The sports world should collaborate more closely with other areas and help foster social inclusion at local level, according to participants in a conference held by the Belgian EU Presidency last week.
The European conference on local sports participation and social inclusion, held last week (13-14 October), resulted in a series of recommendations for policymakers at local level.
The links between sport, poverty and social inclusion were highlighted in the framework of the 2010 European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion.
The final recommendations, developed during various workshops that took place during the conference, consider action on three levels: cities and towns, member states and the EU.
Conference participants suggested that sport needs to collaborate more with other policy areas, including employment opportunities and social affairs, and that sport should be used as a means of social inclusion.
They also stressed the importance of evaluating existing practices and suggested stimulating the commercial sport sector to "take up social responsibility".
At local level, co-operation should be stimulated between sport and other partners active in areas such as education, youth welfare and social services, the recommendations read. Systems for reduced cost for sport participation for socially disadvantages groups could also be envisaged, they added.
One of the EU-level recommendations is the creation of a European social sport fund. Another calls for opening EU programmes and funds for sport projects.
EU ministers stress social role of sport
Philippe Muyters, Flemish sport minister and chairman of the EU Sport Council, will present the recommendations at an informal meeting of EU sports ministers later this week (21-22 October).
Back in spring, the ministers agreed that the EU's "leading role in sport should focus on social considerations".
The role that sport can play in social inclusion is also one of the priorities of the Belgian EU Presidency.
The topic will be further discussed at the formal EU Sports Council meeting in November.