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The EU White Paper on sports – concrete solutions or empty statements?

October 26th, 2007 by Frederikke Tømmergaard · 4 Comments

EU aims to identify the challenges for sport in Europe and make solution proposals for the way forward. Critics say it is more words than action.
By Frederikke Tømmergaard

The newly published “White Paper on the Role of Sport in Europe” aims at providing strategic orientation on the role of sport in the EU. The report means to respect the autonomy of sport organisations and the important social and economic roles of sport, while also underlining the existing EU competences and legal framework.

Ján Figel, European Commissioner in charge of Education, Training, Culture & Youth, including Sport, says: “This White Paper is the Commission’s contribution to the European debate on the importance of sport in our daily lives. It enhances the visibility of sport in EU policy-making, raises awareness of the needs and specificities of the sport sector, and identifies appropriate further action at EU level.”

But unlike previous cases, this time the large European sports federations are not complaining, that the EU is taking too much control of their work and organisations. On the contrary, they are disappointed that the EU White Paper does not lay out enough goals and guidelines for the future of European sport.

“We have discovered a lengthy document that simply describes the current situation but unfortunately adopts a very timid and indecisive attitude towards the key issues. The draft addresses neither the autonomy of sport, nor implementing legal stability in sport, nor any cooperation in addressing criminal issues in society which may find expression through sport,” it reads in a media statement from UEFA.

FIFA supports this attitude with the following declaration: “As sports governing bodies at world level, we are committed to the protection of fair and open competition, to the promotion of athlete and player education and training, to the maintenance of competitive balance, and to the need to protect the integrity of our respective sports. We would like to see the European Commission work along side us to defend and nurture this model of sport - not just for the future development of sport but for the benefit of society as a whole.”

European Commissioner Ján Figel disagrees, stating that the implementation of the White Paper can help pave the way toward future EU supportive action in the sport sector as the recent European Council has re-opened the possibility of a Treaty provision on sport. Only the future results of discussing and working with the White Paper will show, whether this EU initiative proves to be ambitious framework or empty phrases.

What is the White Paper on Sport?
The White Paper is the first comprehensive initiative on sport undertaken by the EU Commission.It is made in collaboration with organisations ranging from economic heavy weights such as the Olympic Committees and large European sports federations to smaller interests groups and NGO’s.
At the moment, the European Commission has no competence with regards to sport, but nevertheless the Commission believes that the time is right for developing a more comprehensive approach to sport.

Essential content of the White Paper:
The White Paper will guide the Commission in its sport-related activities in the coming years. The proposals included in the Action Plan include notably:

  • To facilitate a coordinated EU approach in the fight against doping, e.g. by supporting a network of national anti-doping organisations.

  • To improve opportunities for supporting social inclusion and integration through sport activities by mobilising EU programmes and funds.

  • To promote the exchange of operational information and experience on the prevention of violent and racist incidents between law enforcement services and with sport organisations.

  • To provide for a more efficient dialogue structure on sport at EU level, including the organisation of an annual European Sport Forum

The White Paper on Sport will now be transmitted to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions and its findings will be presented to EU Sport Ministers. This October, the Commission has organised a conference to discuss the White Paper with sport stakeholders.

The White Paper is available here:

Tags: Theme: Autonomy of sport

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