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Androulla Vassiliou : "Supporting sport at the grassroots level is one of my priorities"

As part of its special feature dedicated to the fight against discrimination in sport, Sport and Citizenship publishes this quarter an interview of the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism, Youth and Sport, Androulla Vassiliou. Touteleurope.eu invites you to discover it. Interview by Julian Lapper and Sylvain Landa

You have vigorously defended the adoption of a specific “sport” budget for the next budget of the Union (2014-2020), as was revealed on 23rd November. What are the types of projects that would be eligible for funding through this chapter?

Androulla Vassiliou: I am pleased to confirm that the Commission published the proposal for the new “Erasmus for All programme” on 23 November. The proposal includes a chapter on sport that would allow supporting in the future sport organisations active at the grassroots level. I am convinced that supporting grassroots sport will have a positive “knock-on” effect on elite sport in Europe.

This think tank founded in 2007 focusses on the role of sport in European societies. It publishes a quarterly review on issues related to sport and citizenship.

The new programme has a proposed budget of €238 million to finance sport activities between 2014 and 2020. This means an average of around €34 million per year during seven years. Support will be given to transnational projects involving two or more partners, non-commercial European sport events of major importance, activities strengthening the evidence base for policy making in sport and capacity building in sport.

Beneficiaries will be public bodies and civil society organisations active in grassroots sport. The support should help Member States and sport organisations implementing guidelines and recommendations in areas such as good governance, dual careers, participation in sport and physical activity.

The European Commission has recently chosen twelve transnational projects under the Sport Preparatory Actions 2011. What do you expect from these initiatives?

AV: Supporting sport at the grassroots level is one of my priorities. The 12 projects you mention aim at fighting violence and intolerance in sport and at strengthening the way sport is run in Europe. I am very happy that these 12 projects have been selected and receive EU funding. Without EU funding many valuable sporting initiatives would not get off the ground.

Four of the 12 projects are dedicated to fight against violence and intolerance in sport. The projects strengthen cooperation among sport organisations and contribute to improve the education of young people to tackle violence in sport, to prevent sexualized violence in sport, to fight against homophobia in sport and to better involve football fans in the fight against racism and violence.
We also selected eight projects in the area of good governance. I am committed to respect and promote the autonomy and the self-regulation of sport organisations.

With these projects we try to help them to improve and strengthen responsible and accountable ways of managing sport organisations. To give you some examples: some of the projects help sport coaches to improve their organisational capacity. Other projects support the efforts of supporters’ trust to strengthening club ownership and contribute to improve the governance of international and European sport organisations. I expect that the results of these projects are shared and spread throughout Europe helping national and local sport organisations to develop.

Sport&Citizenship’s special feature is dedicated this quarter to the fight against discrimination in sport. In its recent Communication on Sport [pdf], the Commission “encouraged member States to ensure the full and effective transposition of Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA on Combating Certain Forms and Expressions of Racism and Xenophobia by Means of Criminal Law” . What is the purpose of this Framework Decision? Have Member States already initiated this transposition process?

AV: This Framework Decision represents a key tool in EU policy against racism and xenophobia. Member States will be have to make a criminal offence of certain forms and manifestations of racism and xenophobia, such as public incitement to discrimination, violence or hatred, defined on the basis of race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin. Unfortunately these manifestations are present in society and also on the sports ground.

The Member States had until the 28th November 2010 to transpose the Framework Decision into their national legislation. The Commission is in the process of analysing the notifications received and ensuring that this transposition is fully and correctly carried out. The Commission is to give a report on the application of this legislation in 2013.

Last year, the “Europe 2020” Strategy has been launched by European Union with the aim to achieve smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. Do you think that sports can participate in achieving these objectives, both in economic and social terms?

AV: As stated in the Communication “Developing the European Dimension in Sport” , I think that sport has enormous potential to contribute to the EU’s Europe2020 objectives. By contributing to health, social integration and non-formal learning and by generating growth and jobs in particular through sport events and the building of sport infrastructure, sport contributes to economic and social development. According to the World Economic Forum (Davos 2009) sport generates today 2% of global GDP.

I want to attract more attention to the contribution of sport to growth and employment. This is the reason why I am cooperating with Member States to develop a better understanding of the impact of sport on their economies. Through its contribution to economic growth and job creation, sport can also help also to revitalise disadvantaged areas.

The sports world was waiting for Brussels to honour its commitments in the field of sport and many initiatives have emerged in recent months. Are you glad to have been able to bring this matter at the highest political level as Commissioner in charge of these questions?

AV: At the beginning of my mandate some people were concerned about the absence of ‘sport’ in my job title and expressed doubts about my commitment to develop proposals in this field. I have demonstrated however that sport is one of my priorities and that I am committed to develop it because I am convinced of its enormous importance for our societies. I have worked during these two years of my mandate very closely with sport organisations and Member States in order to make proposals that are useful for them. I have managed to put sport high on the EU’s agenda and to present a proposal for stable EU funding for sport activities. Now the ball is in the court of the Parliament and the Member States to decide.

In conclusion, I am very satisfied with what has been achieved. You can be sure that during the second part of my mandate I will continue in that way and try to promoting grassroots sport even more.

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Sport and Citizenship

Sport policies - European Commission

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