Documents considered by the Committee on 16 March 2011 - European Scrutiny Committee Contents

2 The European Union and Sport



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Commission Communication: Developing the European Dimension in Sport

Commission staff working document: Sport and Free Movement

Commission staff working document: Impact assessment

Commission staff working document: Summary of impact assessment

Deposited in Parliament27 January 2011
DepartmentCulture, Media and Sport
Basis of considerationEM of 7 February 2011
Previous Committee ReportNone
To be discussed in CouncilMay 2011
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionNot cleared; await opinion from the Culture, Media and Sport Committee


2.1 In 2007, the Commission published a White Paper on Sport which demonstrated the extent to which EU law and policies already affect sport and sought to "give strategic orientation on the role of sport in Europe, to encourage debate on specific problems, to enhance the visibility of sport in EU policy-making and to raise public awareness of the needs and specificities of the sector."[8] It included a detailed Action Plan setting out initiatives which the Commission intended to take or support, while fully respecting the principle of subsidiarity and the autonomy of sporting organisations.

2.2 The Lisbon Treaty, which entered into force on 1 December 2009, established a specific competence enabling the EU to "contribute to the promotion of European sporting issues, while taking account of the specific nature of sport, its structures based on voluntary activity and its social and educational function" by adopting non-legislative "incentive measures" or Council Recommendations. Article 165(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) further provides that EU action shall be aimed at;

"developing the European dimension in sport, by promoting fairness and openness in sporting competitions and cooperation between bodies responsible for sports, and by protecting the physical and moral integrity of sportsmen and sportswomen, especially the youngest sportsmen and sportswomen."

2.3 Article 165(3) TFEU encourages the EU and Member States to foster cooperation with third countries and with competent international organisations in the field of sport, especially the Council of Europe.

The Commission Communication

2.4 The Commission says that nearly all the actions proposed in the Action Plan accompanying the 2007 White Paper on Sport have either been completed or are being implemented. The purpose of the Communication, therefore, is to identify additional measures for the Commission to take forward by itself, or in cooperation with Member States. The Commission invites the European Parliament and Council to support the proposals set out in the Communication and to indicate which they consider to be priorities for future activity.

2.5 The Communication first considers the ways in which EU action can "add value" in the field of sport and then suggests possible measures under each of the following headings:

  • the Societal Role of Sport — this highlights the contribution sport can make to the attainment of "smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and new jobs," in line with the EU's Europe 2020 Strategy, by breaking down social barriers and promoting social inclusion, healthy living, and education and training. It also identifies risk factors, such as the prevalence in sport of racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance, as well as the public health hazards associated with doping;
  • the Economic Dimension of Sport — this focuses on the contribution sport can make to economic growth and employment and considers the different types of revenue streams needed to ensure sustainable (including grassroots) funding for sport, the impact of EU State aid rules, and the potential use of EU Structural Funds;
  • the Organisation of Sport — this considers the principles needed to ensure good governance and safeguard the integrity of sport, as well as the impact of EU free movement rules on the mobility of amateur and professional sportsmen and women and of EU competition rules on the player transfer market; and
  • Cooperation with Third Countries and International Organisations — this emphasises the need to strengthen cooperation in the field of sport, especially with countries wishing to join the EU and with the Council of Europe.

The EU's added value in sport

2.6 The Commission says that, while respecting Member States' competences in the field of sport and recognising the autonomy of sport governing structures as a "fundamental principle", EU action can nevertheless provide "significant added value" in the following ways:

  • by helping Member States to develop comparable data as the basis for policy-making;
  • by helping to address transnational challenges, such as doping, fraud, match-fixing, or violence and intolerance linked to sports events;
  • by contributing to Europe 2020 goals on employability, mobility, social inclusion, education and training;
  • by promoting the development of European networks in the field of sport to disseminate good practice as well as better information on the application of EU law in the field of sport; and
  • by providing financial support for projects or networks in the field of sport, or in areas related to sport, such as life-long learning, public health, youth and social inclusion.

The Societal Role of Sport

2.7 The Commission proposes the following measures to combat doping in sport, tackle racism and other forms of intolerance, and to promote healthy living and social inclusion:

  • EU accession to the Council of Europe's Anti-Doping Convention;
  • action to combat trade in doping substances by organised networks, including by means of criminal law measures;
  • support for transnational anti-doping networks;
  • support for innovative initiatives under the EU's Lifelong Learning Programme to encourage physical activity at school;
  • EU guidelines on combining high-level sports training and education;
  • the inclusion of sport-related qualifications within the European Qualifications Framework (including recognition of qualifications or skills gained through voluntary participation in sport);
  • developing and implementing safety requirements and security arrangements for international sporting events;
  • support for activities which tackle racism, xenophobia and homophobia in sport;
  • using the EU Physical Activity Guidelines to encourage the development of national guidelines on physical activity in school, and support for transnational networks and projects to exchange good practice;
  • developing, through the European Disability Strategy, standards on accessibility to sports and recreational facilities and venues and promoting participation in sport;
  • encouraging better representation of women in sport, especially in leadership positions; and
  • supporting transnational projects which support the social integration of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups through sport.

