International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge wrote a joint statement to Mr. Jan Figel, Member of the European Commission, on behalf of the IOC, FIBA, FIBA Europe, FIFA, UEFA, the Association of the European Olympic Committees, the International Automobile Federation, the Association of International Olympic Winter Sport Federations (AIOWF), the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) and the General Association of International Sport Federations (GAISF).
The white paper is a document that is in the process of being produced by the European Union regarding sports in Europe.
The statement reads as follows:
The Olympic and European sports movement welcomes the launch by the European Commission of a consultation on the white paper. With the social, economic and legal challenges of sports in the EU, it is vital to progress in the definition of sports in Europe and to promote its development and practice. Key in this approach is the subsidiarity of the approach to sports by the EU. The Olympic and European sports movement is not pleading for more EU competences in sport, but for an adequate use of the EU existing instruments whilst taking account of the specific characteristics of sport.
A united European sports movement: Art.III-282, European Constitution
This provision on sports has demonstrated the sports movement’s unity in its request for cooperation with the EU. During the European Convention in 2003, representatives of sports organisations, Member States and EU institutions agreed on a text which was to provide sport for the first time with a legal basis in a European treaty.
Article III-282 of the subsequent European Constitution called upon the Union to:
“contribute to the promotion of European sporting issues, while taking into account the specific nature of sport, its structures based on voluntary activity and its social and educational function”.
Currently the status of the European Constitution Treaty has still to be decided by the EU.
However, we consider Art.III-282 on sport to represent the point of reference which outlines future measures in sport on a Community level.
- The White Paper on Sport should therefore refer prominently to Art.III-282 and suggest its consideration in the event that the Constitution debate is re-launched.
Autonomy of sport
The Nice Declaration by the European Council in 2000 stressed the autonomy of sports organisations and their right to organise themselves through appropriate associative structures.
The responsibility that sport has in society and the autonomy with which it regulates itself lead to its credibility and legitimacy. Autonomy thus means preserving the values of sport, the existing structures through which it has developed in Europe, i.e. federations and clubs, the integrity of the competitions, the role of volunteers, the education of young athletes, and the contribution to public health in all age groups.
Sports can play its unique role thanks to its autonomy and this role would be seriously compromised if sports governing bodies would be subject of public hand interference.
Autonomy is not a goal in itself, but a fundamental necessity for sports organisations to accomplish their societal role.
- The governance or organisation of sport does not fall within the EU’s competence and the EU White Paper must avoid attempting to change that status.
Sport is not only a matter of field of play, nor is it only an economic activity, as it has been considered at times by legislators and courts, particularly in Europe. Sport is a universal school of life, the only movement in society that can unite the world and creates a global village, even in times of war or other social conflicts. As it addresses the largest part of society – irrespective of race, religion or social class – the values it embodies go well beyond the field of play.
These values, which the sports movement promotes every day, are translated into its organisational structures, statutes and its functioning. They embody the specificity of sport.
Taking these specific characteristics of sport into account while applying EU law and policies represents the overall goal of the Nice Declaration by the European Council in 2000. To do so effectively, a permanent dialogue and a true partnership including the EU institutions, the sports movement and national governments is needed.
The comprehension of sport-specific aspects and their consideration must be based on mutual understanding of individual circumstances rather than rely on an inflexible catalogue of definitions.
As for culture, European sport is too diverse to be reduced to general classifications. The decision whether an application of EU law may take into account a specific dimension should therefore not be based on such a rigid framework.
- EU law should take fully into account the specific characteristics of sport whenever applied to it.
Promoting the cross-sectional role of sport in the various Community policies represents the main challenge for the EU Commission.
In governmental organisations on a regional or national level, the potential of sport in fields like health, integration, youth work or education is widely acknowledged. This potential has been demonstrated through successful European projects implemented by sports organizations.
- The White Paper must underline the need to further strengthen the promotion of sport within the existing EU policies and programmes and shall propose concrete measures how the EU Commission intends to follow this goal.