Back to the grassroots: Council of Europe’s needed refocus on sport for all
ISCA President Mogens Kirkeby comments
With the adoption of the report “Sport for all: a bridge to equality, integration and social inclusion”, the Council of Europe recommends EU’s member states to refocus the priorities of their sports policies towards sport participation and collaboration between public institutions.
When the Sport for All charter was adopted back in 1975, the Council of Europe made a clear statement that it would focus on participation and the fundamental right to participate. It was an important position back then. However, with the fast growing commercialisation of sport and emerging problems such as doping, examples of very bad governance and match fixing, the participation agenda has come under pressure.
Seen from a grassroots sport perspective, the report’s content and timing are encouraging. We take it as a clear signal that there remains a will to give sport participation – and not just competitive sport – a more prominent place on the Council of Europe member states’ sport agenda, and to make sport for all not only a wish but a reality.
The report states:
1. Sport is one of the most popular activities in our societies and is by far the most prevalent in the voluntary sector. In addition to the improvement in physical and mental well-being brought about by engaging in physical activity, sport plays an important role for social cohesion by providing opportunities for meetings and exchanges between people of different gender, abilities and nationality or from different cultures, thereby strengthening the culture of “living together”.
But the Assembly underlines that sport for all is not a reality for all citizens, as vulnerable groups in particular have many barriers that prevent them from taking part, and it therefore recommends to:
.... refocus the priorities of their sports policies to highlight the contribution of sport to achieving the objectives of other policies, including those on health, social cohesion, education, youth, non-discrimination, and the reception and integration of migrants;
…. strengthen the collaboration of public institutions working in these areas, especially when they are in contact with young people and vulnerable groups, and increase the synergies between their activities and those of sports organisations so that the various stakeholders play an active role together in combating all forms of discrimination in sport.
This is why cross-sector collaboration is needed, to mobilise resources and enhance synergies with related sectors and initiatives. In other words, we need a mainstreaming of grassroots sport and physical activity in other policy agendas.
The report’s messages and recommendations are encouraging and we hope that both the Council of Europe member States are listening, and that the Council of Europe’s own sport collaboration within the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Sport (EPAS) takes stock of the direct recommendation and balances participation initiatives with dominating agendas such as anti-doping and match-fixing.
Read the adopted Council of Europe report Sport for all: a bridge to equality, integration and social inclusion