Sport directors who gathered from the EU Member States on 29.11.2012 - 30.11.2012 in Nicosia had a full schedule covering several topics including the application of EU State aid law to sport, the EU participation in the negotiations on a Council of Europe Convention against match-fixing, sport integrity – fight against doping, evidence-based sport policy as well as the presentation of the Irish Presidency programme for sport. The sport directors also took part on a joint dinner with the participants of the European Youth and Sport Forum, which took place between 25 November and 1 December in Larnaca, Cyprus.
State aid and sport
After the welcoming remarks of the Chair of the Cyprus Sport Organisation Pambos Stylianou, the recent developments on the application of EU state aid law to sport were introduced by the representatives of the European Commission. As an example, the Hungarian sport support scheme was also presented to the participants.
On 1 October 2012, all Member States were asked by the Directorate General for Competition (DG Competition) to provide an overview on public financing of professional football. Prior to that on 21 March 2012, Commission Vice President Joaquin Almunia and UEFA President Michel Platini published a joint statement on the Financial Fair Play rules and the control of State aid in professional football.
When pursuing economic activity, professional football clubs fall under EU rules. Public financial support by authorities, namely State aid to such clubs is, in principle, incompatible with the internal market because it is likely to distort competition. However, not all of the aids given to sport clubs fall under Article 107 of the Lisbon Treaty, which regulates State aid. The Commission has had to deal with an increasing number of disputes in the sport sector and now it would like to map the application of EU State aid law to sport in the EU Member States. In Hungary, a new scheme has been introduced in 2011, which complies with EU rules, at the same time channels additional funds to the sport sector by incentivizing commercial undertakings through tax benefits if they contribute to sport development.
Sport integrity – fight against doping
Regarding the issue of fight against doping, sport directors were updated on the changes in the WADA Code and new trends on contamination of nutritional supplements. The results of a pilot study of the Cyprus Anti-Doping Authority, in which the objective had been to examine the problem of nutritional supplement contamination in Cyprus, show that 10 out of 30 products were contaminated with doping substances. 9 out of the 10 contaminated products were manufactured in the USA and the remaining one in Canada. All products entered Cyprus legally. Another study conducted by IOC in Cologne in 2003 shows that 14.8% of 634 analysed nutritional supplements freely available on the market contain anabolic agents that were not declared on the label of the product.
The study indicates that there is a problem with nutritional supplements as they contain doping substances without being labelled on the products, thus causing inadvertent doping risk for athletes and heath risk for all users. The study also tries to raise awareness and provide solution to this problem: Regulations should be introduced which reduce the availability of contaminated nutritional supplements, athletes should be allowed to use only such nutritional supplements which have been tested and found doping-free and athletes should be informed in order to be able to make the right choice when choosing nutritional supplement.
Evidence-based sport policy
On the meeting, the findings of the study on sport’s contribution to economic growth and employment in the EU as well as the study on a possible future sport monitoring function in the EU were also revealed to the sport directors.
The latter study, which was carried out by the Mulier Institute, the Sport Industry Research Centre of the Sheffield Hallam University, the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and the TNO: Netherland Organisation for Applied Scientific Research, aimed at discovering the desired extent of sport monitoring function and possible establishment of such a function in order to support policy making in the EU. According to the results, 64% of the respondents have found it very important to improve sport monitoring in the EU. Among the relevant components of sport monitoring, there are the need for better data and figures on sport trends, easier access to existing information on policies and best practices, better exchange of information and the need for information about EU funding opportunities.
Unfortunately, there are lack of time trends and comparability between the various studies in the Member States. There is no single, easy-to-use overview of date and outcomes at European level. Referring to these, a 2-phased process should be launched in 2014. During the first phase between 2014 and 2020, an EU sport monitoring function should be built out and evaluated, thus data collection and dissemination should be improved. This would allow to move from gathering basic facts and figures (sport monitoring function) to a research structure for sport in the second phase, which could start in 2021.
The Irish Presidency Programme for Sport
On 1 January 2013, Ireland takes over the EU Presidency for six months. Depending on the output from the Council Expert Groups, the Irish Presidency plans to adopt Council Conclusions on Dual Careers of Athletes and Good Governance Principles.
Regarding the next Sport Directors Meeting, the conference will take place on 7-8 March 2013. The main topics of the event will be the sustainable financing of sport and the economic contribution of sport.
The Presidency will be active in the field of anti-doping as well. It will prepare the EU contribution to WADA Code Review and will co-ordinate for the WADA Foundation Board Meeting, which will be organised in May 2013. The Irish Presidency will also continue the work to resolve the data protection issues in anti-doping.