Euro-sport policy reform — IEFR

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Here in the US the NCAA has introduced limits in the #s of games and
hours that Student-Athletes (SAs) would be involved in training... And
naturally we can go into lengthy discussions in regard to what
historically was wrong or right with the implementation of such
policy, as well as entertain thoughts many critical theorists do here
in the US in re: circumvention of such policies in theory, by means of
e.g. "strongly recommended 'voluntary' sessions" for weight training,
skill development in individual training etc...
Although I have seen what the maelstrom of never-ending feedback can
do to a kid that is developing to be a good talent in sport both here
and in Greece, I have but one concept to pose, and it is the one we
all strive for in our discussions and lives as well: balance...
While still coaching in Greece as an assistant coach on the pro-club
and national team level, I sadly witnessed many cases of those 17-18
year-olds that had been given so much feedback, had received so much
training, etc from say the age of 6 or so, that when the moment came
for them to make the next transition to the world of truly fierce
competitive sport (i.e. professional sport) they were burnt out,
physically, as well as mentally...
I will join you in entertaining the thought of introducing limits to
the involvement with skill training and #s of games annually...
However, I have seen the legal challenges such restrictive practices
in terms of labor and competition law scrutiny can have and the US is
an interesting example, as sadly but truly we are moving in the EU
toward a more strictly professional//commercialized if you may world
of sport... And in such a world, restrictive practices have to have
the backing of strong political constituencies, such as the dominant
socio-cultural wing of the European Commission... In the US Congress,
interestingly there have been "trends"... such as the allowance of
baseball being exempt from antitrust scrutiny, so it could evolve
through its amazing practice of the reserve clause, etc... So in
essence we are back to the bottom line arguments that our colleagues
in the EU have written and commented on, per political support of such
sport-first motivations that may lead to restrictive practices... Back
to trying to make the argument that sport is a different kind of
"business"... And while this would involve the position some of our
colleagues assume, in re: sport exemption from EU competition law, in
favor of labor practices that would promote the elements David was
suggesting, I am still concerned as to what would be the ultimate
result of such an exemption... Are there others that fear a sport
exemption having precisely the adverse reactions, i.e. uninhibited
commercial exploitation of sport...? Indeed, we say we want a sport
exemption for the benefit of sport... But is there a politically
feasible way to make policy that would protect socio-cultural values
of sport, at the same time protecting from competition and labor law
exemptions' abuses by the commercial "elite" controlling -- we need to
admit it -- the future of top sport competition, financially,
politically, organizationally...?  If we see what the ECJ and the EC
have done so far, we'll see that there is a valiant attempt to allow
for athletes' rights to be upheld (indeed, via feasible means in a
rapidly commercialized world of sport where financial interests rule
the day)... I want to trust our judges and EC policy-makers that they
will continue to interpret the spirit -- not just the letter -- of EU
law toward the benefit of sport in the long run and young athletes'
development and welfare... Needless to say, however, they need all the
help they can get, from theorists, practitioners, and knowledgeable
people such as everyone receiving this correspondence!

As a last thought, from what I've seen in recent past in regard to
policy development, mainly from the standpoint of NCAA legislative
amendments, it frequently comes down to convincing a few people on key
posts both from the "haves and the have-nots" to promote an idea and a
certain policy...

I really respect the ideas David was promoting below... In Greece we were
taught that frequently less is actually more in the long term... If
only we had understood that in the 80s and 90s... A vast majority got
so "spellbound" by big salaries, star players, the fun of keeping up
with their lives, the amount of sport on TV... We forgot why we went
to attend games in the first place... We forgot what the game is
about; we forgot how to develop fundamentals if one wishes to comment
from the US side... Here they (coaches and administrators) complain
that the US lags so far behind Europe in regard to skill
development... when they have all the infrastructure and talent to
make it happen... It's all about the flair and the hype... "Going for
yours" early on as they put it...  And I do agree with David that
certain ways to hold back the insanity of "no balance" these days in
sport would assist in the long run... I want to believe that although
the worlds of the US and the EU come closer together in regard to the
challenges sport is facing (doping, corruption, control by bottom-line
principles, need for political intervention), we are still different
than the "circus" of mainstream US/commercial sport... We are different socially,
culturally, different economically, or at least that is how I left the
old Continent 5 years ago! Maybe things are different...

In a nutshell, I believe that David raises important points,
especially in reference to the "better management of clubs" being a
real issue... When we eventually reach the point of bona fide
collective bargaining b/t players' unions and club owners, one would
be challenged to convince the latter that restrictions per time
allotted to training and #s of games played would make sense...
Players want more money... they should work for it... More games on
TV=More money (the simplistic way many admins think, at least).
However, historically these points David raised make perfect sense...
A last point that David posed was in reference to whether such
restrictions would deter doping... and I am not as convinced on that,
maybe because nowadays we tend to observe high-profile athletes
resulting to performance enhancing substances either to make it
through their intense training regimes or get their performance to the
top level when it matters most... Maybe with fewer games the substance
abuse will target those games-events most important for classification
and sponsorship contracts, promotion to European-international
competitions, etc... Plus, w/ fewer games we'd have fewer
opportunities to control for drug use... Hopefully David is right and
fewer games and control of excesses in training would lead to athletes
realizing they should not result to such use... But when these few
crucial games make the difference in one's successful career, who
would be able to really convince the ones who think their health is
less important than their performance--leading to financial
success...? And what if -- as BALCO did -- the suppliers argue that
they have the safest possible product for the athlete wanting to reach
the max potential...? What if the word out in top-performers' circles
becomes one day that indeed these products are safe?
As educators, we have a lot of work to do with our kids in the future...
I am afraid that when we purport one principle, when everything in
their social surrounding promotes something totally opposite, we will
have our hands full... We need to be ready with convincing arguments
and fair as well as practical positions... Moral values and the
elusive concept of "right" may still work for some, but I'm not sure
for how many... We need to be creative and somewhat flexible...
Probably policy-making entails these traits as well...

Wishes for an enjoyable summer


On 6/27/06, David Ranc wrote:
> What I find most interesting in this debate is how the idea that I thought
> most imnportant (limiting the number of games played by each footballer)
> is not discussed at all. Does it mean it is completely irrelevant? It is
> still my belief, though, that this would be fair on players (who as
> pointed earlier are treated like - expensive - commodities), positive for
> the game, beneficial to the economy of the industry, and be a welcome step
> in the fight against doping.
> D.R

The Association for the Study of Sport and the European Union
In continuation of prior correspondence, some related links in re:
European Sports Federations and the meetings in Switzerland w/ J.L.

Refraining from further commentary, one may juxtapose -- in particular
-- FIBA Europe admins' statements (2nd link) in reference to the IESR
w/ the re-organization of a very important athletic event, the
European Basketball Championships (EuroBasket -- National Teams'
competition), in the link attached below: regards

Hope this finds everyone well.
Most European scholars may have reviewed this already... I know some
of the US colleagues would like to have this for reference:

You can follow the link to the 160-page Pdf.
Considering time restrictions, one may review pp 121 et seq, focusing
on the recommendations, which we have discussed this year...

Best wishes to all and safe travels to the ones going to Kansas City, MO.

Enjoy the summer


The Association for the Study of Sport and the European Union