Academic journal article The International Sports Law Journal

The EU Commission's White Paper on Sport: An Official Coherent, Yet Debated Entrance of the Commission in the Sports Arena

Academic journal article The International Sports Law Journal

The EU Commission's White Paper on Sport: An Official Coherent, Yet Debated Entrance of the Commission in the Sports Arena

Article excerpt

I. A global approach: an ambitious challenge

With the White Paper, the Commission has taken the option of a comprehensive approach, considering sport in its different dimensions and focussing on non-regulatory topics. The Commission chose this option in order to take account of several factors:

* the appropriateness of a political response that respects the legal context (thereby referring to the absence of a specific legal competence for sport in the Treaty and the correlative need for the Commission to respect the Member States' initiatives and responsibilities for sporting matters), the subsidiarity and proportionality principles (see art. 5 [section] 2 and 3 of the Treaty) as well as the autonomy of sport;

* the fact that sport has a horizontal dimension which interacts with various EU policy areas--hence the need for a broad initiative that builds on a mix of soft-law and soft-policy instruments;

* the fact that the sport sector represents a plethora of organisations and structures--hence the need to cover sport in a wider sense.

The Commission also considered that the White Paper approach would enshrine concrete proposals for actions for follow-up without putting too strong focus on a single dimension of sport, namely the economic dimension of professional sport. This approach would also take into account the solidarity links inherent in the way in which sport is organised in Europe--from the grassroots to the top, thus respecting one of the key characteristics of the European Model of Sport.

This global approach however proves to be quite an ambitious challenge in view of the multiplicity of actors and the variety of issues to be addressed, as well as of the need to match the numerous and often diverging interests. While the global approach bas in general been welcomed as the first step of the EU comprehensive initiative on sport (4), numerous sports stakeholders have pointed out that some of the identified threats and challenges do not generally apply to all sports, nor to all dimensions of sport (in particular professional sport vs. grassroots sport). The fight against racism and violence at sports events is for example an important threat at collective sports grounds (especially at football competitions), but very less likely at individual sports venues (such as tennis, equestrian or motor race events). On the other hand, the transfer of players or the players' agents issues are very significant in professional sports but hardly in grassroots sports. Following the sports stakeholders' calls, the Commission agreed at its early October conference that the second step dialogue needs to be envisaged from a specific point of view, while also maintaining the generality. Specific themes and groups of interests shall therefore be added to the initially proposed "single sport", "country" and Olympic and Paralympic perspectives (5).

II. The White Paper's three dimensions

II.1 Societal role

In the White Paper's first section, the Commission recognises sport "as one of the areas of human activity that most concern and bring together the citizens of the European Union", regardless of age or social origin. In consideration of these virtues, the Commission acknowledges the societal role of sport, the importance of which should be taken into account horizontally in the application of other EU policies, namely in the public health, education and training, social inclusion, external relations and environmental policies. The White Paper enhances the values of sport such as the principles of fair-play, compliance with the rules of the game, solidarity, discipline and tolerance as well as its functions of integration and active citizenship. It further recommends that it shall be practised in a healthy environment (fight against doping, racism and violence, protection of the environment).

As far as the fight against doping is concerned, it is worth noting that the Commission considers (in view of the multiplicity of actors and the unsystematic distribution of responsibilities) that its action in this field should only complement the one of existing actors. …

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