Feature – Developing the European dimension in Sport
10.08.2012, 17:54 (CET)
An estimated four billion people worldwide are watching the 30th modern edition of the Olympic Games in London this August. With more than 10,500 athletes from 36 different sports taking part, sport undoubtedly holds a global reach, while it constitutes the biggest civil movement in the European Union. Since the Lisbon Treaty entered into force in 2009, the EU has acquired a supporting competence with a potential impact on the lives of millions.

In Europe, according to a Eurobarometer survey conducted in the previous decade, approximately six out of ten Europeans participate in sporting activities on a regular basis within or outside some 700,000 clubs, which themselves form part of an abundance of associations and federations.

Either in an active or passive sense, the role of sport in European society is all-encompassing and possesses significant economic and social dimensions, including health promotion, education, cultural and recreational.

Role of the European Union in sport

With sport proving to be a significant contributor to the EU’s objectives of solidarity and prosperity, the European Commission (EC) has sought to provide a strategic orientation on the role of sport in Europe.

The EC’s first comprehensive policy on sport at an EU level was devised in 2007 and sought to, among others, encourage debate among stakeholders on specific issues and to enhance visibility and coordination in EU policy-making regarding sports.

“The role of the EU in sport has been the subject of discussions since the Nineties, when European athletes asked the European Court of Justice to rule on whether certain sporting rules were compatible with EU law and, in particular, with the free movement of people”, says the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism, Youth and issues of Sport, Androulla Vassiliou.

“Since that landmark Bosman case in 1995, which was about the right of professional football players to find a new employer in another EU Member State, discussions on the role of the EU intensified leading up to the Lisbon Treaty” she adds.

The Lisbon Treaty, which came into force in December 2009, further developed the first policy and included specific provisions in the field of sport. It gave the EU a formal competence on sport, in supporting, coordinating and complementing sport policy measures taken by Member States.

The Treaty, which enabled the EC to develop a specific EU sports programme that would look to better promote sport in other EU policy areas such as health and education, also allocated a budget.

Providing added value to sport from an EU level

The European Commission recognises that the specificity of sport needs to be taken into account when developing policy, provided that EU law for free movement, non-discrimination and competition is respected. With this in mind, the Commission encourages self-regulation in sport.

Governance of sport organisations within the EU is primarily the responsibility of member states through their national sports associations and the independent European and international sports governing bodies, which look to organise and promote their relevant sports.

The current set up means that EU sports law is restricted to “soft law”, which limits the action of the EU to recommendations and dialogue aimed at supporting the actions of member states and to provide assistance where appropriate.

“The EU’s complementary role can help address transnational challenges by ensuring a coordinated approach to the fight against doping, fraud and match-fixing or the activities of sports agents. It also provides a platform for exchange of information and best practices and can help remedy the lack of comparable data on the EU sports sector”, said Commissioner Vassiliou.

The 2011 Communication on ‘Developing the European Dimension in Sport’ outlines the Commission's priorities for EU-level cooperation in sport for the coming years and puts forward concrete measures to enhance the societal, economic and organisational dimensions of sport.

With regard to how the EU can go about developing a European Dimension in Sport, Commissioner Vassiliou referred to the proposed measures of the first "EU Work Plan for Sport", adopted in May 2011, which include both policy measures and funding.

 “The EU Council set priorities for action for 2011-2014 on which Member States together with the Commission are expected to deliver. They cover fields such as the fight against doping, promotion of health-enhancing physical activity, guidance for dual careers in sport, development of comparable sport statistics and match-fixing”, she explained.

EU Sport Forum – An occasion for dialogue

These issues – and in particular the scourge of match-fixing – will be highlighted during the EU Sport Forum organised by the Cyprus Presidency, taking place on September 20 in Lefkosia (Nicosia) on the sidelines of the Informal Meeting of EU Ministers for Sport. 

The forum, established as an annual event since 2007, is the widest platform providing for exchange of views on EU sport matters, with the intention of providing for a more efficient dialogue structure on sport at an EU level.

“The four previous EU Sports fora proved to be extremely useful in bringing together all relevant stakeholders and in facilitating the exchange of views with regard to important issues concerning sport and society through sport”, said the Director of the Cyprus Sports Organisation, Mr Costas Papacostas.

The EU Sports Forum is expected to bring together over 300 participants, including representatives from sports movements and officials from members states and the EU institutions, and will discuss the issues of match fixing, doping and the link between sports and health.


19.09.2012 - 20.09.2012