European Sports Federations: A Critical Review of the Options for Incorporation


Most sports men and women would regard competition at the European and international level as one of the high points of a sporting career. In order to organise competitions at European level it is usually a pre-requisite to create a European association to organise the sport. From the earliest days of international sporting competitions in the nineteenth century to the present time, the strategic choices to be made when creating an international sport association have remained constant. These are: where to locate the association, geographically, and what legal form the international association should adopt? These basic questions have to be addressed, not only by those wishing to create new, international sports associations, but also by existing international associations. With regard to existing international sports associations, some of these may have to review their existing structures and locations as a result of expanding national memberships or the increasing commercial and legal pressures on the sports that they govern and represent. This article suggests that there is a strong case to be made for new and existing European sports associations to consider establishing some form of legal presence in Brussels, the administrative and political centre of the European Union. This is because, amongst other things, Brussels is the location where European sporting bodies might be better able to influence the regulatory and political decisions that may affect their various sports. This article then proceeds to consider what form that presence could take. Various options are examined and due attention is given to the special legal structures made available to international not-for-profit sports associations under Belgian law. What is of particular interest in this connection is the new Belgian Law of 2 May 2002 on not-for-profit associations, which came into force in July 2003. It is suggested that this new law provides two improved legal structures that could be valuable to those wishing to create new European sporting associations and to those existing associations who may be reviewing their existing structures to be more effective promoters of their sports.

How to Cite

Burns, T., (2016) “European Sports Federations: A Critical Review of the Options for Incorporation”, Entertainment and Sports Law Journal 2(2), 1. doi:







Tom Burns (Professor of Law, Department of Law, Aberdeen Business School, Robert Gordon University)



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