Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2007-03-28-Speech-3-232"

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". Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the very idea that Europe, the European Union, should have any say in matters relating to sport makes some people’s hair stand on end. Their predictable response will always be that the EU has no say in the matter and should, as such, not attempt to do anything in that area either. Commissioner, Madam President, we are counting on the Commission, when outlining its White Paper on sport, to very much take into consideration what is in this report and what will hopefully meet with approval tomorrow. We have taken maximum account of the EU’s competences in this area, as there is little point in pulling the wool over our own eyes, certainly not when a complex sector such as professional football is involved, in which millions of young people take a direct interest. We are looking forward to an ambitious document from the Commission and I think – indeed, I assume, and you can rest assured – that you, in turn, can count on our loyal support. As we all realise, and as those involved know only too well, this position is wrong. As the Commissioner already mentioned, sport, and certainly professional sport, not least the economic aspects of professional football –which is what this report is about – is affected by European legislation in all kinds of ways. There is interference from the Commission and from the European Court of Justice, and we have, in recent years, had adequate proof of that fact. Needless to say, professional football is big business. This is beyond dispute. It is, however, so much more. It meets important social and educational needs, and this is why we underline in this report the specificity that we simply cannot get round. Specificity of sport is enshrined in the declaration to the Treaty of Nice and in the protocol to the Treaty of Amsterdam. There is no two ways about it. It is therefore our duty to take this into account when applying EU rules and regulations. Nobody is asking for exemption measures or so-called group exemptions. What we do ask for, though, is Commission guidelines – not directives, but guidelines, particularly to lift the legal uncertainty that is around at the moment. We want the autonomy of the professional sport to be fully respected. Self-regulation is the central concept in this report, but that does not deny us the right to nudge the trend in a certain direction. The reputation of professional football has in recent months taken a battering in very many EU countries due to all kinds of scandals, something to which there is only one answer: good governance. This is why we demand determination from the administrative bodies of the UEFA, of the football leagues, and of the clubs, in their selection in favour of transparent management. A huge number of Members of this House also want more solidarity and a redistribution of resources in football. I do not think it is up to us to redistribute the resources in professional football. It is in the interest of the professional clubs, of the leagues and the federations to take measures to this effect. Football requires competitive even-handedness, for this is something that is now more than ever in the balance. The gap between the big, ever richer clubs and the smaller clubs is widening all the time. This is blindingly obvious. This trend is threatening the future of the sport that is so close to our hearts and I have to say, it also threatens the social and integrating role that sport has. This is why we, as the Commissioner already referred to, and I should like to underline this point once again, remain fully committed to the home-grown rule which the UEFA introduced for locally trained players. Not we, but football bodies themselves should make it compulsory for professional clubs to invest in the training of their own young people as an essential element of the social component. This is why it deserves our unqualified support. The sale of TV rights is a delicate issue, as it involves the key source of income for the professional clubs, but also because it is a national matter, of course. The only thing we ask in this report is for the competent authorities and competent bodies in football to sit round the table to look for a solution that guarantees more solidarity between the large and small clubs. This strikes me as a reasonable and justified request."@en1

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