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European dimension in sport



Communication (COM(2011) 12 final) — Developing the European Dimension in Sport

Article 6 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU)


Building on the 2007 White Paper on sport, it sets out a list of initiatives that can be taken at EU level to further strengthen sport’s role in society, its economic dimension and its organisation.

Article 6 TFEU gives the EU powers to carry out actions to support, coordinate or supplement EU countries’ action in areas such as sport, education and culture.

Key points

The communication presents the issues to be addressed at EU level under 3 broad themes. The initiatives to be taken are intended to provide added value by supporting and complementing EU countries’ own actions in the field of sport.

Sport’s role in society

  • Sport can make a positive contribution to growth, citizens’ employability and social cohesion, while helping to reduce health spending. However, it continues to face threats related to doping, violence and intolerance, against which action must be taken to protect athletes and citizens.
  • The use of doping substances poses serious public health hazards, so it is necessary to step up the fight against doping. The key parties involved in the sports sector called for the EU to join the Council of Europe’s Anti-Doping Convention, so the European Commission is to propose a draft mandate for negotiating the EU’s accession. It is also essential to reinforce measures preventing organised networks’ trade in doping substances. The Commission is to examine ways to do this, including through the introduction of criminal law. The Commission already supports several organisations that play an important role in the fight against doping, such as the World Anti-Doping Agency. It will continue supporting transnational anti-doping networks.
  • The quality of sports programmes in educational institutions is not satisfactory in several EU countries. The quality of sport training centres and their staff should be high enough to safeguard athletes’ moral, educational and professional interests. To support education, training and qualifications in sport, the Commission and EU countries are to:
    • draw up EU guidelines on dual careers for athletes to ensure that quality education is provided alongside sport training;
    • support the referencing of sport-related qualifications to the European Qualifications Framework;
    • promote the recognition and validation of non-formal* and informal*learning gained through sport-related activities.
  • A European approach is needed to prevent and fight against violence and intolerance, which continue to pose problems to European sport. The Commission and EU countries therefore are to develop and implement security arrangements and safety requirements covering a wide range of sport disciplines (currently only international football events are covered). Furthermore, the Commission is to support the fight against intolerance in sport and encourage EU countries to fully and effectively enforce the Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA on combating racism and xenophobia.
  • Sport is fundamental for improving physical activity, which is an essential health determinant in today’s society. To enhance health through sport, the Commission and EU countries are working on national guidelines to encourage people to include physical activity in their daily lives, based on the 2008 EU Physical Activity Guidelines. There are great differences between EU countries regarding the concept of health-enhancing physical activity. To overcome these differences, the Commission is to support transnational projects and networks in this area.
  • Social inclusion can be improved in and through sport. The Commission and EU countries are to:
    • draw up accessibility standards for sport through the European Disability Strategy;
    • further promote the participation of persons with disabilities in sporting activities;
    • support transnational projects that promote women’s access to sport and disadvantaged groups’ social integration through sport.

Sport’s economic dimension

  • Sport is an ever-growing sector of the economy that contributes to growth and jobs. There is a need for comparable data to form the basis of evidence-based policymaking and for sustaining sport financing, in particular non-profit sport.
  • Evidence-based policymaking is essential for implementing EU sport rules. The Commission and EU countries are to produce satellite accounts for sport to measure its economic importance. The Commission is also to provide support to a network of universities to promote innovative sport policies, as well as study the possibility of setting up an EU sport monitoring function.
  • The sustainable financing of sport must be ensured. Intellectual property rights (IPRs) are an important source of revenue in the professional sports field; consequently, the Commission is to:
    • consider IPRs from the coverage of sporting events in the implementation of the Digital Agenda initiative (and the subsequent digital single market strategy);
    • study the funding of grass roots sport, which will inform future action in this field.
  • Together with EU countries, the Commission is to examine how the financial solidarity mechanisms in the sports sector may be strengthened.
  • So far, there have only been a few decisions on the application of EU state aid rules to sport. The Commission is to monitor state aid law in the area of sport and to consider providing guidance if the number of state aid cases increases.
  • Sport is a valuable tool for regional development and employability. To take advantage of this, the Commission and the EU countries will make full use of the European Structural and Investment Funds to support sustainable sports structures.

Sports organisation

  • The autonomy and self-regulation of sport organisations is underpinned by good governance in the sector. To promote good governance in sport at the European level, the Commission and EU countries are to endorse common standards through the exchange of good practice and by providing targeted support to specific initiatives.
  • To ensure the concept of the specific nature of sport is applied correctly, the Commission is to provide guidance:
    • theme-by-theme on the relationship between EU law and sporting rules;
    • on EU rules relating to the free movement and nationality of sportspeople, with a view to the organisation of non-discriminatory competitions in individual sports on a national basis;
    • on transfer rules, as player transfers often raise questions about their legality and the financing involved. The Commission was to assess both the economic and legal aspects relating to such transfers.
  • The activities of sport agents also raise ethical questions; consequently, the Commission organised a conference to examine ways in which agents’ activities may be improved.
  • Within the professional football sector, a European social dialogue committee was launched in 2008. Several organisations have called for the creation of a European social dialogue for the whole sport sector, which the Commission is backing. To facilitate this process, the Commission is to propose a test phase for the relevant social partners.


For more information, see:


Non-formal learning: organised learning, building on an individual’s skills and capacities and often led by a teacher, but which does not result in a formal diploma.
Informal learning: learning with no formal curriculum or credits and often involving family or a friend.


Consolidated version of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union — Part One — Principles — Title I — Categories and areas of Union competence — Article 6 (OJ C 202, 7.6.2016, pp. 52-53)

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions — Developing the European Dimension in Sport (COM(2011) 12 final, 18.1.2011)

last update 11.06.2018