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England football team �could be forced to wear EU flag�

The Telegraph UK (Link) - Martin Banks (July 7, 2011)

Members of the European Parliament are backing calls to fly the EU�s blue flag with yellow stars at sporting events, such as Wimbledon, held in its territory and, most controversially, to have the EU emblem on national team shirts.

The proposals, to be released next week, stipulate that all national sports teams, including football, rugby, cricket and the British Olympic team, would be forced to have the EU emblem appear on their jerseys.

The idea � dismissed by the Tories as �simply daft� � is contained in a report on �The European Dimension in Sport,� drafted by Spanish centre-right MEP Santiago Fisas Ayxela which will be presented to the Parliament next week.

A European Commission source said the executive is keen to promote the �European dimension� in sport and could bring forward the idea but only with full agreement with the competent national bodies.

The Lisbon Treaty gave the EU a competence over sport for the first time and the EU shirt emblem recommendation is Parliament�s response to a Commission communication, or white paper, on sport.

The European Parliament�s culture committee has already endorsed the plan. If, as expected, MEPs back the idea next week, the recommendation will go back to the Commission which will prepare formal legislative proposals.

The plan would then be put to a �qualified majority� vote in the Council of Ministers, which means it is possible the UK could be out voted on the measure, particularly by smaller countries that could benefit by a more �European approach� to tournaments like the Olympics.

EU culture commissioner Androulla Vassiliou, defends the proposal, saying, �The Commission is well aware of the crucial role played by sport as well as of the potential sport has for forging a sense of belonging. The successful Ryder Cup, where a European team competes under the European flag, constitutes an illustration of the benefits that a European dimension can bring to a sport.�

Irish Socialist MEP Nessa Childers, said, �Sporting events have more potential to unite ordinary Europeans and instil a sense of pride in Europe than all the treaties, directives and regulations put together.�

But Conservative MEP Emma McClarkin said, �Sport has a special place in the UK, and our national sport teams form a key part of our identities and heritage. The EU has no business interfering in the badges worn on national team shirts � it is just another clear example of the EU vanity project at work.

�The EU cannot impose an artificial European identity on us by forcing our athletes to wear its emblem. Can you imagine Wayne Rooney or Jessica Ennis walking out into the arena sporting an EU flag on their kit? It is simply daft and, needless to say, I will be opposing the plan when it is debated in the Parliament.� �