EU called upon to close ‘physical activity gap’


The International Sport and Culture Association (ISCA) has asked the European Commission to strengthen support for grassroots sport as a way of giving all Europeans the opportunity to be physically active.

In a May paper, the association writes that the EU "clearly has the potential to increase the number of citizens [who are] regularly active in sport and physical activity by another 100 million individuals," a vision it believes should be the goal of the bloc's future policy in the area for 2020.

Referring to a recent survey on Europeans' sport participation, the ISCA argues that if all European societies reached the participation level of the countries with the highest grassroots sport participation, 150 million more Europeans would be regularly active in sport (EURACTIV 31/03/10).

In its July 2007 White Paper on Sport the European Commission acknowledged the societal role of sport, in particular regarding enhancing public health through physical activity and promoting active citizenship and social inclusion.

Tax incentives to boost grassroots sport

One of the main ways forward to achieve this goal, the association suggests, is to give the grassroots sport and physical activity sector a prominent role in upcoming EU sports initiatives.

To boost the sector it proposes a "consolidated policy response and investment" through improved public funding, access to engaging sport facilities and equipment, and recruitment and training of volunteers.

The association hopes the EU can help increase funding by creating legal provisions which motivate the public sector to support physical activity through other policies, such as health, urban planning and education.

Tax exemptions on household spending in sport and tax incentives for companies investing in or sponsoring grassroots sport are also seen as one of the solutions.

The first official EU sports ministerial in May endorsed volunteer-based sports structures and ensuring that they are sustainably financed as one of the priorities of the upcoming EU sport policy (EURACTIV 11/05/10).

The Commission is currently awaiting the final results of a study on the financing of grassroots sport in the EU.

More and better managed facilities

The paper argues that most funding is currently spent on large sport arenas "with little or no usage for grassroots sport and recreational physical activity" and that this should change.

The ISCA suggests that the public sector should consult grassroots sport representatives in the planning and construction of new sport facilities to make sure their final design meets the users' needs.

New facility management models could also be developed in cooperation with the grassroots sport sector.

The establishment of a new public-private financial model for investing in grassroots sport facilities and "incitements to private donors to co-finance facility construction" are also put forward in the paper as potential measures to increase access to sports facilities. 

The entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty and Article 165 gave the EU a new soft competence on sport on 1 December 2010 (EURACTIV 30/11/09).

In view of the EU's upcoming sport programme, the European Commission was seeking citizens' input on strategic priorities for action in an online public consultation running between 8 April and 1 June (EURACTIV 09/04/10).

  • Nov. 2010: Commission communication on impact of Lisbon Treaty on sport. 
  • Nov. 2010: Commission draft decision on EU sports programme and budget. 
  • 2010, 2011: Preparatory actions for sport. 
  • 2012: First limited EU sports programme (2012-2013) expected to come into force. 
  • 2014-2020: First full EU sports programme.


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