Competing for Europe

LAces and elite athletes usually compete individually, for teams representing a club or for selections representing a country. It is not common, however, for them to do so on behalf of an entire continent. In this case, Europe. Golf takes the lead there, with men’s and women’s teams for, respectively, the Ryder Cup and the Solheim Cup. And it’s worth remembering that the United States is the rival in both tournaments. Not America, but the United States. “I have thought about Seve all week. Especially at the end, because his is the spirit that moves this team, of not giving up, holding on and trying to get all the points”Jon Rahm pointed out after winning the last edition, held in Rome.

In the elite you can also sign up for the Laver Cup of tennis, in which the European team is measured against a team from the rest of the planet. Which also tends to have an American majority, things as they are, but in which, for example, the last edition left the presence of the Canadian Auger-Aliassime and the Argentine Cerúndolo. A year earlier, in 2022, the event served to say goodbye to Roger Federer, a perfect excuse for, under the orders of Bjorn Borg, to draw an unrepeatable team, in which, in addition to the Swiss, there were Rafa Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Casper Ruud… “I am very happy to play with the European team. I have great memories of my experiences in the Laver Cup, including all the emotions I experienced in London”has recently commented and in this regard the one from Manacor, confirmed by the organization for this year’s event, from September 20 to 22 in Berlin.

Regardless of whether there are more cases in other disciplines, it is evident that the concept of European sport as such does not exist. There can be an English sport, a French sport, a Spanish sport… and so on a whole relationship. But there is no continental vision, beyond the fact that the Functioning Treaty states, in the first section of its article 165, that “the Union will contribute to promoting the European aspects of sport, taking into account its specific characteristics, its structures based on volunteering and its social and educational”; in the second that the action of the Union will be aimed at “developing the European dimension of sport, promoting equity and openness in competitions and cooperation between bodies responsible for sport, and protecting the physical and moral integrity of athletes, especially that of the youngest”; and in the third that “the Union and the Member States will promote cooperation with third countries and with international organizations competent in education and sport and, in particular, with the Council of Europe.”

Next Sunday, through the elections (which actually begin this Thursday, although the bulk of the voting remains for the 9th), the citizens of those member countries (approximately 360 million people) will elect deputies for the European Parliament, the institution that holds, together with the Council, the legislative power of the Union. There are currently seven political groups represented in plenary (European People’s Party group, Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats group, Renew Europe group, Greens/European Free Alliance group, European Conservatives and Reformists group, Identity group and Democracy and Left group), taking into account that 23 seats and the presence of at least a quarter of the states are necessary to configure them.

In the specific case of Spain, there are 34 candidates that can be voted on on the last day of this week, so that the elected deputies can later meet in the aforementioned groups. But neither from an international perspective nor from the purest local perspective has special relevance been given to sport in the face of the elections in question.. Nor, in addition, are there relevant athletes or former athletes on the lists. It does not seem that physical activity is going to help win votes in elections marked by general polarization and that in any case also ‘fight’ against abstention. Just like competing for Europe, beyond those specific events for Nadal, Rahm or Carlota Ciganda (brilliant in the last Solheim, held in the Malaga town of Casares), it is rare to vote based exclusively on the problems of the continent (and not to their own).

Sport is an area in which the Union acquired responsibilities with the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon in December 2009. In this sense, it is assumed responsible for developing policies based on verified data and for promoting cooperation and managing initiatives in favor of physical activity throughout the continent. Within the framework of the first Erasmus+ program (2014-2020), a specific budget line was established for the first time to support projects and networks that have some relationship with sport. For the period 2021-2027, 1.9% of the total budget is allocated to sport.

Before that, in any case, the White Paper on sport, presented by the Commission in 2007, constituted the Union’s first global initiative on sport, also setting a series of objectives:

enhance its social function.

promote public health through physical activity.

boost the volunteering.

reinforce the economic dimension of sport and the free movement of players.

struggle against doping, corruption and money laundering.

check media rights.

The Work Plan of the European Union for Sport is one of the most important documents on the subject, because it focuses on the key activities in this area and acts as a guiding instrument for promoting cooperation between the institutions of the European Union itself. Union, Member States and stakeholders in the world of sport. The first corresponded to the interval 2011-2014, while The fourth and last, which covers until this year, was approved by the Council of European Sports Ministers in December 2020. This date explains that, among other issues, it was proposed to “strengthen the recovery of the sports sector and its resilience against crises during the COVID-19 pandemic and in the subsequent period”. A later resolution stressed that financial aid should not be limited to major events with spectators, recalling that the measures were of utmost importance for grassroots sport.

Parliament first proposed a European Sports Day at Union level in a resolution in February 2012. Since 2017 it has been organized between 23 and 30 September, and as an extension, the European Sports Week, in which Member States organize numerous activities (in 2023 around 36,000, with the participation of around 11 million people).A recent Eurobarometer survey showed, on the other hand, that 62% of Europeans rarely or never exercise, which is detrimental to people’s health and well-being, as well as to the economy, since, in Consequently, health care spending increases and work productivity and employability decrease.

UEFA vs. Super League, another conflict

European team competitions, as far as football is concerned, are regulated by UEFA, which organizes the Champions League, the Europa League and (recently created) the Conference League. In relation to the first, the Court of Justice of the European Union recently ruled in favor of the Super League, a possible ‘rival’ for the highest continental tournament, considering that the case constitutes on the part of the aforementioned UEFA, and adds FIFA, an abuse of their respective dominant position, at the global and European levels, and that the promoting clubs cannot be sanctioned… who at the moment cannot find allies.

The Parliamentary Subcommittee on Human Rights, on the other hand, has regularly debated human rights in the context of major sporting events organized by countries such as Russia (2014 Winter Games), Brazil (2014 FIFA World Cup and Summer Games 2016) and Qatar (FIFA World Cup 2022). After a first hearing on sports focused on the situation of migrant workers precisely in Qatar, in 2015 another joint hearing was held on violations of these rights. Another issue on the table is the promotion of gender equality. The Union aims to increase the proportion of women in management positions and as coaches, to promote equal conditions for all athletes and to improve media coverage of women in sport..

Precisely that of women and equality was, along with practice in safe environments and the eradication of hateful behavior, one of the axes on which the Spanish presidency of the Council placed emphasis, during the second half of 2023. “Girls across the European Union, from the Azores to Lapland, should be able to dream of becoming world champions while feeling safe and respected. We must support them on that path by promoting equal opportunities and guaranteeing an environment free of violence and harassment,” remarked Víctor Francos, then president of the Higher Sports Council, which added a new category to the 13 already existing in the National Sports Awards. : the European Union Trophy, to recognize the athlete, entity, club or institution from a member country that has stood out during the year for its sporting activities, which in its first edition went to the Czech skier Ester Ledecka.

Sport, in short, and according to the Union’s own website, “represents an integral part of the lives of millions of Europeans.” Support for it “generates community cohesion, increases social inclusion and leads to a greater sense of European identity”, being also “a key facet of the economies of the Member States and the large European economies”, since it is a sector that employs millions of citizens and contributes billions of income. Good governance is then a necessary condition for self-regulation and autonomy, with policies that have, among other objectives, to combat doping, violence, corruption and discrimination in all its forms, respecting the autonomy of sports organizations but promoting compliance with the principles of democracy, transparency, responsibility and inclusivity.

They are all good words that at times turn into concrete actions, it is worth recognizing, but The common policy of the continental institutions does not seem directed towards a European sport understood as such. Now, to vote. And for everything else, we will always have Nadal…


Davide Piano

An experienced journalist with an insatiable curiosity for global affairs on newshubpro

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