Academic journal article The International Sports Law Journal

The Future EU Sports Policy: Hollow Words on Hallowed Ground?

Academic journal article The International Sports Law Journal

The Future EU Sports Policy: Hollow Words on Hallowed Ground?

Article excerpt

The Treaty on the functioning of the European Union stipulates that the Union will "contribute to the promotion of European sporting issues" and that the Union's action "shall be aimed at developing the European dimension in sport" (Article 165 TFEU). Can this lead to a concrete EU sports policy? In reality, the answer lies in setting priorities and finding the legal tools necessary to achieve the goals set. To answer the question, a comparison is made between the priorities of the actors involved and the results in practice. In order to assess the Union's future action in the field of sport, the current and future priorities and the legal framework provided by the TFEU are analysed.


The evolution of the European Union's sports policy is characterised by the dual mechanism that traditionally guides the European integration process: negative versus positive integration. (1) Negative (indirect) integration relates to measures increasing market integration by the removal of (national) trade barriers and obstacles to free movement and competition. Positive (direct) integration relates to common European policies with aims that go beyond the removal of these obstacles. In relation to the indirect EU sports policy, in particular the application of the European rules concerning free movement and competition to sport, a clear legal framework emerged. Even if this framework needs further refinement, with a prominent role for the case-by-case approach, it is unlikely that it will be subject to major changes. The future of the EU's direct sports policy seems less obvious. Whereas it is clear that the EU is 'active' in the field of sport, these actions are very divers and can hardly be defined as a comprehensive European sports policy. (2)

This paper explores the possibility of a future (direct) EU sports policy. Rather than analysing the theoretical explanation for the evolution of the EU's sports policy. (3) or the changing relationship between the EU and the world of sport. (4), this paper focuses on the concrete actions in practice. Thus, a tentative agenda for the future (direct) EU sports policy will be outlined. First, a comparison is made between the priorities set forward by the different actors involved and the results in practice. Second, the limits of the future EU policy will be analysed on the basis of a (new) legal framework.

Priorities versus results

Search for priorities

The origins of the direct sports approach go back to the 1984 Fontainebleau European Council. (5) and the Adonnino Report of the European Parliament on 'A People's Europe'. (6) At that time, the Community's policy concentrated on the potential of sport to achieve 'European goals'. Sport was in the first place considered as a forum for communication among peoples, as a tool to strengthen the image of the EU in the minds of its citizens. (7) Concretely, the Community's involvement in the field of sport remained for the most part limited to the funding of international sporting competitions like the European Sailing Regatta or the Tour de l'Avenir in cycling. (8) After the adoption of the Single European Act in 1986, Community interest in the field of sport moved on to a broader social, educational and cultural plane and the first pleas for the development of a European sports policy emerged. (9) This evolution was further induced by the Bosman judgment, (10) and the reactions from the sports world to this case in particular. (11)

In order to get an overview of the - past and current - priorities of the EU's involvement in the field of sport, an analysis is made of the 'sports agenda' of the European institutions and the Member States. Three preliminary remarks should be made in this respect. First, this overview aims at illuminating general tendencies, rather than aiming at an exhaustive and detailed listing. As Commissioner Reding correctly pointed out in 2002, the latter would be difficult. …

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