Documents considered by the Committee on 27 April 2011 - European Scrutiny Committee Contents

8   The European Union and Sport



COM(11) 12

+ ADDs 1-3

Commission Communication: Developing the European Dimension in Sport

Legal base
Document originated18 January 2011
Deposited in Parliament27 January 2011
DepartmentCulture, Media and Sport
Basis of considerationOpinion from the Culture, Media and Sport Committee
Previous Committee ReportHC 428-xx (2010-11), chapter 2 (16 March 2011)
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared

Background and previous scrutiny

8.1  The Lisbon Treaty, which entered into force on 1 December 2009, established a specific new legal base 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" (Article 165(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union — the TFEU). EU action is limited to the adoption of non-legislative "incentive measures" or Council Recommendations. Article 165(2) 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."

8.2  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.

8.3  The Communication is the first policy document issued by the Commission since the introduction of a specific new legal base and EU competence in sport. It proposes a range of measures to be taken forward by the Commission, by itself or in cooperation with Member States, under the following headings:

  • the Societal Role of Sport — this highlights how sport can break down social barriers and promote social inclusion, healthy living, education and training, but also proposes action to counter racism, xenophobia and homophobia in sport and to combat doping;
  • the Economic Dimension of Sport — this focuses on the contribution sport can make to economic growth and employment;
  • the Organisation of Sport — this considers issues relating to the governance and integrity of sport, and the impact of EU competition and free movement rules on the player transfer market and on mobility; and
  • International Cooperation — this emphasises the need to strengthen links with non-EU countries and international organisations, notably the Council of Europe.

8.4  A more detailed description of the measures proposed in the Commission Communication, and the Government's view, is contained in our 22nd Report.[42]

8.5  We considered that the introduction of a specific new legal base on sport in Article 165 TFEU carried with it the risk of an extension of EU competence and activity in a field which hitherto has been seen as the primary responsibility of national sports governing bodies and Member States. We thought that this risk had been 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. However, we also thought it appropriate to seek the Opinion of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee since it had conducted an inquiry and produced a Report on a Commission White Paper on Sport published in 2007.

The Opinion of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee

8.6  The Chairman (Mr John Whittingdale) notes that the Committee was critical of the Commission's 2007 White Paper on Sport because, at that time, the EU Treaties did not include a specific legal base for action on sport at EU level. The Committee stated then:

"The Government should hold the Commissioner to his assurances that the White Paper proposes neither regulation, harmonisation nor integration, and we believe that it is essential that national governing bodies of sport continue to have the freedom to decide for themselves how their sports should be run.

"If the EU is to have a role in sport, it should be to identify possibilities for fruitful action by Member States, to be taken at their discretion. The limitations of that role should be acknowledged openly by Member States and EU institutions alike, as a guard against any sign of creeping regulation by EU institutions in the future."

8.7  However, the Chairman says that the Committee's concerns have been assuaged by the introduction of a new legal base for sport, because Article 165 TFEU "is relatively limited in scope." He continues:

"In broad terms, therefore, I agree with the Government's positive assessment of the Commission Communication. Like the Minister, I would emphasise the need for any action at European level to focus on adding value whilst respecting the autonomy of sport governing structures and the principle of subsidiarity. The areas identified by the Commission for European action seem sensible and many of them chime with the Committee's own work, particularly doping; violence and intolerance linked to sporting events; the protection of intellectual property rights arising from the coverage of sport; and best practice on good governance in sport.

"Sport is an essential part of Europe's economy and efforts must be made to ensure that its health is maintained. In most areas this is best done through sporting institutions or at a national level. There are some areas, though, in which cooperation at a European level can add value and — providing that the Commission does not seek to overreach the legal base provided to it by Article 165 — the Committee is satisfied with the proposals contained within the Communication."


8.8  We thank the Committee for its Opinion. We agree on the need for vigilance to ensure that any action at EU level in the field of sport fully respects the principle of subsidiarity and the limitations on EU competence set out in Article 165 TFEU. We are content to clear the Communication from scrutiny but shall keep a close eye on future developments.

42   See HC 428-xx (2010-11), chapter 2 (16 March 2011). Back

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Prepared 10 May 2011