Wednesday, July 11, 2007

IOC & FIFA: White Paper On Sport Is A ‘Missed Opportunity’

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and FIFA, in a joint press statement released today, criticised the European Union’s White Paper on Sport, which was adopted by the European Commission today, as a ‘missed opportunity’. A similar statement has been released by the European team sports.

‘The White Paper is structured in full contradiction with the actual architecture of the Olympic movement, ignoring in particular the regulatory competences of the International Federations, the division of responsibilities between the latter and their European Confederations, the global nature of the issues and challenges currently affecting sport as well as the solutions which are today necessary’, read the IOC/FIFA statement. The White Paper was criticised for failing to recognise ‘both the autonomy and specificity of sport’ and for failing to give ‘concrete expression’ to the Nice Declaration of 2000. Sporting bodies feel that the Nice declaration recognised that sport has specific characteristics and should be allowed leeway under EU law, as compared to business, to draw up special rules essential for the integrity of sport.

At World Sports Law Report’s Autonomy of Sport Governance conference, hosted at the London offices of Charles Russell yesterday, Richard Caborn, the UK Prime Minister’s World Cup Ambassador and former Minister of State for Sport, expressed hope that the White Paper would provide “legal certainty”, following on from the Nice Declaration and José Luis Arnaud’s Independent European Sport Review – It looks like he could be disappointed.

Caborn said he hoped that the EU would “empower sport”, and highlighted homegrown player rules and the collective sale of TV rights as two areas that could be taken up by the European Commission on behalf of sport.

This could all still be possible, as the White Paper will 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. In October, the Commission will organise a conference to discuss the White Paper with sport stakeholders. Perhaps progress can still be made – as the IOC and FIFA put it, ‘much work remains to be done’.

 Andy Brown


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