Brussels refutes claims that it will make UK sport teams wear EU flag

The European Parliament debunked tabloid newspaper claims that the England football team's logo could soon be encircled by the 12 stars of the EU flag. [Steve Calcott/Flickr]

The EU this weekend scolded the British tabloid press for claiming it is demanding that its flag be flown at sporting events and displayed on team shirts.

The European Parliament has shot down claims by the Daily Mail and the Daily Express that Brussels hopes to make it mandatory for sporting venues to fly the blue and gold flag, and for teams to display the logo on their kit.

Referring to a report adopted by the Parliament on Thursday (2 February), which the Daily Mail branded as “an audacious plan”, both papers claimed that national teams competing at global events, like the football World Cup or the Olympics, would be required to “prominently” display EU symbols.

It even provided a photoshopped mock-up of England footballer Wayne Rooney wearing a jersey with the 12 stars encircling the team’s three lions symbol.

But this was quickly debunked by Brussels lawmakers who pointed out that the report in question is non-binding and that the European Union does not even have the power to legislate on sport policy.

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In fact, the report only says that the EU “encourages national Olympic committees and sport federations of the member states to adopt and use the EU flag and symbol, together with individual flags and national symbols, on the occasion of international sport events”.

In an article published by its UK Information Office, the Parliament dryly advised the publications to “keep their eyes on the ball, steer away from speculation and stick to the facts next time”.

The Lisbon Treaty, which entered into force in late 2009, grants the EU a “supporting competence”, meaning legally-binding measures are not part of its mandate and it is an area in which the bloc relies on soft power. The Parliament’s website describes the Union’s role in sport policy as one of providing “guidance” only.

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Two of the areas in which the EU has stated its desire to affect policy are the issues of doping and match-fixing. But it ultimately has to defer to the authority of each sport’s ruling body.

Of course, the issue of the EU flag and its role is nothing new. Failed attempts to launch a European Constitution, ultimately rejected by the French and Dutch in 2005, included the flag, as well as the EU’s own anthem, Ode to Joy. The current treaties make no mention of either.