The EU Committee of the Regions is calling on local and regional authorities to assume their core function as providers of sport, leisure and cultural services as key tools in the promotion of social inclusion and combating discrimination.
The Committee of the Regions (CoR) adopted on 11 October 2007 an own-initiative opinion calling on the EU to establish a benchmark for local and regional authorities in promoting equal opportunities in sport.
Such a benchmark is needed as the members of CoR recognise that “for differing reasons, certain societal groups tend to participate less in sport, are poorly represented at decision-making levels and for a variety of reasons are excluded from some sporting facilities”.
As a consequence, argues the report, some of these groups experience “disproportionately high levels of illness associated, for example, with sedentary lifestyles”.
In addition, it states that in many countries, “sports administration does not reflect the diversity of the community that it serves”.
The report then makes a series of policy recommendations which address the questions of age, disability, gender, race, religion/belief and sexual orientation.
With regard to age, the report underlines the need to consider sports participation as people get older because “sport can increase longevity and quality of life in older age”. It also recognises that participation in sport is lower for people with disabilities and urges action to ensure that disabled people are guaranteed the right to participate in all forms of sport.
The opinion calls on local and regional authorities “to avoid gender stereotyping in directing girls and boys towards certain sports and away from others” and to monitor gender balance in the recruitment of sports administrators and coaching staff.
As to race, the report “recognises that discrimination and harassment may mean that certain sections of the population are deterred from active participation in sport.” It therefore asks the EU to address the eventual exclusion from sport of certain groups due to the specific customs and practices of different religions and faith groups (e.g. single-sex bathing, ritual, and timing and frequency of prayer).
The report forms part of the Committee of the Regions’ contribution to the 2007 European Year of Equal Opportunity for All.