chapter  7
8 Pages

The developing role of the European Union

ByBorja García

Sport in Europe is traditionally a competence of national, regional or local authorities. However, supranational institutions such as the European Union (EU) have developed an increasingly important role. The relationship between the EU and sport policy is, however, quite complex. This is due to a series of circumstances that it is necessary to mention by way of introduction. First, a constitutional constraint conditioned for a long time any EU approach to sport. The EU had no direct competence on sport until very recently. Legally, sport in Europe was an exclusive competence of the Member States and, some would also argue, of the so-called sporting movement (sport non-governmental organisations). This, however, did not prevent sport from appearing in the EU political agenda relatively often, especially following the well-known Bosman ruling in 1995. This constitutional constraint disappeared with the entering into force of the Lisbon Treaty in December 2009. The new Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) includes for the first time a direct mandate on sport for the EU in Article 165. This is, however, a very ‘thin’ competence, where the EU can only coordinate and support the actions of the Member States. Second, given the existence of constitutional constraint until 2009, the EU tended to approach sport indirectly through the regulatory policies of the Single European Market (SEM). This leads Tokarski et al. (2004) to differentiate between direct and indirect EU sports policy, the former being relatively modest and patchy, while the latter focused on the economic and legal aspects of professional sport. Third, policy making in the EU involves a great number of actors and it would be wrong to assume that their preferences are easily aligned. In the case of sport, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), the European Parliament, the Commission and the Member States (meeting either in the Council of Ministers or the European Council) have differing views on sport. Even within the European Commission one can find contrasting internal approaches to sport. The result is a heterogeneous policy community that makes generalisations about EU policy on sport very difficult. Fourth, it is now acknowledged and accepted that, despite diversity, there are basically two main (and contrasting) views of sport among EU institutions that have developed over time (Parrish 2003a, b): sport as an economic activity in need of regulation when it affects the SEM,

and sport as a sociocultural activity with important implications for civil society, identities and culture throughout the EU. Owing to the complex institutional structure of the EU, none of these visions has real prevalence over the other. This depends on the circumstances of each particular case. Thus, the implications, tensions and evolution of these two views can explain a large majority of EU decisions in sport. Given the aforementioned lack of legal base to develop a fully fledged policy, there is heterogeneity in decisions and regulations. It might be argued that, to a certain extent, all those decisions together might amount to a sort of EU sports policy, but it would be quite an amorphous sport policy. Thus, the very nature of EU sport policy and the institutional structure of the EU make policy difficult to analyse in this case. For the sake of clarity, this chapter will adopt a structure based on the division used by the European Commission since its 2007 White Paper on Sport. That document is considered to be an attempt to rationalise the EU approach to sport and, therefore EU sports policy. It was drafted by the Commission in preparation for the adoption of the TFEU, which includes an article on sport. In the White Paper, the Commission followed a threefold structure under three headings: the economic impact of sport, the sociocultural dimension of sport and the organisation of sport. The same structure was replicated by the Commission in its 2011 Communication setting up the policy priorities for a new EU sports policy under Article 165 TFEU (European Commission 2011). Thus, it seems sensible to build on this division to offer some clarity on the evolution of the role of the EU in sports policy. First, this chapter will explore the role of the EU as a regulator of sport. This focuses mainly on sport as an industry and a market place. Therefore, it affects mostly professional sports and it deals with issues of working conditions, broadcasting and commercial exploitation of sport. Second, the chapter will analyse the role of the EU as a partner of sport organisations in developing and/or protecting the sociocultural values of sport. This more directly affects amateur sport, volunteerism and activities linked to social inclusion or education through sport. Finally, the chapter will focus on the role of EU institutions in the governance of sport in Europe, which is invariably linked to the concepts of autonomy and specificity of sport.