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EU sport policy and issues [Topical Digest]

Sport has a significant impact on the European Union’s economy and society, and its importance is ever growing. It is a field in which the EU’s responsibilities are relatively new. In the 2014-2020 period, a specific budget line is for the first time available under the Erasmus+ programme to support projects and networks in the area of sport. 

The 751 Members of the European Parliament represent EU citizens’ interests on an extremely wide range of, often complex, policy issues. To help them in their work, the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) provides independent, objective and authoritative analysis of and research on these issues. As Members’ time is very limited, and the amount of analysis available sometimes overwhelming, EPRS publishes short Topical Digests of published material whenever an issue arrives at the top of the policy agenda.
In 2017 this included providing digests to coincide with High-Level Conferences organised by Parliament’s President, Antonio Tajani (EPP, Italy), on topics such as EU relations with Africa, clean energy for Europe, and tourism. A digest of analytical material was also prepared for the European Week of Regions and Cities, as well as for the Social Summit in Gothenburg. Other major issues which warranted a digest of coverage during the year include developments in EU security and counter-terrorism policies and tax avoidance and tax evasion in the wake of the Paradise and Panama papers scandals. Digests were also prepared on EU development policy, and the EU’s relations with the Western Balkans. EU policy on sport, and the EU disability strategy complete this year’s collection of handy guides to EPRS publications – designed with Members of the European Parliament in mind, but available to everybody.

Physical inactivity in the EUState aid in sport: Striking a difficult balance
Briefing by Ivana Katsarova, June 2017
The European Commission decisions on state aid for sports infrastructure adopted up until recently revealed a consistent and favourable approach towards aid measures for sports infrastructure. In the process, the Commission has translated some recurring general principles into operational exemption criteria. Building on those principles, in 2014, the Commission’s General Block Exemption Regulation clarified the types of sports infrastructure investment that should be considered exempt from the EU’s general laws on state aid.

Audiovisual rights in sports events: An EU perspective
Briefing by Ivana Katsarova, March 2017
Premium live sports content attracts large audiences, drives TV subscriptions upwards and generates advertising for broadcasters. With no foreseeable end to the rush for premium sports rights, the dramatic intensification of competition in the past 20 years has led to a steep increase in the pricing levels of audiovisual rights. In 2009, EU broadcasters spent around €5.8 billion on the acquisition of rights, representing nearly 17 % of their total €34.5 billion programming spend. This briefing outlines the regulatory framework under which audiovisual sports rights agreements are negotiated in the EU.


Read this Topical Digest on ‘EU sport policy and issues‘ in PDF.


Good governance in sport
Briefing by Vivienne Halleux, January 2017
Historically, sports organisations have enjoyed considerable autonomy in running and regulating sport. This autonomy, strongly defended by sports authorities as a means to safeguard the inherent sporting values from external influence is increasingly being challenged, and made conditional on compliance with good governance principles, including those of democracy, transparency, accountability in decision-making, and representative inclusiveness. The EU’s action for good governance in sport, mainly taking the form of recommendations and financial support for specific initiatives, has delivered some concrete outcomes, including the development of a set of principles applicable to organisations across the whole sports movement.

Match-fixing: Issues and policy responses
Briefing by Ivana Katsarova, April 2016
Match-fixing, i.e. the manipulation of results of sporting contests, or elements within a game, is considered as one of the most serious problems facing sport. Globalisation has further aggravated the phenomenon, with transnational criminal organisations taking advantage of changes in regulations, and flaws in legal and judicial systems. Certain sports, notably cricket, football and tennis, seem particularly affected. In the EU, the Framework Decisions on combatting corruption and the fight against organised crime underpin the operational work carried out on this issue by Europol and Eurojust. However, their provisions are still insufficiently well enacted by EU countries, while the impact of international legal instruments, such as the United Nations and Council of Europe conventions, is also limited.

Physical education in EU schools
Briefing by Ivana Katsarova, November 2016
The low levels of physical activity among children and adolescents in the European Union are alarming and have become a matter of great concern for policy-makers, since physical inactivity is responsible for over 500 000 deaths per year and accounts for economic costs over €80 billion per year. Physical education is part of all central curricula in the EU, and is compulsory in primary and secondary education. However, on average, just under 70 hours per year are dedicated to the subject.

‘Third-party ownership’ of football players
At-a-glance note by Vivienne Halleux, January 2016
Third-party ownership, also known as third-party investment in players, has been much debated in recent years. Defenders see it as a much-needed and legitimate source of external funding for clubs. Opponents highlight ethical and moral issues regarding the treatment of players and the integrity of competition. FIFA’s decision to ban the practice has reignited the controversy, and triggered legal challenges before the European Commission. 

Anti-corruption measures in EU sports policy
At-a-glance note by Vivienne Halleux, June 2015
Corruption and good governance in sport have been a constant concern for the EU since the very beginning of its sport policy. Its approach rests mainly on structured dialogue and cooperation with relevant competent organisations, sports movement and bodies, and financial support for projects and networks.

EU sport policy – An overview
In-depth Analysis by Vivienne Halleux, September 2015
The paper describes the emergence of an EU sport policy, emphasising the developments since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009. Following an overview of key policy documents, tools and structures, a few examples are presented to illustrate how the policy is evolving. Special attention is given to the issue of the integrity of sport.

Infographic Sport and physical activity in the EU, September 2017

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