By Martin Banks - 3rd February 2012
It is a wasted opportunity
A report calling on national sports teams to wear the EU flag on their shirts received its final backing from parliament.
The report, which also recommends that the European flag should be flown over major international sports events, was vehemently opposed by some MEPs.
The culture committee report, which was voted through by deputies at the mini-plenary in parliament on Thursday, recommends that national sports governing bodies should adopt the EU flag.
The document, which represents parliament's response to a commission white paper on the future of sport, now goes back to the executive for further consideration.
The report, entitled 'The European dimension in sport', also seeks to bar sports agents from operating anywhere in the EU unless they pay taxes there.
UK Conservative MEPs objected furiously when parliament's new president, German Socialist Martin Schulz, allegedly denied MEPs the right to vote on individual clauses in the report "in the interests of efficiency".
Earlier, Emma McClarkin, Conservative spokesman on sport and culture in parliament, said the measures would "offend loyal fans, interfere with professional sport and do nothing to boost grassroots volunteering or participation".
She made an impassioned plea to parliament to drop the package of measures altogether and condemned the EU flag proposal as "outrageous and unnecessary".
She told MEPs: "Sport has a special place in my country, and our national teams form a key part of our identities and heritage. The EU cannot impose an artificial European identity on us by forcing our athletes to wear its emblem.
"The report also calls for any agent representing a sportsperson who plays in Europe to have their fiscal residence in the EU; despite the fact that many players are not European and many sportspeople themselves have their fiscal residence outside the EU.
"Taxation and legal frameworks operating at national level should be left alone. It is up to each member state and the sport governing bodies to decide how they run their national sports.
"There are 35 million volunteers in sports in Europe, providing the opportunities for other citizens to participate and stay active. Sadly, this report is focused mainly at professional levels, leaving amateur and grassroots sport with little support.
"This report fails to address the issues affecting sport at grassroots level and instead looks for ways to develop an artificial European identity by exploiting the popularity of professional sport in Europe.
"It is a wasted opportunity."