“It is essential to maintain the essence of the European sports model, which exists only through a virtuous balance between professional and amateur sport” explained Laura Flessel, French Minister of Sport, on 23 May 2018 during the Council of the EU discussions on the “Commercialisation of Elite Sports and the Sustainability of the European Model of Sport”.
Sport Ministers of EU Member States exchanged views on “The future of club and national team competitions” during an informal lunch in the presence of the UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin. All the participants agreed “about the European Sport model, about the model of promotion and delegation, about respecting the pyramid structure and about the fact that sport is much more than just top competition, it is also grassroots” reported Čeferin during the press conference following the lunchtime discussion. Krasen Kralev, Bulgarian Minister of Youth and Sport stressed the issue of the compatibility of the European sport model with recent developments of sport which is no longer seen as a leisure activity rather as a growing economic sector. Furthermore, he also explained that the current trends show a diminution of funding for grassroots sport and an increase of private funding in elite sports. This might give the impression that only commercially viable sport can survive. The EOC EU Office fully shares the assessment by Minister Kralev and continues lobbying for more European funding dedicated to grassroots sport actors especially through the Erasmus+ Programme and to make the application for funding more accessible for local sport organisations.
The Council of the EU adopted Conclusions in which Ministers acknowledge the role of the organised and non-organised sport in promoting the common values of the EU and in contributing to tackle the socio-economic and security-related challenges faced by the EU. In its Conclusions, the Council encourages, for example, Member States to promote sport as a way for people to develop new skills, invites the European Commission to use different funding programmes (Erasmus+, European Social Fund...) so as to highlight the importance of the common values of the EU. The EOC EU Office welcomes this declaration and hopes that it will incite European Institutions and Member States to support grassroots actors.
Afternoon discussions in the Council of the EU were related to the preservation of the European Sport Model and the values it promotes in a context of professionalisation and commercialisation of elite sport.
Ministers agreed that while the positive aspects of commercialisation are well known, sport must retain its societal function. While accepting the autonomy of sport in general some Member States see their role as well in securing integrity and credibility of sports. Ministers emphasized the need of an adequate response from the EU Member States in favour of the preservation of the European model of sport. In the light of the FIBA-Euroleague dispute, Belgian, French and German Ministers also underlined the importance of enabling athletes to play for their national teams.
The EOC EU Office is generally satisfied by the outcomes of the Council meeting and appreciated that the Member States affirmed their will to protect the European Model of Sport.
Finally, it is important to mention that sport has not been ignored during the rest of the Council meeting. On 22 May, Ministers of Education discussed the topic of Lifelong Learning. In the recommendations adopted by the Council, on Key Competences for Lifelong Learning two references to sport were made. Experiences acquired through voluntary work and grassroots sport were used as a demonstration of importance and relevance of non-formal and informal learning, which play a crucial role in supporting development of personal skills.
Furthermore, it was observed that cross-sectoral cooperation between education and training institutions and external actors from sport community for example, could be crucial to effective competence development. The EOC EU Office encourages the recognition of skills acquired through sport for professional life.
Press release on Education, Youth, Culture and Sports Council