Much media attention is routinely devoted to which athletes are selected to participate in certain high-level competitions. Being selected to compete in these competitions also has a significant effect on the livelihoods of athletes.

The Finnish Olympic Committee selects athletes to participate in the Olympics, while sport-specific associations pick athletes for other high-level competitions. The nature of the associations and the Olympic Committee enables them to make these choices without applying specific selection criteria if they wish. ‘Sport-specific associations are non-profit organisations that enjoy a specific type of autonomy allowing them to choose whether they wish to define the selection criteria they use for selecting athletes’, says Castrén & Snellman attorney Pia Ek.

The autonomy of these non-profit associations is highlighted in the athlete-selection process. Associations can, if they so wish, base their selections solely on sport-related factors.

Criteria Affect the Entire Season

The existence of clear selection criteria is of key importance when it comes to the legal protection of individual athletes. Athletes can use these criteria to plan their training and competition programmes. Engaging in sports is, after all, what the athlete does for a living. Whether a specific athlete is selected for a competition team or not affects, e.g. the extent to which companies want to sponsor them.

If the sport-specific association has established selection criteria for high-level competitions, it must also abide by them. The association’s autonomy is then bound by the possibilities and grounds set out in such selection criteria. ‘When the governing body successfully drafts clear selection criteria, they eliminate multiple interpretations and potential disputes. Good selection criteria are public, transparent, clear and unambiguous,’ says Ek.