SD Europe was invited to and attended the European Union’s annual Sports Forum last week (March 8th / 9th). The event was held in the beautiful town of Saint Julian’s in Malta.
Such events are excellent opportunities to meet and network with the hundreds of people involved in sporting organisations across Europe and further afield, and also to gain insight into specific sport-related topics and areas of interest.
Following opening remarks from Petra Kammerevert, chair of the CULT committee in the European Parliament, the first day began with an update of all EU activities around sport. The Erasmus + fund is a significant part of this, and SD Europe is currently running our Clubs and Supporters for Better Governance in Football project as part of this work. Erasmus + is also celebrating 30 years in existence this year.
Sessions on Gender-based violence in Sport and Sport’s contribution to growth and jobs followed with some detailed discussion on how sport impacts and contributes to various areas of the economy. Joanna Zukowska-Easton, Director of the Office of the Minister, Ministry of Sport and Tourism, Poland said that 2% of her country’s GDP comes from the sports sector, though well below 1% of GDP is used to support it. Even a slight increase in the levels of physical activity of a nation can save hundreds of millions in healthcare costs. Sport also gives significant added value to the tourism and education sectors.
After lunch, the Towards inclusive communities – the role of volunteering in sport discussion saw a number of important considerations raised. David S. Evangelista, Regional President & Managing Director, Special Olympics (Europe & Eurasia) said volunteering was not “giving something away”, more a self investment. The Special Olympic movement has a low rate of volunteer attrition as volunteers are inspired by getting involved. It was noted that grassroots sport couldn’t exist without volunteers – a topic Bogdan Wenta MEP spoke passionately about – and it was argued that volunteers will come back if they feel both needed and recognised. It was also agreed that the correct and appropriate management of volunteers is critical for organisations.
One of the final sessions of the day was entitled Greening the sport. Attendees heard presentations from Hans Bruynincikx, Head of the European Environmental Agency, as well as WWF International, Green Sport Alliance US and the German Olympic Sports Confederation. The message was clear from everyone: sport has a role to play in the fight against climate change and in favour of the environment and, as pointed out by Mary Harvey of Green Sports Alliance US, the movement is one that supporters like and engage with. It’s a top down, bottom up movement, in which sport can use its influence and connection with communities to make a real difference. There was also a parallel discussion on e-Sports and why it is becoming a more significant area of interest in the world of sport with each passing month.
Day 2 kicked off with discussion and comment around Evolving Good Governance practices in European sport. As our Erasmus + partners heard at our Good Governance workshop in Manchester last summer, establishing a culture of good governance and implementing best practices is an ongoing effort that needs a conscious and continuing focus.
The forum concluded with a panel debate around grassroots sport, including Tibor Navracsics, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Chris Agius, Parliamentary Secretary for Research, Innovation, Youth and Sport (Malta), Santiago Fisas, MEP and co-Chair of the Sports Intergroup, and Susanne Erlandsson, vice-President of the Swedish Sports Confederation.
All in all, a great event!