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Not playing the game

Posted by Helen Sunday, June 27, 2004

Hands up those who knew that this was European Year of Education through Sport. Nobody? Well, it is. And Viviane Reding, the member of Commission with responsibility for Education and Culture, seems to be delighted with how well it has gone.

During a presentation about the mid-term review she enthused about the 1,500 or more projects that have been financed by the long-suffering taxpayer throughout the EU. No, nothing as vulgar as playing fields or matches between teams.

Instead, there are projects, such as:

LEAPS: a project undertaken by the city of Dublin with the aim of helping young people in difficulty to improve their school performance by drawing their inspiration from sporting achievement
Or there is the Soviet-style:

Olympic Champions of Education: 28 young people selected by the national coordinators of the Year on the basis of their school performance, will be invited to Athens for the Olympic Games.
One wonders what the criteria of selection will be.

However, what excited Viviane Reding more than anything else was the fact, unnoticed by most commentators, that sport will now become a Community competence through the Constitutional Treaty.

Article III-182(2)(g) states that

Union action shall be aimed at:

Developing the European dimension in sport, by promoting fairness in competitions and co-operation between sporting bodies and by protecting the physical and moral integrity of sportsmen and sportswomen, especially young sportsment and sportswomen.
What exactly, might one ask, has sport to do with a constitutional structure that is supposed to do nothing more than define the relationship between various government structures and between the state and the citizen?

Never fear, Ms Reding has the answer. At the press conference she explained somewhat incoherently:

Sport can help to improve education and pave the way for integration. Accordingly, it can and must be made an integral part of the process of building up European citizenship. I am therefore delighted to see sport given its place in the Constitutional Treaty and I thank the Member States, the sports organisations and all who have been involved in this effort. The inclusion of this reference in no way calls into question the fundamental freedoms and the principle of non-discrimination.
And there I was thinking that sport is something you do for the fun of it or to make yourself feel better and healthier. I would like to put one question to Ms Reding: will the Community take the responsibility for our football hooligans as well?

For full text of press release click here