A View on the Future Relationship Between Professional Football and European Union Law

THE HAGUE, The Netherlands, September 13 LAWFUEL – The Legal Newswire — There have been several recent landmark initiatives relating to the relationship between sport and EU Law.

First of all, UEFA promoted an “Independent European Sport Review”, best known as the “Arnaut report”, which was published in October 2006. This report strongly supports the increased autonomy of international sports governing bodies from EU Law.

In March 2007, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on “The Future of Professional Football in Europe”, the content of which was partly based on the Arnaut report.

On 11 July 2007, the European Commission published its “White Paper on Sport”.

On 13 July 2007, UEFA issued a joint press statement together with other European federations (ice hockey, basketball, handball, rugby and volleyball) calling for “firmer conclusions from the European Union to aid the future development of sport”. In particular, these federations want “the appropriate inclusion of sport in the reform treaty”, aimed at “fully recognising the autonomy and specificity of sport as well as the central role and independence of the sports federations in organising, regulating and promoting their respective sports”.

In order to contribute to the diversity of the debate, the ASSER International Sports Law Centre has commissioned Professor Melchior Wathelet, Universities of Louvain and Liège and a former Member of the European Court of Justice, to analyse the relationship between sport (and in particular professional football) and EU law, particularly in the light of the above-mentioned documents.

Professor Melchior Wathelet was asked to analyse the findings of the Arnaut report, in present and future perspectives, also taking into account the economic and political aspects of the issues at stake.

Professor Wathelet concludes his Report as follows:

“(…) the future of professional sport should not be outside Community law which, as interpreted by the European Court and the European Commission, is probably the best guarantee of maintaining flourishing competition between national teams on the one hand and the development of truly European club football on the other.

“When the need really arises, as is the case with regard to the questions of the international match schedule and player availability for national teams, there can be no doubt that the scope of the application of Community law in the sports sector will be refined by the ECJ (…). Far from being a source of legal uncertainty, this jurisprudence will help consolidate and clarify the rights and obligations of the sector’s various parties under EU Law.”

For the full text of Professor Wathelet’s Report entitled “Sur l’avenir des relations entre la gouvernance du sport européen et particulièrement celle du football professionnel et l’ordre juridique communautaire” / “On the future relationship between governance in European sport and in particular professional football and the European Union legal order”, visit: http://www.sportslaw.nl under NEWS.

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