Based on appeals by parents, the Chancellor of Justice initiated a discussion about whether charging a transition fee is justified when a child changes his/her sports club. Several sports federations, the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Education and Research, the Estonian Youth Work Centre, the Estonian Olympic Committee, and the Tallinn Sports and Youth Department participated in the discussion.
Summarising the discussions, the Chancellor of Justice made recommendations for applying transition fees if children change their sports club:
determine the child’s interests in the case of all decisions, actions, and activities influencing the child and the young person, and regard them as being the most important when making decisions;
ensure that the child and young person also have the opportunity to train and compete at a time when there is an ongoing dispute regarding their transitioning between clubs;
do not use a child’s rights as a guarantee or leverage when resolving the disputes arising from the agreement;
explain to the parents the contractual rights and obligations upon concluding an agreement between the sports club and a parent, including the principles of the transition fee;
counsel parents regarding issues related to choosing a relevant sport that takes into consideration the needs and abilities of their child and a young person;
develop best practices for protecting a child’s interests in a sports federation and update them, as necessary.
Regarding decisions about a child’s participation in sports and training activities, parents also need to put their child’s interests first and set aside their own personal ambitions. Parents must also take into consideration the proper development of their child, including the education level required for current needs, when concluding an agreement, including a professional agreement, in the name of their child or a young person. A parent must explain to their child or a young person, in a comprehensible manner, what the contractual rights and obligations are.
During the meetings organised at the office of the Chancellor of Justice, the option to establish a lower age limit within the framework of general good practice was considered. In case of children younger than the lower limit, the transition fee principle shall not be applied. The federations believe that it would be impossible to establish a single lower limit, as the specifics of each sport are different. For instance, to be able to even have the chance to participate in a professional sport, one must start training in gymnastics and ballroom dancing at the age of 4. In such a case, a 10-year-old has already been active in their respective field for a period of 6-7 years.
The Chancellor of Justice calls on the federations to critically evaluate the lower age limits established in their regulations, to ensure the proportionality of the transition fee system in conjunction with the time contributed to training the child. Children must retain the right to change sports, clubs, and trainers without excessive formal and non-formal barriers.