Michel Rocard

Sport, and its balance between professionalism and amateurism, will continue to be determined by the national and international federations and associations, says MEP Michel Rocard in an interview with EURACTIV.

With its inclusion in the new Constitution, an explicit reference to sport has now been made in an EU treaty for the first time.

In an interview with Michel Rocard, EURACTIV sounded out the former French Prime Minister on the future of EU sports policy. Rocard is a former member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Culture, Youth, Education, the Media and Sport. Click

Ehereto read the interview news.

With sport set to be mentioned specifically in an EU treaty for the first time and the European Year of Education through Sport (EYES) going ahead this year, is there some real momentum behind greater EU involvement in developing sports policies or will it just be another case of lots of words but little action?

It’s hard to say. On balance, I’m optimistic. If the draft constitution is ratified and enters into force then there will be, for the first time, a legal base for EU action in the field of sport.

And I think that there’s a growing awareness throughout Europe of the wider importance of sport – especially of amateur sport – in promoting physical health and mental well-being, as well as developing important skills, values and attitudes such as team-work, fair-play and tolerance.

The contribution submitted to the Convention on the Future of Europe by Olivier Duhamel expresses the view that sport should remain a national competence. But, if the EU only has a supporting role, will that not make it extremely hard to defend the blend of professionalism and amateurism which appears to be implicit in the ‘European Model of Sport’?

I can’t really see a problem here. Fundamentally, the character of sport – including the balance between professionalism and amateurism – will be continue to be determined by the national and international federations and associations. The role of the national political authorities and of the European Commission should remain a limited one.

From what EURACTIV understands, the contribution expresses the view that every EU citizen or resident should, under the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, have the right to watch major sports events. As a cricket fan, I would argue that I have a ‘right’ to some access (on free to air TV) of England’s cricket matches abroad – but this is no longer possible. Is there a growing threat to this ‘right’ in many EU countries and, if so, can anything be done at EU level to protect this right?

I think that you need to check the legal position carefully. The position hitherto has been that, under the TV Without Frontiers Directive, Member States have been invited to list ten or so major sporting events which they regard as being of general social importance. Such events must then be broadcast free to air. The key point to note is that it is up to the individual Member States to decide which sporting events are included on the national list; and, in fact, few of them have drawn up such a list. If you want to assert your right to watch a given sport on free to air TV, the first people you need to convince are those responsible in your national government.

Fairness in competitions, co-operation between sporting bodies, physical and moral integrity of sportsmen and sportswomen are all worthy goals to counteract some of the vices of modern sport (such as hooliganism, cheating and highly indebted football clubs for example). But what practical steps can be taken to maintain the virtuous values of sport and what sort of budget is required to do anything remotely effective?

I’m not sure what the connection is between your list of virtues and your list of vices! Once again, amateur and professional, national and international, sporting federations will play a key role in developing virtuous behaviour. They also, of course, are the authorities primarily responsible for dealing with rule-breaking within a given sport – drug-taking, for example, or cheating. I’m not sure that these bodies need a lot more public money – the role of the European Commission, for example, should be an essentially facilitating one – encouraging the spread of good practice. Criminal behaviour (e.g. hooliganism) is a matter for the national law-enforcement authorities. And I don’t know what anyone can do about football clubs running-up huge debts: this is certainly not an area that the national or European authorities should intervene in.

Who do you see as the most influential players in the future development of EU-wide sports policy initiatives?

It depends what kind of initiatives you are thinking of. For example, it has been the Commission which has been the driving force between applying EU competitition rules to sport (Bosman ruling): that will continue to be the case. And, clearly, the great majority of the money committed to sport in education systems, for example, will come from national authorities. Beyond this, I would underline the importance of the national and international sporting federations: sport, after all, is something which takes place in voluntary, associational, life – a sphere that the state should (generally speaking) keep out of.  

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