Italian Senate pass law to promote equal access to sport for non-Italian children19 January 2016

The ItalianSenatehavepassedanewlawto standardisetherulesofSportsFederationsontheenrolmentofmigrantchildreninsports.

The Sport Citizenship law (in Italian, Cittadinanza Sportiva) was approved on Thursday 14 January and states that children under 18 years old, who are non-Italian citizens but have been legally living in the country since their 10th anniversary can join National Federations and Associations clubs, or other entities that promote sports, on the same basis as Italian citizens.

In addition, migrant children will be allowed to practice sport until the process of obtaining the Italian Citizenship is concluded.

‘Jus sanguinis’
The new law puts an end to the different requirements asked by each Federation to enrol immigrant children in sports, based on the Italian Citizenship law and its ‘jus sanguinis’ principle. The latter states that the citizenship of a child depends on the parents’ citizenship.

As a result, children of migrant parents parents born in Italy can only apply for citizenship between their 18th and 19th birthdays, under the condition of having lived uninterruptedly in Italy since birth, while an Italian child is Italian regardless if he or she was born in Rome or outside Italy.

Non-EU migrants can obtain Italian citizenship if they can prove they have lived in the country for at least 10 years. They can then pass it on to their children.

Sports Federations reform regulations
Over the last years, several Italian Sports Federations, including the Hockey and Boxing Federations, reformed their regulations so that the registration of locally born, young foreigners was equivalent to the registration procedures for Italian citizens.

In football, in order to register with the Italian FA (FIGC), non-EU minor players had to provide a declaration that the child had never played for a foreign club, signed by both parents and the child, a school enrolment document, the child’s birth certificate, a copy of identity documents of both parents and the child, a copy of the local council registration that confirms that the family is living in the territory and copies of the residence permit of the parents and the child.

Italian Fare member A.S.D. Balon Mundial Onlus President, Tommaso Pozzato, explained: “Before the law was passed, each Italian Sport Federation had their own rules on the enrolment of young foreign athletes.

“Playing football after early years was very complicated due to this tardy bureaucratic process, which delayed the access to sports for children coming from other countries and hindered their right to take part in higher level competitions.”

Campaigners help drive change
Campaigners in Italy have been highlighting the problem for many years. In 2015, the researcher Max Mauro, of Southampton Solent and the Open Universities, initiated a study on the type of documents that children, aged 5-15 of non-EU descent, are requested to submit when they register to play football for a youth club competing in an official league in different European countries.

Later in October, as part of the Fare Football People weeks, Balon Mundial organised a conference in Turin where the topics around refugees inclusion through sport and the Sport Citizenship law were addressed. The event gathered members of the Italian Parliament and FIGC.

Tommaso Pozzato said: “Until now what we were witnessing was discrimination. The perfect example is the story of Mario Balotelli, Sicilian-born son of Ghanaian immigrants, raised by an Italian adoptive family.

“His talent was spotted early but because of the ‘jus sanguinis’ principle he never player for any of Itlay’s youth national teams. He had to wait until he turned 18 to become an Italian citizen.

“This law is the first big step to ensure the same treatment for all children, equal rights. Sport is where this has been first acknowledged. However, the new law still does not contemplate Roma children and the children of refugees.”

The Turin-based organisation is now focusing on ensuring the law is adopted and implemented by all major sports bodies, including the FIGC, furthering the role of sport for social inclusion and cohesion.

Reports suggest that the Italian Parliament is also currently discussing the possibility to amend the Citizenship law in order to grant citizenship status to all children born in Italy or that studied in Italy for over a specific amount of time.