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What is the influence of discourse on political change in EU Sport Governance?

Jutta Prochaska

The former autonomous, self-regulated European sport sector is facing serious challenges: Since the Lisbon Treaty -- the political institutions of the EU are engaging in a common sport policy. As more actors get involved (or try to get involved) the web of relations and informal policy interactions becomes increasingly complex. Despite the fact that the EU competence is of the lowest level, the main debate around EU sport policy is whether sport can self-regulate or, conversely, EU regulation is needed to ensure better governance of the sector. Conceptualizing the policy process as “a struggle over ideas” (Stone, 2002) the focus of this paper is on the role of discourse in the EU sport policy making process by identifying the shifts in the governance discourse and by analysing why certain discourses have become dominant. Discourse contains three elements: policy ideas, institutional context and processes of interaction (Schmidt, 2006). From this perspective, changes in ideas do not occur as a result of windows of opportunity; rather, ideational changes open windows of opportunity. The aim of this paper is thus to enhance our understanding as to the role of discourses in the policy making process in the EU system of multilevel network governance.

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