Sport throughout Europe is heavily affected by the coronavirus crisis. All kinds of sporting events, professional and amateur, have been cancelled or postponed, raising questions on how to end the respective seasons. For (elite) athletes, keeping fit is a major challenge as sporting activities in groups cannot take place and most sport facilities are closed. It is the entire world of sport that is facing major challenges: from small grassroots clubs to professional teams, from athletes and coaches to competition officials, fans and sponsors. Amongst those hardest hit are sport clubs and federations, which, due to their status of non-for-profit organisation, are not allowed to keep substantial reserves. Those clubs and federations many times face liquidity shortages or even face a bankruptcy due to the lack of revenue. Thus, currently, many sport organisations are forced to lay off their staff, hoping for a quick normalisation in the near future.
Therefore, early in the outbreak, the EOC EU Office in collaboration with sport stakeholders of the SHARE Initiative of the European Commission, started to reflect on the situation and produced a “Position paper on the impact of COVID-19 crisis on the sport sector”. Doing so, the EOC EU Office successfully coordinated the initiative in order to bring together different sport organisations gathering a wide support. Forty-four sport stakeholders, including European sports federations such as FIBA Europe, CEV, European Athletics, European Handball Federation and Rugby Europe, as well as 18 National Olympic Committees have so far supported the Covid-19 position paper. The document has been sent to the main EU actors, including, for instance, the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Commissioners Mariya Gabriel (responsible for sport) and Elisa Ferreira (Cohesion and Reforms), European Parliament President David Sassoli, and Croatian EU Presidency to raise awareness of sport organisations’ needs in the coronavirus crisis.
The joint position paper urges the European entities to ensure that sport organisations are fully eligible for support under relevant EU funding schemes directed to overcome the crisis. This is related, especially, to the redirection of the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF), such as the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative (CRII), and the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative Plus (CRII+). As the ESIF are managed at national/regional level, they should be used as an instrument to directly support sport clubs, federations, athletes and coaches to mitigate the impact of the crisis on their operation and activities. Furthermore, the paper presents an “action plan for the promotion of sport for a more resilient and sustainable Europe”, proposing more support measures that would directly benefit the sport sector.
The paper goes on to stress the importance of sport in the framework of EU’s economy. In 2012, sport represented 279.7 billion Euro, an amount that equals 2.12% of the total GDP of the EU. More than that, sport plays a crucial role in social cohesion, fostering health and enhancing wellbeing. In this regard, once the crisis is over, sport will play its role in getting Europe fit again, in terms of both health and economics. However, to keep the sport sector itself fit, the support of the EU and its Member States is now needed.
The full position paper including the signatories can be found here ...