EU sports policy 101: Safeguarding the European model of sport

Updated: Dec 14, 2020

The ENGSO Policy Programme is a strategic document that states the positions of ENGSO and its member organisations, and guides the sports political work of ENGSO. In this new series of articles, EU sports policy 101, we are introducing the topics of the Policy Programme one by one. Our first topic is Safeguarding the European model of sport.

The Article 165(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, also known as the Lisbon Treaty, recognises “the specific nature of sport, its structures based on voluntary activity and its social and educational function”. The commercialisation of sport, as well as the presence of larger numbers of private actors as organisers of sport activities and competitions, challenge the notion of Article 165. Are sports federations able to decide on the rules of their sport? Are the best players able to play on their national teams? How to guarantee the development and financing of grassroots sport and its educational and social function?

“The right of sports federations to govern their discipline ensures the participation of the best athletes in championships, consequently ensuring that sport is attractive to media, sponsors and the public. The revenues of these activities are used for e.g. training coaches and referees, and to support and develop sports clubs. This is called the solidarity mechanism – a core characteristic of the European Sport Model, that should be protected and preserved”, explains Kaisa Larjomaa, ENGSO Policy Director.

ENGSO believes that the specific nature of sport, which is vital for grassroots sport especially through its structures based on volunteering, should be respected, and possible unintended consequences on sport should be considered when developing policy and approving all relevant European legislation. For this purpose, sports organisations should always be consulted when questions affecting sport are at issue, and a structured dialogue should be set up to ensure the regular exchange between European decision-makers and the representatives of organised sport. The European Sport Model needs to be safeguarded, including its solidarity mechanism that ensures income generated at the elite level being reinvested in the development of grassroots sport.

ENGSO and its partners have actively promoted that the European Sport Model should be recognised in the European Sports Charter, currently under revision in the Council of Europe structures. ENGSO has also proposed the European Sport Model as one of the topics for the upcoming EU Work Plan for Sport 2021–2024, and endorsed the European Olympic Committees' EU Office's recommendations for the future EU Work Plan for Sport.

Read the full ENGSO Policy Programme here!