Sport is under-exploited: Lords committee calls for greater use in policy making

06 April 2011

A House of Lords Committee report published today says that the potential of sport is under-exploited at both EU and national level despite its ability to deliver on core policy objectives in the health, education, employment and social spheres.

The findings come at the end of an inquiry into Grassroots Sport undertaken by the Lords EU Sub-Committee on Social Policies and Consumer Protection. It looked at how the EU can maximise the potential of sport in its own policy making and delivery and how it can help Member States do likewise.

EU legislation can impact upon sport in a number of areas including intellectual property and single market legislation. The report looks at how these should be applied to sport in order to ensure the sustainability of grassroots sport, particularly its revenue streams from the broadcasting of professional sport.

Committee Chair, Baroness Young of Hornsey said:

"Sport should not be regarded as a peripheral policy area. We think there is much more value to be gained if sport is viewed as a powerful and effective tool in the delivery of objectives across the policy spectrum. The other benefit to mainstreaming sport is a result of the fact that sport is vulnerable to unintended consequences of legislation in other areas.

We heard a number of examples of where the EU in the past failed to take sport into account in the formation of legislation. These included regulations on the use of open water and working at height which could have caused real problems for climbing and water sports. We hope the new competence will mean that sport can consistently be taken into account and at a much earlier stage. We recommend a review of EU legislation similar to that which has taken place in the UK, with a view to identifying regulatory burdens, particularly those which impact on volunteers."

Other main recommendations include: 

  • There is value in a dedicated sport fund but there is greater potential value in main-streaming it into other EU funding streams, including the structural funds and through ensuring redistribution from professional sport. The EU should include sport in its work on digital piracy and should look further at whether the gambling industry should be required to pay a ‘fair return’ to sport
  • Different Member States are more advanced in certain areas than others, for example Finland on levels of participation among older people, offering potential for the sharing of best practice. The Commission should create a web portal which allows grassroots organisations to make links with each other
  • The voice of grassroots as well as professional sport need to be heard in Brussels. Dialogue between the Commission and sports organisations needs to be made more representative  

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