Following the initial draft of the EU White Paper on Sport, FIBA Europe has issued the following statement, which is supported by UEFA, the European Handball Federation, the European Volleyball Confederation and the International Ice Hockey Federation:
The preparation of the EU White Paper on Sport has created many legitimate expectations within the European sports movement. Indeed, for many months there has been an impressive series of consultations, exchanges of ideas and opinions, in-depth discussions and explanations at various levels on many current issues relating to European sport.
All of this, together with many encouraging declarations, has created a certain optimism: a hope that current problems and the related threats to the future of European sport have been well understood and that there is a clear will from the European Commission to propose concrete solutions. Such solutions would put an end to the current dangerous legal confusion and would lead to a regulatory framework that enhances the further development of European sport at all levels.
We have been able to read a draft of the White Paper and the principal reaction is one of deep disappointment. 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 of society which may find expression through sport.
What European sport urgently needs is a clear political orientation that will lead to a well-defined legal and policy framework for all sport activities throughout our continent.
As a basis for this approach, the Commission should follow the appropriate EU texts. In this respect, and after the rejection of the proposed European Constitution with the treaty article on sport, the only text that has been approved by the European Heads of States or Governments is the Nice Declaration on the Specificity of Sport. This should serve as the guideline for the Commission, which should now work on ways to implement it – not on ways to review or circumvent it.
The proposed draft of the White Paper indeed initially refers to the Nice Declaration. However, it then goes on to ignore it and, in some respects, takes the opposite direction. We consider that the European Commission has a duty to take into account the Nice Declaration – the will of Europe’s elected leaders – and work towards its implementation. This year’s European Parliament Report on Professional Football (Belet Report) further supports this view.
Instead, the White Paper, as it stands, maintains that each and every sports rule can only be judged on a case-by-case basis by EU judges – and leaves the European Courts to make the law rather than interpret it.