The UK's House of Lords today (20 October) launched an inquiry into grassroots sport and the European Union, ahead of the publication next month of the bloc's first ever sports policy.
The inquiry, led by the Lords' EU sub-committee on social policies and consumer protection, will examine the benefits of grassroots sport to individuals and society and consider how participation in sports can be encouraged.
It will also investigate how the EU’s new competence in sport – granted by the Lisbon Treaty’s entry into force last December – can be harnessed to "ease existing burdens" on promoting participation and highlight the contribution that grassroots sport can make to society.
"We want to get to the heart of how participating in grassroots sports helps individuals, communities and society more widely," said committee chair Baroness Young of Hornsey.
"However, we are aware that there are sometimes obstacles or barriers to people participating, particularly for minority groups, thus preventing sport from fulfilling its potential in all spheres," she explained.
"We would like to identify what these are and how access, participation and effectiveness can be improved," Young said.
The committee, which is inviting contributions from across the sports, social, health and education sectors, wants to identify "the obstacles and barriers which prevent grassroots sport from fulfilling its potential in the social, health and educational spheres".
The inquiry will set out the benefits of participating in grassroots sport and seek ways to boost participation among minority and other under-respresented groups.
EU policy focus
The Lords committee will pay particular attention to how EU policy can help improve participation in grassroots sport, as well as its contribution to society.
The inquiry will consider "whether sport is considered sufficiently across all relevant EU policy areas" and will include proposals on how the European Commission's upcoming sports programme should be strcutred and what its priorities should be.
The Commission is set to publish a communication outlining its proposals for the first ever EU sports programme on 10 November.
Last month, a group of MEPs tabled a written declaration calling on the EU executive to prioritise funding for grassroots sport in its new policy (EURACTIV 06/09/10).
The closing date for submitting written evidence to the Lords inquiry is 17 November. It will then take oral evidence from witnesses later than month and aims to report early next year.