The European Parliament has just voted through a report called ‘The European Dimension in Sport’, which may be featuring in the rightwing press in the coming days.
The problem seemed to be that the report made a suggestion that the flag of the European Union be worn on the kits of sports men and women and flown at major international sporting events held within the EU.
Now the report has gone through the parliament I expect to see some more stories denouncing Brussels as being interfering and trying to force the EU down everyone’s throat. I thought I’d take this opportunity to pre-emptively rubbish these new ‘Euromyths’.
The first point to make is that the report is not legislative. It’s called an ‘Own Initiative Report’ and is basically just a long list of suggestions. It is only since the Lisbon Treaty came in to force that sport policy has been an EU competence. These initial stages are basically about deciding what direction the EU is going to with its new authority, but as it stands, sport doesn’t even have a budget.
The second important point is one that even the Daily Mail acknowledges; the recommendation would be purely voluntary. Here is what the paragraph actually says:
100. Suggests that the European flag should be flown at major international sports events held on the EU territory and suggests to sports federations to consider the idea of having it displayed on the clothing of athletes from Member States, alongside the national flags; underlines that it should be entirely voluntary and up to Member States and sports organisations to decide whether they will use the aforementioned option;
Now I happen to think this is a rather silly suggestion. There are number of reasons why displaying or wearing an EU flag at sporting events is not a great idea. Most sports men and women identify with their home country and wear their flag proudly. There are no European Union sports teams. The closest we’ve got is the European team in the Ryder cup, but golf fans from Norway or Switzerland might object to seeing them wear an EU flag. It’s a not very well thought out idea and that is why I and the rest of the European Parliamentary Labour Party (EPLP) voted against that paragraph in today’s vote.
Unfortunately the paragraph had the overwhelming support of almost everyone else, so it remains in the report. The EPLP voted for the report as a whole because, apart from that one paragraph, we believed it to be a good document. I believe that the EU can play a crucial role in tackling things like match fixing and corrupt players’ agents. I didn’t think it was right to vote against a whole report full of good suggestions just because of one duff one.
But if you do hear anyone suggesting that the EU is trying to force their flag on the kit of your favourite football team, you might want to suggest they don’t believe everything they read in the Daily Mail.