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Brussels, 11 July 2007

The White Paper on Sport: Frequently Asked Questions

1) What is the White Paper on Sport?

The White Paper on Sport is the first comprehensive initiative on sport undertaken by the Commission. It aims at:

  • providing strategic orientation on the role of sport in the EU,

• encouraging debate on specific problems,

• enhancing the visibility of sport in EU policy-making,

• raising awareness of the needs and specificities of the sector, and

• identifying the appropriate level of further action at EU level.

The White Paper sets out the key ideas and provides the political messages. It is accompanied by several staff working documents:

  • an Action Plan, named after Pierre de Coubertin, which brings together concrete proposals for further EU action contained in the White Paper;
  • a Staff Working Document describing the background and context of the proposals made in the White Paper, including annexes on sport and competition rules, sport and Internal Market freedoms, and consultations with stakeholders;
  • an Impact Assessment.

2) What are the objectives?

To reflect the comprehensive nature of the document, the topics covered have been structured in three parts:

  • The "societal role of sport" reflects the significance of sport as a social phenomenon. Sport has many societal benefits which are not necessarily measurable in economic terms but which should be taken into account in European policy-making as they contribute to the EU’s general policy objectives in areas such as public health, social cohesion, education and training, and active citizenship. The White Paper identifies the relevant existing programmes and actions to promote this dimension of sport and develops cooperation and consultation mechanisms with sport stakeholders.
  • The "economic dimension of sport" reflects the fact that sport makes a significant and growing contribution to the European economy and job creation. Sport is thus making a useful contribution to the Lisbon Strategy, but the visibility of this contribution has so far remained limited. The White Paper makes a number of proposals to arrive at more evidence-based policies in this sector.
  • The "organisation of sport" mainly covers governance issues of interest for professional sport. In particular, it develops the concept of specificity of sport within the limits of existing EU competences. The initiative does not weaken the application of EU law to sport (no block exemption to EU law is proposed). A case-by-case approach remains the basis for the Commission's control of the implementation of EU law (in particular competition rules) in this sector, in line with the current Treaty provisions, and taking the Nice Declaration into consideration.

The White Paper has two main aims:

  • First, to mainstream sport into the various relevant EU policies in order to improve its use as a tool for EU policy. This aim finds expression most concretely in the Action Plan which accompanies the White Paper. Most of these actions address the societal role of sport and the economic dimension of sport.
  • Second, to increase legal certainty regarding the application of the acquis to sport, as a contribution to improved governance in European sport. This aim finds expression in particular in the Staff Working Document "Background and Context" and its two annexes on sport & competition and sport & Internal Market. For the first time ever the Commission takes stock of ECJ case law and Commission Decisions in the area of sport.

3) How were the opinions of sport organisations taken into account?

Stakeholder consultations have been an essential tool in the process leading to the adoption of the White Paper on Sport. In addition to the formal requirements to consult with relevant actors, the Commission has been able to profit from its large framework for consultation, communication and interaction with Member State Governments, sport organisations, other representatives of civil society, and individual citizens in the field of sport.

The Commission has a long tradition of dialogue with the European sport movement, dating back to 1991 when the first European Sport Forum was organised in Brussels. In 2005, with the then prospect of a direct legal competence for sport in the Constitutional Treaty, it became apparent that the Commission would need to consult with sport stakeholders in such a way as to be prepared for various scenarios in terms of the status which sport could be expected to have at EU level in the future. The Commission informed stakeholders that it would consult with them in order to identify concrete topics of direct practical relevance to stakeholders. This approach was well received by stakeholders and a consultation process was launched under the title: "The EU & Sport: Matching Expectations".

The first consultation conference was organised on 14-15 June 2005, including three workshops on the social function of sport, volunteering in sport and the fight against doping.

The second consultation conference took place in Brussels on 29-30 June 2006, including three workshops on what later became the big themes of the White Paper – the societal function of sport, the economic impact of sport and the governance of sport.

While the big stakeholders conferences included both organised sport and non-traditional sport (lifestyle sport, socio-cultural sport organisations etc.), the Commission also recognised the need to meet at the highest level with European sport federations. Such conferences took place in Brussels in the autumn of 2004, 2005 and 2006.

The conference with sport federations of 2006 under the title “Sport Governance in Europe” focussed exclusively on governance issues. Chaired by Commissioner Figel', the meeting was conceived to provide direct input into the White Paper process.

An on-line consultation was open for all interested organisations and individuals during an 8-week period in February-April 2007 and resulted in 777 contributions.

In addition, a considerable number of bilateral meetings took place with key stakeholders including the International Olympic Committee, the European Olympic Committees and UEFA.

The opinions of sport stakeholders have had considerable influence on the structure and content of the White Paper. In recent week, sport organisations have called the Commission's attention in particular to a number of governance-related issues:

  • Concerning rules on "home grown players", the Commission considers that rules requiring that teams include a certain quota of locally trained players must not lead to any direct discrimination and possible indirect discrimination effects resulting from them must be proportionate to the legitimate objective pursued to secure compatibility with the Treaty. If these conditions are met, such mechanisms can be acceptable.
  • On the issue of media rights, the Commission reaffirms the importance of putting in place robust solidarity mechanisms between professional and amateur grassroots sport.
  • The Commission reaffirms its acceptance of limited and proportionate restrictions (in line with EU Treaty provisions on the free movement of persons and European Court of Justice rulings) to the principle of free movement, e.g. as regards the right to select national athletes for national team competitions.

4) Are there financial instruments to support the implementation of the White Paper?

The Community does not have a specific budget line for sport. Possibilities to obtain financial support from the Commission for projects related to sport are therefore limited. However, sport-related projects and actions are sometimes eligible in the framework of existing EU programmes and funds, for example in the areas of education, youth, citizenship, health and equal opportunities, or in relation to such themes under the European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund.

In 2004, projects and actions relating to sport and education were financed within the European Year of Education through Sport (EYES 2004).

The White Paper will serve as a basis for mainstreaming sport-related projects into existing EU programmes and funds.

5) What are the next steps?

The White Paper will be transmitted to the European Parliament, the Council, the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee. The Commission will organise a conference to present the White Paper to sport stakeholders in the autumn of 2007. It will also present its findings to EU Sport Ministers.

The Commission will follow up on the initiatives presented in the White Paper on Sport through the implementation of a structured dialogue with sport stakeholders, cooperation with the Member States, and the promotion of social dialogue in the sport sector.

When setting the mandate for the next Inter-Governmental Conference, the European Council agreed in June 2007 that amendments to the EC Treaty should include a reference to sport, based on wording agreed during the 2004 Inter-Governmental Conference. The White Paper will allow the Commission to prepare in a coherent manner for the possible future introduction of an EU competence for sport.

Also see: IP/07/1066
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