Academic journal article The International Sports Law Journal

Executive Summary, October 2006

Academic journal article The International Sports Law Journal

Executive Summary, October 2006

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

The European Union Constitution would have been the first EC Treaty with an article dedicated to sport. Whilst the Treaty will not enter into effect (at least for some time) it does not follow that there is nothing the political leaders of Europe can do to tackle the increasing problems that sport continues to face. To the contrary, recent events demonstrate an even more urgent need for clear political leadership to stabilise and enhance the European Model of Sport.

We cannot ignore the rapid and seemingly irreversible trend towards over-commercialisation of sport and the fact that this has occurred against the background of the European Union developing into a wider political, economic and, in particular, legal structure that now extends to 25 Member States.

It is no secret that sport, and especially team sports such as football, face significant challenges in this new environment. These challenges are not going to go away. There is increasing concern, both on the part of the sport authorities and on the part of the public, as to how these challenges should be faced.

Against this background, the Sports Ministers of France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK recognised the need for political action. The UK Presidency of the European Union took the initiative to set up an Independent Review on sport, divided into two main parts, one dealing with the specific nature of sport in EU law generally, and the other using European football as a case study, to investigate and suggest certain practical solutions.

A great deal of detailed research and analysis was undertaken by technical experts. Specialist groups were appointed to examine legal, economic and political matters and a wide-ranging consultation was held with all interested parties. The overall objective of the Review, as expressed in its terms of reference, was to implement the Nice Declaration on sport.

That Declaration, adopted by the European Council in 2000, set out a number of specific characteristics of sport that are considered to be of value and importance to European society as a whole. Nevertheless, the Declaration is not legally binding and only offers a broad indication of how certain issues should be addressed. In other words, it does not offer the level of detail or provide the degree of legal security that sport needs to have, particularly in these increasingly turbulent times.

The objective of our Review was to consider certain concrete issues facing sport, using football as a case study, and to adopt a series of Recommendations setting out how the EU institutions, the EU Member States and the European football authorities could all play their own part in resolving these issues--and thus implement the Nice Declaration at both European and national level. Interpreting and applying existing jurisprudence together with the policy principles set out in the Nice Declaration, our aim was to provide a comprehensive and robust legal framework for European sport in general and football in particular.

In the Review we have tried to articulate the real meaning of sporting "specificity", to describe and understand the nature of the European sports "pyramid" and also to consider how improvements could be made to this structure to ensure that it is best equipped to serve the needs of European sport in the years to come. For these purposes, the essence of the pyramid structure is the unbreakable link between the grassroots and top professional level of sport, which is a concrete illustration of solidarity in practice. Of equal importance is the wider social function performed by clubs and regional associations in their local communities.

The terms of reference required us to consider all relevant issues of corporate governance in football, which could be of equal significance to other (team) sports. These include matters such as the ownership, control and management of clubs; regulatory issues such as club licensing, the player transfer system, the regulation of players' agents and salary cost controls; corporate governance issues for the football authorities themselves (at both national and European level); criminal activities around football, including money laundering and trafficking of young players; the incidence of racism and xenophobia; gambling activities and, in particular, the implications for match-fixing, corruption and illegal betting; and safety and security in stadia. …

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