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European dimension in sport

Based on the White Paper on sport, this communication sets out European Union (EU) level actions to be carried out in order to further strengthen the societal role, economic dimension and organisation of sport.

ACT

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 18 January 2011 – Developing the European Dimension in Sport [COM(2011) 12 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

Building on the achievements of the White Paper on sport, this communication presents issues under the same three broad thematic areas that are to be addressed at the European Union (EU) level. Actions at this level aim at providing added value by supporting and complementing EU countries’ actions in the field of sport.

The societal role of sport

Sport can make a positive contribution to European growth, employability of citizens and social cohesion, while limiting health expenditure. However, sport continues to face threats related to doping, violence and intolerance, against which action must be taken to protect athletes and citizens.

The use of doping substances poses serious public health hazards, thus necessitating the stepping up of the fight against doping. Stakeholders have called for the EU to join the Council of Europe Anti-Doping Convention, to which end the Commission will propose a draft mandate for negotiating the EU’s accession. It is also essential to reinforce the measures preventing organised networks’ trade in doping substances. The Commission will examine ways to reinforce such measures, including through the introduction of criminal law provisions. The Commission already supports several organisations that play an important role in the fight against doping, such as the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). It will continue supporting transnational anti-doping networks.

The quality of sports programmes in educational institutions is not satisfactory in several EU countries. The quality of sport training centres and their staff should be high enough to safeguard athletes' moral, educational and professional interests. To support education, training and qualifications in sport, the Commission and EU countries will draw up European guidelines on “dual careers” to ensure that quality education is provided alongside sport training. They will also support the referencing of sport-related qualifications to the European Qualification Framework (EQF) and promote the recognition and validation of non-formal and informal learning gained through sport-related activities.

A European approach is needed to prevent and fight against violence and intolerance, which continue to pose problems to European sport. The Commission and EU countries will therefore develop and implement security arrangements and safety requirements covering a wide range of sport disciplines (currently only international football events are covered). Furthermore, the Commission will support the fight against intolerance in sport and encourage EU countries to fully and effectively transpose the Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA on combating racism and xenophobia.

Sport is fundamental for improving physical activity, which is an essential health determinant in today’s society. To enhance health through sport, the Commission and EU countries are further working on national guidelines encouraging the incorporation of physical activity into citizens’ daily lives, based on the 2008 EU Physical Activity Guidelines. There are great differences between EU countries regarding the concept of health-enhancing physical activity (HEPA). To overcome these differences, the Commission will support transnational projects and networks in this area.

Social inclusion can be improved in and through sport. To this end, the Commission and EU countries will draw up accessibility standards for sport through the European Disability Strategy. They will also further promote the participation of persons with disabilities in sporting activities. In addition, the Commission will support transnational projects that promote women’s access to sport and disadvantaged groups’ social integration through sport.

The economic dimension of sport

Sport is an ever growing sector of the economy that contributes to growth and jobs. However, there is a need for comparable data to form the basis of evidence-based policy-making and for sustaining the financing of sport, in particular its non-profit structures.

Evidence-based policy-making is essential for implementing EU sport provisions. The Commission and EU countries will produce satellite accounts for sport to measure its economic importance. The Commission will also provide support to a network of universities to promote innovative and evidence-based sport policies, as well as study the possibility of setting up an EU sport monitoring function.

The sustainable financing of sport must be ensured. Intellectual property rights are an important source of revenue in the professional sports field; consequently, the Commission will take those arising in the coverage of sporting events into consideration in the implementation of the Digital Agenda initiative. It will also study the funding of grassroots sport, which will inform future action in this field. Furthermore, together with EU countries, the Commission will examine how the financial solidarity mechanisms in the sports sector may be strengthened.

Thus far, there have only been a few decisions on the application of EU state aid rules to sport. As a result, stakeholders are continually requesting for additional clarifications on the financing of infrastructure and sport organisations. Hence, the Commission will monitor the application of state aid law in the area of sport and, if the number of state aid cases increases, it will consider providing guidance.

Sport is a valuable tool for regional development and employability. To take advantage of this value, the Commission and EU countries will make full use of the European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund to support sustainable sport structures.

The organisation of sport

The autonomy and self-regulation of sport organisations is underpinned by good governance in the sector. To promote good governance in sport at the European level, the Commission and EU countries will endorse common standards through the exchange of good practice and by providing targeted support to specific initiatives.

In order to support the correct application of the concept of the specific nature of sport, the Commission will provide theme-by-theme guidance on the relationship between EU law and sporting rules. It will also provide guidance on EU rules relating to the free movement and nationality of sportspeople, with a view to the organisation of non-discriminatory competitions in individual sports on a national basis.

In addition, the Commission will provide guidance on transfer rules, as player transfers often raise questions about their legality and the financing involved. It will assess both the economic and legal aspects relating to such transfers. The activities of sport agents also raise questions of ethical nature; consequently, the Commission will organise a conference to examine ways in which agents’ activities may be improved.

Within the professional football sector, a European social dialogue committee was already launched in 2008. Several organisations have called for the creation of European social dialogue for the whole sport sector, which the Commission is backing. To facilitate this process, the Commission will propose a test phase for the relevant social partners.

Last updated: 10.03.2011
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