Sport governance after the White Paper: the demise of the European model?

2009-12-08T09:21:46Z (GMT) by Borja Garcia-Garcia
In 1998 the European Commission introduced into the political arena the concept of a ‘European model of sport’ in the build up to the Helsinki Report on Sport, the Commission’s first attempt to formulate a comprehensive approach towards sport in the ‘post-Bosman era’. In the recently adopted White Paper on Sport (July 2007), the Commission however considers it ‘unrealistic’ to define a single model of sport for Europe. This article argues that the Commission’s departure from its previous position deserves attention because it is an explicit acknowledgement of the transformations in the governing structures of European sport over the last two decades. The article suggests two possible motives for the Commission’s new understanding of European sport. First, the Commission is responding to the politicisation and redefinition of the concept of the ‘European Model’ by sport governing bodies, who are attempting to forestall legal intervention by the European courts and the Commission. Second, the Commission is just acknowledging the reality of the new governance of sport. In this respect, the article focuses on professional football to argue that the governance of the sport in Europe is transforming from the old pyramidal and vertical structure to more horizontal configurations of stakeholder networks. The White Paper is just another indication of this process, and the Commission has used it to position itself within the network structure. The Commission, it is argued, has opted for a supervisory role, offering governing bodies a degree of ‘supervised autonomy’ where the specific role of federation is recognised in exchange for greater stakeholder representation within governing structures.