFs benefit in Turkish sports governance ecosystem.

Below listed selected features of Annex Article 9 may give a comprehensive and satisfactory perspective regarding the degree of independence that NSFs may enjoy.

1.   NSFs are legal entities that are subject to provisions of private law.

2.   Establishment of NSFs requires a mandatory three-step procedure; i.e. assenting opinion of Central Advisory Board is proposed to Prime Minister's Office by Minister of Youth and Sport. Only after Prime Minister's affirming decision, NSF can be established.

3.   Legal entity of a NSF can be revoked if it fails to meet the requirements stipulated in Law No:3289 and consequently its assets can be transferred to General Directorate of Sports.

4.   If a NSF is granted financial contribution of any kind including in cash, movable or immovable assets, then that NSF is prohibited from using such contribution in a way that contradicts with general purpose of that NSF. Following that, if a NSF acquires an immovable asset with financial contribution of General Directorate, regardless of its amount; Law No:3289 states that relevant immovable is considered to belong to the General Directorate.

5.   Moreover, assets of NSFs are considered to be State-owned property.

6.   Officials of NSFs are considered to be public officials regarding offences that they have committed in relevance with their duties.

7.   Headquarters of NSFs cannot be established anywhere but Ankara.

8.   Governing bodies of NSFs are also predetermined by Law No:3289 as General Assembly, Board of Directors, Board of Auditors, Disciplinary Board and General Secretariat. In addition to that number of aforesaid are already preset by giving a margin covering minimum and maximum numbers.

9.   NSFs can also appoint their Provincial representatives. However, such appointment needs the final confirmation of General Director for Sports.

10.         Regarding General Assembly of NSFs, which are their supreme governing body, General Directorate has right to observe meetings of General Assembly with a specially appointed representative in order to scrutinize whether relevant NSF is acting and taking decisions in accordance with its purpose of establishment.

11.         That said, extraordinary General Assembly can be held upon request of the Minister of Youth and Sports if Sporting Evaluation and Development Board (''the Board''), upon its inspection and scrutiny, concludes that the President of a relevant NSF displays unsatisfactory performance and continuation his or her term of office is seen inappropriate.

12.         Interestingly, for monitoring sporting success and activities of NSFs as well as inspecting latter's plans and projects, the Board is established by Annex Article 9 with a wide area of authority. Indeed, the Board can determine details of the undertakings that must be given by the NSFs to the Minister and verify whether such undertakings are fulfilled by the NSFs.

13.         Furthermore, Annex Article 9 instructs that scrutiny or any kind of inspection concerning NSFs are conducted by officials that are designated by General Assembly, Board of Auditors and the Minister. In close connection with this; if General Directorate of Sports evaluates that any contribution, in kind or in cash provided by itself is mismanaged and a pecuniary damage is occurred, then, General Directorate can directly collect such damage from legally responsible President or members of the Board of Directors. Further General Directorate shall file a criminal complaint before Public Prosecutor's Office.

After providing these points which can effortlessly enable one to reach a convincing and conclusive perception on the level of autonomy that NSFs have, it is seen that there are major legal issues when it comes to autonomy that should be immediately tackled by Turkish actors in order to cultivate a sustainable future for NSFs.


[1] https://www.olympic.org/news/suspension-of-the-kuwait-olympic-committee

[2] https://www.lawinsport.com/articles/item/why-india-s-sports-federations-are-now-required-to-register-as-ngos

[3] Law on Establishment and Duties of Turkish Football Federation, numbered 5894 and dated 05.05.2009 confers Turkish Football Federation (''TFF'') a position that is entirely outside from the scope of Law No:3289. Therefore, in Turkish sports governance, federations could be bifurcated as the TFF and NSFs that are regulated by the Law No:3289.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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