The Economic Dimension of Sport

2.8 The Commission proposes the following measures to develop comparable, EU-wide data on the social and economic impact of sport, ensure sustainable funding at all levels of sport, and secure adequate investment in sport infrastructure:

  • encouraging the creation of Sport Satellite Accounts which enable Member States to extract sport-related data from national economic data as a means of measuring the economic importance of sport;
  • supporting the development of a network of universities promoting innovative and evidence-based sports policies;
  • examining the feasibility of establishing a sport monitoring function in the EU to collect data, analyse trends, facilitate research and launch surveys and studies;
  • ensuring adequate protection of intellectual property rights arising from the coverage of sports events (such as licensing the retransmission of sporting events);
  • launching a study to consider how EU competition law and internal market rules affect the property rights of the organisers of sport competitions as well as image rights;
  • exploring ways to strengthen financial solidarity and redistribution mechanisms within sport, using the results of an EU study on the funding of grassroots sport to disseminate best practice on transparent and sustainable funding;
  • monitoring the application of EU State aid rules with a view to developing guidance if the number of sport-related State aid cases increases; and
  • encouraging the use of EU Structural Funds to support sport infrastructure and to develop the skills and employability of those working in the sports sector.

The Organisation of Sport

2.9 The Commission proposes the following measures to promote good governance within sport and to ensure that the specific nature and function of sport is taken into account when assessing whether sporting rules comply with EU law on such matters as fundamental rights, non-discrimination, free movement and competition:

  • promoting standards of sports governance based on principles such as autonomy of sports governing bodies (within the limits of the law), democracy, transparency and accountability in decision making;
  • providing guidance on how to assess the compatibility of sporting rules with EU law, including specific guidance on how Treaty rules prohibiting discrimination on grounds of nationality affect the organisation of sporting competitions;
  • producing, in 2012, an analysis of the consequences of rules on "home-grown players" in team sports;[9]
  • launching a study to evaluate rules on the transfer of players in professional sport;
  • organising a conference to consider how to tackle problems associated with the activities of sports agents; and
  • supporting the creation of an EU-level social dialogue for the sport and active leisure sector.

Cooperation with Third Countries and International Organisations

2.10 The Commission highlights the need for closer international cooperation in the field of sport, especially with non-EU European countries and with the Council of Europe.

2.11 The Commission says that it intends to continue to support the six informal EU Working Groups established in the following fields:

  • Sport and Health;
  • Sport and Economics;
  • Non-profit Sports Organisations;
  • Anti-doping;
  • Education and Training in Sport; and
  • Social Inclusion and Equal Opportunities in Sport.

2.12 In the Commission staff working document: Sport and Free Movement,[10] the Commission analyses the impact on both professional and amateur sportsmen and women of EU rules on free movement. In the impact assessment[11] the Commission compares its preferred policy option — a Communication — with two others: no new policy actions beyond those contained in the 2007 White Paper, or a new strategic long-term policy framework based on the creation of an Open Method of Coordination[12] in the field of sport. It also includes a table (in Annex II) showing progress made to date in implementing the Action Plan accompanying the 2007 White Paper.

The Government's view

2.13 The Minister for Sport and the Olympics (Hugh Robertson) notes that the Communication is the first policy document issued by the Commission since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty and the introduction of new powers enabling the EU to "support, coordinate or supplement"[13] actions and policies in the field of sport developed by EU Member States. He says that it builds on the 2007 White Paper on Sport by proposing a range of measures and actions to be taken by the Commission by itself or together with Member States up until 2015. He expects the Council to agree a Resolution on the Communication in May.

2.14 The Minister welcomes the Communication which he says provides a useful platform for addressing the many challenges confronting sport. He continues:

"The UK Government strongly supports the Commission's position that the majority of these challenges can and should be addressed by sport itself. The United Kingdom's position has been consistently clear — any activity in this area must be underpinned by a clear commitment to the autonomy of sport and can be supported only where clear value is added to existing national policy."[14]

2.15 The Minister goes on to comment in detail on the content of the Communication. He considers that the Commission's analysis of the societal role of sport provides "a particularly constructive and welcome narrative of EU sport policy goals and ambitions in this area."[15] He expresses the UK's support for EU accession to the Council of Europe's Anti-Doping Convention, provided that the EU's negotiating mandate remains within the limits of EU competence. He says that the UK also supports taking action against those who traffic or supply doping substances, but adds that "regulation in this area has the potential to impact much wider than sport, and legitimate therapeutic use needs to be considered."[16]

