On 17 November the European Commission organised a high-level conference entitled “The recovery of the sport sector after the Covid-19 crisis: the way ahead”. More than 600 participants from 54 countries followed the virtual conference. The conference aimed at discussing the tremendous challenges sports actors are currently facing as well as to debate on how to recover from the pandemic’s impact.
In her opening remarks EU Commissioner responsible for sport, Mariya Gabriel, stressed the potential of sport to respond to the crisis: “Even more then before we need the power and the values of sport to cope with the situation, to come together, and more importantly to use sport as an integral part to the solutions of this crisis”
Thereafter, IOC President Thomas Bach provided the keynote speech, stressing that solidarity and a value-based approach are more important than ever to face the crisis. Bach therefore called for the strengthening of the European sport model: “We need to strengthen the European Sport Model, its values and its robust funding mechanism. It is something that we Europeans can really be proud of. It reflects the values of solidarity, inclusion and peace. It reflects the specific organisation of sport in Europe and its fundamental social and educational function”. As central principles of the European Sport Model, Bach mentioned financial solidarity and the openness of sporting competitions. Furthermore, Bach presented sport as a cost-effective and highly efficient instrument to strengthen social cohesion as well as physical and mental health. He therefore called on all governments to integrate sport into their post-Corona recovery plans. Following his reflections, two video messages were projected, one showing the impact of Covid-19 on major sporting events and the other illustrating the situation of the athletes.
Jean Gracia, President of the European Athletics Championships Paris 2020, shared a testimonial on how Covid-19 impacted their plans and forced to cancel the Championships. Gracia stressed that the decision was not easy to take but making the best out of it, e.g. lead to the organisation of an E-Forum.
EOC Athletes Commission Chair, Gerd Kanter, gave a testimony on the impact of the crisis on athletes. In his contribution, he explained that the main source of income for most athletes is their participation in competitions. The crisis has therefore led to numerous revenue losses. Postponed and cancelled events had also led to premature career endings for some athletes. Furthermore, many athletes found it difficult to maintain their motivation, especially in view of the unclear calendar of events. Finally, Kanter was also concerned about the weakening of doping controls due to the crisis.
The individual statements were followed by two panel discussions. The first panel discussion was entitled "Key challenges and lessons learnt from the crisis for grassroots sport organisations".
Stephan Mayer, Parliamentary Secretary of the State, Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the EU underlined that Covid-19 is a huge challenge for the structures of sport. Therefore, in his opinion, support for the sports sector is very important. Referring to the social and health potentials of sport, he said: "The benefit of investing in sport is tremendously high and still underestimated".
Julien Zylberstein, Chief of Governance & Stakeholder Affairs of UEFA pointed out the importance of modern sports infrastructure to provide access to sport for as many people as possible. To this end, he called for better access for sport to the funding from the European Structural and Investment Funds. Furthermore, he saw the European Sport Model as a good framework to manoeuvre together through the crisis.
The second panel of the conference discussed “The impact of the crisis on growth and jobs in the sport sector and possible ways to recover’”.
Tiago Brandão, Minister of Education, Portugal confirmed that the upcoming Portuguese Presidency will also address the recovery of the sport sector, in particular in economic terms and with regard to jobs in sport. He pleaded in favour of strengthening cooperation with other thematic areas: "Sport will not be able to recover on its own but together with other sectors".
Kirstie Simpson (Secretary General from EOSE) presented the latest figures on employment in the sports sector. In the first quarter of 2020 alone, there was a 3.3% decline in the number of people employed in sport compared to 2019. This is particularly alarming as the effects of the corona pandemic were only slowly becoming apparent in the first quarter, so that a further increase in job losses in sport is to be feared. Over the same period, the job losses across sectors in the EU as a whole were 1.9%. This shows that sport has been much harder hit by the impact of the pandemic than other sectors.
Finally, Commissioner Gabriel gave some concluding remarks: “As Thomas Bach said, the values of sport are needed more than ever to have a human centred and inclusive society. Our European Model of Sport is unique in this regard because it promotes values and solidarity. This Model needs to be preserved and promoted.”
Gabriel also presented some key elements of a study on the impact of the corona crisis on sport in Europe (see a separate article of this Monthly Report). The study estimates that the share of sports-related GDP will decrease by about 10% in 2020. Against this background, Mrs Gabriel pointed the Commission's horizontal corona measures and called on sport stakeholders to contact their respective Member States and make greater use of the funds such as CRII and CRII+ or the temporary framework for State Aids.
Keynote Speech by IOC President Bach