EU Commissioner Tibor Navracsics & ECA Chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge

The EU and Governments from across Europe have increasingly been involving themselves in issues affecting the development of the game. With the coming into force of the Lisbon Treaty in early 2010, the EU, via Article 165 of the Treaty, has, for the first time acquired formal powers in the area of Sport. This new-found status has been highlighted by the adoption of a Communication (January 2011) detailing how the European Commission intends to develop the European dimensions of sport. In its Communication, the European Commission outlines its views on a number of key issues impacting directly on the day-to-day activities of ECA Members. The EU's involvement is not only limited to the European Commission. The European Parliament is also taking a keen interest in football matters and has presented a number of reports expressing its views on all aspects of the game. 

With this increased involvement of political bodies in football, ECA has undertaken a number of measures aimed at ensuring that politicians and civil servants are fully aware of the clubs' views as they move ahead in developing an EU Sports policy.

Contacts at all levels of the EU are regular and on-going. These include:

  • Regular contacts with European Commission civil servants and MEPs;
  • Bi-lateral meetings with EU Sports Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou and Sports Ministers from across the EU;
  • Regular contacts with authors of EU funded research (report on agents/report on transfer system);
  • ECA participation in conferences/meetings, such as Sports licencing conference, Agents conference, EU Sports Forum, EU Structured Dialogue, Sports Directors meetings, European Parliament Roundtable.

In 2011, the ECA Executive Board presented a detailed Position Paper outlining clubs' views on the most important areas in which the EU and Governments are involving themselves with a direct impact on football. The full Position Paper can be downloaded here. It can be summarised as follows:

ECA endorses fully the concept of Specificity. There is no denying that Sport is unlike other sectors and therefore should be treated accordingly. Careful consideration must be given to which EU laws should be fully applied to sport and which laws should be applied with a greater degree of flexibility. The outcome should be that EU law is applied in a balanced manner to ensure the continued progress of sport and its wider repercussions on society as a whole.

We endorse the concept of autonomy and the need for it to apply to the organization of sport. Governing federations should be allowed to organize themselves and promote their particular sport. However, this can only be undertaken in a manner which ensures that all stakeholders are involved appropriately and meaningfully within the decision-making bodies. ECA is particularly encouraged by recent calls by the European Commission to endorse autonomy on the condition of good governance systems.

Structured Dialogue
We welcome the emergence of a structured dialogue whereby stakeholders and policy makers can engage with one another to help develop an EU-wide sports policy. We believe that the EU's willingness to listen, engage and take on board the daily realities of stakeholders prior to developing policy is to be warmly congratulated and reflects well on the EU in approaching policy-making in an open, transparent and modern manner.

At present football stakeholders under the leadership of FIFA are looking at ways in which current regulations can be amended in order to overcome some of the problems linked to agent activities with new rules set to be adopted and implemented. We encourage the EU to look at these rules so that a fixed set of regulations can operate at global level and ensure consistency in agent activities throughout the world. We also call on the EU to encourage and support agents in developing their own code of conduct in order to outline the very highest standards that is expected from those exercising the profession.

Free movement of sportsmen
ECA endorses fully the position expressed by the European Commission in relation to the free-movement of sportsmen in its Communication on Sport (January 2011). We oppose any rule entailing direct discrimination such as quotas of players on the basis of nationality. Where we remain open is in relation to indirect discrimination under the condition that "they pursue a legitimate objective and insofar as they are necessary and proportionate to the achievements of such an objective." This, however, we believe, must be undertaken in very special circumstances and with the specific aim of promoting youth development.

Match fixing and Intellectual Property Rights
We believe strongly that the European Commission alongside stakeholders and IPR holders should come together to elaborate rules aimed at ensuring that IPRs belong fully to the participating clubs, leagues or federations in any particular match. Guidelines should be established to determine which matches fall under such rules. This would allow the participants in matches to license only betting organisations that can guarantee taking appropriate measures to prevent illegal behaviour when they offer bets on their matches. Creating such a system would help ease the risk of match fixing as clubs/leagues/federations would take particular care in choosing reputable betting organisations at the expense of those over which concerns may exist.

Transfer System
In its recently adopted Communication on Sport, the European Commission states that "it considers that the time has come for an overall evaluation of transfer rules in professional sport in Europe."  The transfers of players and the system by which it operates is an integral part of club football. The current systems in place are a clear example of the application of the Specificity concept whereby special rules are elaborated in relation to the transfer of workers (players) from one business (clubs) to another. We believe that the current system operates well and enables clubs to trade players in a manner, which is appropriate for clubs, players and more generally club football as a whole. The transfer system is an important mechanism in insuring wealth redistribution whereby medium and smaller clubs can earn valuable revenue through the transferring of players.

Societal role of Sport
The social, educational and cultural role football plays is central to the every day activities of clubs. ECA members understand the importance and impact they have in enhancing the educational, social aspects of society. The impact of our activities goes well beyond the fields on which we practice our sport. We call on the EU and its Member States Governments to establish a structure whereby sports stakeholders can collaborate in offering best practice to ensure that their positive impact on society can be maximised to the full.