In order to ensure that the European clubs' voice is heard in the development of EU Sports Policy, ECA has built strong relationships with institutions of the European Union.
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 was 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 ECA's views on issues directly affecting European footbal clubs.
Contacts at all levels of the EU are regular and ongoing. These include:
- Regular contact with European Commission civil servants and MEPs;
- Bi-lateral meetings with EU Sports Commissioner Tibor Navracsics 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.
Outlined below, is the position of ECA in relation to a number of important topics of interest the EU is focused on.
ECA endorses 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.
ECA endorses the concept of autonomy and the need for it to apply to the organisation of sport. Governing federations should be allowed to organise 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 European Commission and European Parliament’s calls to endorse autonomy on the condition that governing bodies adhere to good governance principles.
ECA welcomes the emergence of a structured dialogue whereby stakeholders and policy makers can engage with one another to help develop an EU-wide sports policy. ECA believes 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 welcomed and reflects well on the EU in approaching policy-making in an open, transparent and modern manner.
The recent introduction by FIFA of new rules relating to the work of agents have not been met with wide-spread support. Many stakeholders involved in the day-to-day operations linked to transfers remain unconvinced that these new rules will eradicate many of the problems linked to the activities of agents. ECA encourages the EU when examining these rules and suggesting changes to these to come up with proposals which lead to a fixed set of regulations which can operate at global level and ensure consistency in agent activities throughout the world. ECA also calls 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 the position expressed on numerous occasions by the European Commission in relation to the free-movement of sportsmen. ECA opposes 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, ECA believes, must be undertaken in very special circumstances and with the specific aim of promoting youth development.
MATCH FIXING AND INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS
ECA 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.
The transfers of players and the system by which it operates is an integral part of club football. The current system in place is 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. ECA believes that the current system on the whole 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. ECA acknowledges however that imperfections remain and that within the appropriate FIFA bodies stakeholders directly involved in the transfer system should join forces to look at ways to improve certain aspects of the system. ECA supports an evolutionary rather than revolutionary approach in modernising the system and reiterates that 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 everyday activities of clubs. ECA members understand the importance and impact they have in enhancing the educational, social aspects of society. The impact of ECA’s activities goes well beyond the fields on which we practice our sport. ECA calls on the EU and its Member State 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.
ECA is a proud partner of the European Week of Sport. The campaign, launched in 2015 by the European Commission, aims at promoting sport and physical activity across Europe to all citizens, regardless of age, background or fitness level. This European-wide campaign inspires Europeans to #BEACTIVE during the Week and encourages them to stay active all year long. For more information: www.ec.europa.eu/sport/week
ECA also supports #Morethanfootball Action Week as part of its commitment to using football to help social causes. The #Morethanfootball Action Week is an initiative launched by the European Football for Development Network (EFDN) in collaboration with a wide range of European football stakeholders and aims at promoting the social impact that European professional football has in society. For more information on EFDN: www.efdn.org