2.16 The Minister endorses efforts to secure mutual recognition of both formal academic and informal vocational and voluntary learning acquired in sport-related fields and expresses support for better dissemination of the EU Physical Activity Guidelines, while adding that "any future Council Recommendation in this area should explicitly recognise the voluntary nature of the guidelines."[17]

2.17 The Minister suggests that a number of the measures proposed by the Commission to recognise and support the economic contribution made by sport should be given priority. He highlights UK achievements in producing comparable data for evidence-based policy making and for measuring the economic importance of sport (estimated as constituting 3.2% of the UK's economy in terms of consumer expenditure) and supports the Commission's proposal for a feasibility study to consider the value of an EU sport monitoring function, provided it "does not duplicate existing functions or impose inadvertent or indirect burdens on Member States."[18] He also welcomes a proposed study on the rights of sports organisers and on sport image rights and efforts to encourage transparent and sustainable financing of sport, but says that the Government does not consider guidance on the application of State aid rules to sport to be a priority. He sees scope for those involved in sport to make greater use of EU Structural Funds to promote local and regional regeneration and employment.

2.18 The Minister emphasises that issues concerning the governance of sport are best taken at national level by sport governing bodies, but recognises the value of issuing guidance to clarify the application of EU rules, especially in such areas as competition, the internal market and free movement. The Minister expresses disappointment that the Commission, while recognising the importance of tackling match-fixing and strengthening the integrity of sport, does not propose any specific measures.

2.19 The Minister agrees with the Commission that existing informal structures for cooperation between Member States should be retained, provided they are "tightly focussed, productive and efficient."[19] He adds:

"The UK will push for the action points which best support UK ambitions to be towards the front of any implementation timetable. UK officials will continue to closely monitor European sport policy developments and actively engage with sport stakeholders to ensure that these will be of benefit to the UK and its sport sector."


2.20 The 2007 White Paper on Sport was issued at a time when the EU Treaties did not include a specific legal base for EU action on sport. It nevertheless highlighted how the EU's competence in many other policy areas — notably, the internal market and competition, but also public health, education, vocational training and youth policy, economic and social cohesion, and police and criminal judicial cooperation — as well as the prohibition of discrimination on grounds of nationality, have had a significant impact on sport within the EU.

2.21 The introduction of a specific new legal base on sport in Article 165 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union carries with it the risk of an extension of EU competence and activity in an area which hitherto has been seen as the primary responsibility of national sports governing bodies and Member States. This risk is mitigated by the limited scope for EU action based solely on Article 165 TFEU, which only contemplates the adoption of incentive measures and non-binding Council Recommendations and precludes the harmonisation of national laws. The goals set out in Article 165 TFEU, which seek to promote fairness and openness in sporting competitions and cooperation between sport governing bodies while also supporting the physical and moral integrity of those involved in sport, appear to be sensible ones to pursue at a European level.

2.22 In taking forward the measures proposed in the Communication, we think that it is essential for the Commission to deliver on its commitment to work closely with other international organisations, such as the Council of Europe and the World Anti-Doping Agency, in order to avoid needless duplication of effort. We think that care and vigilance will also be needed to ensure that any action at EU level fully respects the principle of subsidiarity.

2.23 When the Commission published its 2007 White Paper on Sport, our predecessors asked the Culture, Media and Sport Committee for its Opinion, which resulted in an inquiry and Report on the White Paper.[20] As the Communication is the first policy document issued by the Commission since the introduction of a specific new legal base on sport in the EU Treaties, and the Commission says that it is intended to build on the achievements of the White Paper, we think it appropriate to ask the Committee for its Opinion.

2.24 We shall keep the Communication under scrutiny pending consideration of the Committee's Opinion.

8   See HC 41-xxxiii (2006-07), chapter 3 (2 October 2007).  Back

9   UEFA defines "home-grown players" as those who, regardless of nationality or age, have been trained by their club or another club within their national football association for at least three years between the ages of 15 and 21. UEFA rules specify a minimum number of "home-grown players" for clubs participating in its football competitions. Other club sports have adopted similar rules which effectively establish quotas for locally-trained talent-see pages 4-5 of the Commission's staff working paper on Sport and Free Movement (ADD 1).  Back

10   ADD 1: see headnote. Back

11   ADD 2: see headnote. Back

12   The Open Method of Coordination requires Member States to establish targets, indicators and benchmarks, and systems of monitoring, reporting and peer review.  Back

13   See Article 6 TFEU. Back

14   See para 13.2 of the Minister's Explanatory Memorandum.  Back

15   See para 14.1 of the Minister's Explanatory Memorandum.  Back

16   See para 14.4 of the Minister's Explanatory Memorandum.  Back

17   See para 14.9 of the Minister's Explanatory Memorandum.


18   See para 15.2 of the Minister's Explanatory Memorandum.  Back

19   See para 18.1 of the Minister's Explanatory Memorandum.


20   See HC 347 (2007-08). Back

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