Monday , 22 April 2024

Brexit and Sport: What’s the impact? by Vagelis Alexandrakis

Following the BREXIT vote, the anticipated triggering of Article 50 is now upon us and the UK has now launched the two-year untangling process from the European Union. But what impact will this have on the UK’s sports industry which last year, according to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, contributed more than £35bn to the British economy and employed 1.2m people? Brexit is likely to impact on sports in a range of ways, many of which will depend on the relationship that the UK negotiates with the EU following a Brexit. Accordingly the exact details of how a Brexit will play out in the sporting arena are not entirely predictable. This short article however just seeks to give some food for thoughts on a number of key issues including freedom of movement, image rights and sports funding.

Freedom of Movement:

Following the famous “Bosman case” of the CJEU, professional players are considered workers. If following a Brexit, a deal under which free movement between the countries of the European Union is not reached, then all UK professional sports people who are required to travel to other countries within the current European Union to participate in events will be impacted. Within the UK, also, the loss of free movement is a worry for professional sporting leagues who are concerned about their ability to recruit the best players post Brexit. Since the 1995 Bosman case and the creation of the Premier League there has been a growing migration of EU and EEA players into the UK to play in the Championship and the Premier Leagues. It is possible that English football could lose ground to other European leagues such as Serie A or the Bundesliga who will remain unrestricted in their ability to target EU players.

Image & Broadcasting Rights

Sport rights holders are exposed to financial damages due to breach of intellectual property rights with high economic value. This is the case for media rights but also for sport merchandising. The enforcement of those rights is conjointly overlooked by the Commission for harmonization of national legislations as well as the European Union Intellectual property Office (EUIPO) and Europol. This wouldn’t be the case for the UK anymore. In a situation where cross-border piracy and counterfeiting is difficult to tackle alone, the UK might consider to secure some kind of cooperation with the EU on that matter. Also concerning the sports media industry, the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (better known as the “Television Without Frontiers directive”) might not be applied to the UK in the future or at least as it stands at the moment. This directive regulates cross-border television broadcasting and allows EU Member States to establish a list of sport events of major importance for society that are offered on subscription-free TV channels.

ERASMUS+ & Sport Funding

The EU does contribute to sports, especially at grassroots level, through funding streams such as the sporting chapter in the ERASMUS + programme and the EU structural Funds , thus full access to these funding mechanisms would probably disappear with Brexit. Brexiteers have of course argued that the UK’s contribution to the EU budget could be freed up for the UK government to choose itself what it funds, which might include contributions to grassroots sports. In addition, it remains to be seen whether the UK will be considered a “programme country” of the ERASMUS+ programme and therefore in this way, UK sport organization could partly benefit from the ERASMUS+ funds.

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