EU sports policy: assessment and possible ways forward

Key Findings of the project

EU sports policy encompasses activities of the European Union institutions and the Member States as well as the activities of the European sport federations and other European interest organisations as well as national sport organisations.

  1. A key feature of European sport politics and policy is a continuing horizontal differentiation of public and private stakeholders. Whereas for many years European sport federations made sport-related decisions largely autonomously, today leagues and clubs, players‘ and coaches‘ representatives, players‘ advisors and various agencies have entered the scene. Since the 1990s a growing number of private actors have established sport-related special-purpose associations at European level, which now also seek influence on sport in Europe.
  2. In addition to the number of actors, sectoral growth and differentiation can be identified as a second key feature of European sport politics. Today, there are hardly any sport-related sectors that are not covered by activities at European level. This study explores these policy sectors against the backdrop of four structural dimensions: the political dimension, the economic dimension, the social-cultural dimension and a transversal dimension referring to urgent challenges
  3. The increasing activities at European level and the growing number of actors have led, thirdly, to an increasing procedural differentiation of sport politics. More and more actors with more and more different interests lead to increasing complexity of procedures and participation possibilities in decision-making on sport.
  4. The Member States, which were initially not very receptive to the transfer of sports competences to the European level, have recognised in several steps the benefits of European-wide coordination of public interests in sport, beyond the direct access of the federations. They are committed and constructively engaged in European sports policy, particularly within the Council.
  5. The structures of inter-institutional cooperation in sport between the Council, Commission and Parliament have become more structured, yet they still do not testify to regular cooperation.
  6. Due to on-going societal changes public and private actors are confronted with on-going debates on the role, function and character of physical activity and sport at the European level.
  7. In light of the ISU decision of the European Commission and the most recent ruling of the European Court of Justice, the debate on the future of the European sport model and its specificity based on principles like solidarity, inclusivity and voluntary work remains a relevant topic. 
  8. Though the conflict between autonomy and intervention in sport continues, the relationship between the interests of traditional (non-profit) sport organisations and commercial providers in sport seems to emerge as a new cleavage.
  9. Even though the increased attention paid to the European level in sport has led to a central commonality among the actors, this did not result in uniform reaction patterns and adaptation processes.
  10.  European sport politics and policies is neither fixed in institutional and procedural nor in sectoral perspectives, but is subject to on-going changes.