In the framework of the SHARE Initiative, EPSI signs the document including sport-related proposed amendments to be adopted in the legislative procedures for different EU Funds.
The COVID-19 crisis presents Europe with a challenge of historic proportions. As the outbreak of the pandemic has burdened European citizens with health issues, loss of lives, social unrest and economic uncertainty, the EU and its Member States have had to channel unprecedented efforts to protect the citizens and overcome the immediate and long-term effects of the crisis. To this end, a comprehensive recovery package was proposed by the European Commission to address the socio-economic damage created by the pandemic and to build a more resilient, sustainable and healthier society capable of better facing future global health and economic threats.
As part of this recovery package, the paper mentions the Recovery and Resilience Facility (as the centrepiece of NextGenerationEU), the REACT-EU, the EU4Health programme and the updated Cohesion Policy 2021-2027 (in particular the European Regional Development Fund and the Cohesion Fund, INTERREG and the European Social Fund Plus) as relevant instruments having the potential to include sport as a supported and strategic sector in the EU-wide recovery process.
Sport for a resilient society
Therefore, the paper demonstrates (through previous research and sport-led initiatives’ results) the important role sport and physical activity can play in building such resilient and sustainable society and argues for the inclusion of sport in the recovery support mechanisms not only as a hard-hit sector in need of reconstruction, but also as a strategic sector in the wider economic and social recovery process.
For this purpose, members of the SHARE initiative, in particular the European Olympic Committees EU Office, have closely monitored the legislative process of the adoption of the above-mentioned EU instruments’ regulations, with the aim of advocating the inclusion of sport through a direct mention of ‘sport’ or ‘physical activity’ in these legislative documents. Such direct mentioning would help channel investments to this sector to support not only its recovery, but also its well-acknowledged influence to health and wellbeing, research and innovation, sustainable growth, employment (i.e. sport as a professional sector creating jobs and career opportunities), social cohesion and inclusion, skills development, territorial regeneration or the transition to a low-carbon economy, thus also contributing to the achievement of regional development within the COVID-19 recovery process.
The paper highlights several amendments to the regulations of the above-mentioned EU instruments proposed or adopted by various EU institutions’ parties in the context of COVID-19 pandemic and the wider Trialogue negotiations for the Multiannual Financial Framework of 2021-2027. The paper provides justifications for the adoption of these amendments in order to consider these funding instruments to support the recovery and development of the sport sector and the financing of further sport-related initiatives. Mainstreaming sport investment within these funds would further benefit European citizens and their regions socially and economically.
Supporting sport and physical activity would consolidate the EU’s response to the pandemic, as a measure of boosting public health by increasing the body’s resilience and preventing other diseases associated with a sedentary lifestyle.
Moreover, the project examples highlighted throughout the paper make the case for sport’s contribution to wider regional development goals by arguing how sport-related local initiatives help not only boost a healthy lifestyle, but also attract inward investment, develop sustainable solutions and businesses, develop skills and enhance employability, bring communities together, promote gender equality and enhance social inclusion. Similar examples of projects developed within the current and previous Cohesion Policy frameworks are available in the SHARE initiative database of best practices.
Policy makers are therefore called upon, in the decisive rounds of the Trialogue negotiations, to be advocates in favour of the amendments highlighted throughout the paper to the Regulations of the Recovery and Resilience Facility, EU4Health programme, European Regional Development Fund and the Cohesion Fund, European territorial cooperation goal (INTERREG) and European Social Fund Plus.
The importance of mentioning sport in the new regulatory framework
Despite the clear contribution sport and physical activity can make to the economy and society in any given region, unlocking Cohesion Policy funds for sport initiatives has proven a difficult job throughout EU regions, due to the structural absence of sport as a clear investment area in the Regulations underpinning the Cohesion Policy, as well as in the Commission’s proposal for 2021-2027. Clearly mentioning sport in the current proposal would not only provide a clear pathway of these funding streams for sport by acknowledging the results of previous research, but would also streamline the work of the funds’ managing authorities inpositively assessing local and regional sport and physical activity projects, thus empowering businesses and initiatives to further develop the sport movement towards benefitting citizens.
The same is true for the Regulations underpinning the recovery instruments mentioned above. Sport and physical activity have not been clearly mentioned in the proposals for regulations of the Recovery and Resilience Facility or the EU4Health programme. The Commission’s updates to the Regulations of several Cohesion Funds beyond 2020 introduced in the context of the pandemic to better align these Funds with the other support mechanisms do not mention sport and physical activity either. As a sector seriously hit by the health crisis, sport needs EU support to recover and to enhance its contribution to sustainability and resiliency goals for the next generation society.
To this end, SHARE initiative members, in particular the European Olympic Committees EU Office, have closely monitored the legislative process of the Common Provisions Regulation, several Cohesion Policy funds, as well as of the Recovery and Resilience Facility and the EU4Health programme, with the aim of advocating the inclusion of sport through a direct mention of ‘sport’ or ‘physical activity’ in these legislative documents.
This paper presents the different amendments proposed by European Parliament Committees to the Regulations of the RRF and EU4Health to include sport and physical activity, as well as the arguments and evidence that justify their adoption in the European Parliament Plenary session. Furthermore, the paper argues the need to extend the scope of actions of some amendments to the sport sector in the Commission’s 2020 update of the Cohesion Policy (especially the European Regional Development Fund). Lastly, the paper reminds about the initial amendments which included sport and physical activity in the scope of the initial texts and which were adopted by the European Parliament in 2019 to the initial proposals for Regulations of the European Regional Development Fund and Cohesion Fund (ERDF and CF), European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) and the European territorial cooperation goal (INTERREG) – all part of the Common Provisions of the Cohesion Policy beyond 2020. The paper provides justifications for their initial adoption and argues that these amendments should be maintained in the European Commission’s update to the Cohesion Policy.