National teams to wear EU flag on shirts?
by Struan Stevenson
Proposal for shirts and stadiums of national sports teams to display EU flag are 'grotesque'
The world has been watching aghast in recent months as the European Union has lurched from one sovereign debt crisis to the next. First Ireland, then Portugal and Greece were bailed out. And now Italy is anxiously trying to reassure the markets with a belated package of austerity measures. Only this week, the International Monetary Fund warned that politicians on both sides of the Atlantic were "dithering" over their response to debt and singling out EU leaders for their "insufficient" response to the clear and present danger of economic collapse.
Meanwhile, as the storm rages overhead, a microcosm of the troubles that have beset the supranational decision-making process has been revealed in Brussels. New regulations, contained in an "own initiative" report on "the European dimension in sport" - drafted by centre-right Spanish MEP Santiago Fisas Ayxela - were presented to the European Parliament's Culture Committee on July 14.
The report was drawn up in the wake of the Lisbon Treaty, which has extended the powers of the union into our national sporting lives. And among its measures is a proposal to ensure that European national sports teams and the stadia in which they play will, in future, have to display the blue with yellow stars of the EU flag alongside their own national insignia.
These grotesque proposals represent another absurd example of just how out-of-touch some EU politicians have become with the enormous economic challenges, which should be their first and only priority right now. Moreover, not only are they tinkering with sports while the very foundations of the union's economic survival are at stake. They are doing so – whether wilfully or through blind ignorance – in a way that offers a smack in the face for individual countries' sporting identities.
I represent Scotland in the EP and ask myself why on earth our sports men and women, with their proud heritage of representing their country on the international stage, should be forced suddenly to play under another flag? I can picture the farcical results. Next we'll have the Scottish rugby squad taking to the pitch at Murrayfield sporting the blue flag with yellow stars, while the pipe band plays Beethoven's Ode to Joy – the EU anthem.
Scottish national sports teams have a proud history of competitive, yet friendly and respectful, competition with counterparts on these islands - throughout Europe and around the world. They, like the other British home nations, enjoy a fiercely protected sporting independence that is a foundation of their spirit and will to win.
That will continue, but having this union branding exercise thrust upon them by politicians they have never heard of smacks of massive disrespect and arrogance. Scottish sporting identity is for Scots alone to decide and the same goes for all of our partners in the union. So, what is to become of these proposals? As expected, a firm majority of Culture Committee members gave the plans a ringing endorsement. They even heckled those MEPs attending, who were prepared to speak out against the flag plans.
As a next step, the proposals are likely to go before a full sitting of the parliament when it convenes in September and receive approval there too. I wonder if Brussels will have woken up by then to the true threat of the eurozone crisis, or whether its MEPs will still be choosing to spend vital time on nonsense plans, tailor-made to offend our sporting teams. I for one will be voting against this crazy plan when it comes before the EP.
Struan Stevenson is a Conservative Party MEP in Scotland
Struan, as I am sure you are aware, the fight against this daft proposal was lead by the UKIP deputy leader Paul Nuttall - ably supported by the Tory Emma McClarkin. And I hope that you will be supporting Nuttall's amendment to remove this daft idea from the report as well.
Gawain Towler - London UKIP/EFD
Europe is good and we should celebrate being European just as we are proud of our countries or regions. But not to the extent that we are blindly tribal. Irrational human tribalism is demonstrated by the UKIP members, who should take better control of the primitive emotional parts of their brains.
I know its is human to be tribalist and probably served us well in the stone age, but we must overcome this tendency with rational logic if we are to progress as a species. The UKIP members would like us to revert to the stone age and to hate and fear otherness.
finetea - Southend
@finetea, having your opinion is great, it´s a part of the democratic process. But you are in the minority when you support the EU in this overbearing manner. Not just in Britain, but pretty much the whole of Europe the silent majority is tried of career politicians and their unnecessary laws and treaties that only help themselves.
But unfortunately in the same way other EU federalists seem to operate you only wish us to simply bow down and remain silent while you anonymously call us cavemen.
Tony Ball - Denmark