Honourable President Bach,
Members of the sport movement,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is now time to conclude this conference.
I would like to thank you once again for your participation.
I have listened very carefully to your presentations, ideas, and I was impressed by your energy and dedication.
Your messages today have been listened. We now need to transform them into tangible results.
I fully measure the terrible impact that COVID has on our sector. At the same time, today I heard how much solidarity, energy and creativity there is in sport.
On my side, as announced, let me first share with you some key findings as well as future recommendations of the study we commissioned. Then, I will inform you about our future activities and ambitions for sport.
Our discussions highlighted very clearly in which ways COVID-19 affected the sport sector. Both from the grassroots level as well as from professional angle.
This impact has been quantified by the mapping study announced last spring. The full report of the study will soon be available on our website.
Not surprisingly, the study suggests that the sector will be considerably affected during 2020 due to the current pandemic, regardless of the extent of COVID-19 measures taken, although it is clear that negative effects increase with stringent measures.
Lost revenue is a major issue. If organisations are unable to provide their services to the public, they cannot make ends meet. This includes considerable reductions in income from membership fees, licensing, participation, ticketing, broadcasts, sponsorships, and subscriptions… With its consequences on jobs.
On top of this, the study highlighted cash flow difficulties. Sporting organisations have struggled to pay fixed costs, like wages, rent, or contractual obligations. This could lead to halting activities and staff cuts in order to remain solvent.
This means the risk of unemployment and insecure work. Employees, athletes, coaches, and other workers risk being laid-off, with subsequent loss of skills. Employees also generally feel less secure in their jobs.
Freelancers, in particular, are especially vulnerable to income losses. And athletes have been affected by loss of income due to lack of events, as well as the financial implications of reduced sponsorship, or prize money.
Many organisations rely on volunteers to field their activities, as restrictions of movement are in place these organisations lost capacity.
All in all, the ‘sporting services’ sector is estimated to shrink by about a fifth to a quarter.
Overall, this applies to almost all Member States in the same way; in fact, it is estimated to see their share of sport-related GDP decline by at least 10% in 2020.
Faced with these key findings, the study proposes several recommendations that will be useful for our future work.
First, continue to make funding available.
The horizontal measures put forward at the very beginning of the crisis are crucial in this regard.
I encourage the sport movement to be active on this front and liaise with the Member States to make sure these funds are also used to the benefit of the sport sector.
Let me remind you these instruments:
First, the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative – CRII and CRII+, that allows for more flexibility in the use of the European Structural and Investment Funds to alleviate the impact of the pandemic. It gives maximum flexibility to Member States to reallocate financial resources in the areas of greatest need – and I think we all agree - Sport needs these funds.
Second, the new instrument for temporary Support to mitigate Unemployment Risks in an Emergency, (SURE) worth up to €100 billion and designed to help protect jobs and workers affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The study showed the high risk of unemployment in the sector.
Third, the temporary framework for State Aids.
It is precisely for this reason that we have invited Member States to exchange information and share best practices on the measures taken.
Second, ensure that funding opportunities from the Sport strand in Erasmus+ are sufficiently flexible.
We have all seen the result of this flexibility. This year we received almost 1200 applications (315 were selected), representing a record increase of 50% in comparison to the 2019 call.
This clearly shows the success of our programme, now in its seventh year.
These projects are needed more than ever, because they support grassroots organisations at the basis of our European sport model, and support sport and physical activity as key tools of prevention.
Third, information sharing and dissemination across stakeholders.
We are all in this together. And only together, as a team, we will come out of this situation.
The COVID-19 crisis showed just how important sport and physical activity are for our citizens.
This importance and legitimacy is an opportunity we should seize together.
We must increase our efforts to support the practice of sport and physical activity in the EU. Exchange regularly, like we are doing today is fundamental.
This brings me to the final part of my intervention: our upcoming actions.
In a couple of weeks, we will be able to count on a powerful tool: The future Erasmus programme for the period 2021-2027.
But we already know that the results will represent a substantial increase in the budget for sport.
The agreement reached last week on the next multiannual financial framework, includes a targeted reinforcement of EU programmes, including Erasmus.
This will allow us to increase our support to European sport organisations through cooperation partnerships and events.
The future programme will also be more open to international cooperation, for instance with the Western Balkans. We are also developing mobility actions in the field of sport soon.
Erasmus+ will also help us to contribute to the positive image of sport and the preservation of its integrity. We will continue to be on your side to fight doping and match fixing as well as to improve the governance of sport organisations.
Next to Erasmus+, in a couple of days, the Council will adopt the future EU Work Plan for Sport 2021-2024. I am happy to notice that this ambitious document is entirely in line with our priorities.
It will allow us to undertake common work with Member States and sport organisations on subjects such as sport and innovation, sport and the environment, gender equality or sport diplomacy.
Resulting from the Work Plan, we will coordinate two expert groups: one on green sport, and the other on the impact of COVID-19 in sport.
Moreover, as announced, I have started internal discussions with my fellow Commissioners to ensure a follow-up of the Tartu Call for a Healthy lifestyle.
It will be called HealthlyLifestyle4All.
The impact and success of the Tartu Call, launched in 2017, is undeniable.
That leads to high expectations for its successor. The HealthlyLifestyle4All, in line with the priorities of the EU Work Plan for Sport, will have a larger scope than its predecessor looking also at the sustainability of the sector and the innovation potential.
Our European Week of Sport will continue to be a key tool to promote all our initiatives. This edition, despite the circumstances, was a great success, and in particular, I would like to underline the involvement of our partners from the Eastern Partnership and the Western Balkans.
In the coming weeks I will also put in place a High Level group on Gender equality in sport that will have to produce recommendations in the coming year. We need to ensure a better representation of women in executive positions in major sport organisations.
We will also continue to provide the sport movement with data, evidence and useful studies. In a couple of days, we will publish the results of a study on intergenerational sport. We also recently launched a study on doping.
As you see, we are not lacking ambition, and we will soon have the financial and political tools to match this ambition.
One major thing learned from this crisis is that sport is not only a leisure or an element of our well-being. It is a decisive instrument of prevention and health. In this sense, promoting sport is in the interest of the whole society and economy.
You see that is a lot on our agenda. But for these initiatives to be successful, I need your support.
Only as a team, as a “sport family”, we will achieve these goals.
In this respect, it is important for me to have a regular dialogue with the sport movement and to strengthen our cooperation, following the example of the renewed arrangement for cooperation with UEFA.
I hope that more will come.
I have already met many sport organisations and representatives, and will continue to do so, either in a structured way (such as in the EU sport forum) or in a bilateral way.
To conclude, I would like once again, to thank all of you for your participation in today’s conference and more importantly for your constant work and commitment to promote sport and physical activity for the benefits of all citizens.
As Thomas Bach said, the values of sport are needed more than ever to have a human centered 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.
Thank you once more, stay safe and remember: BeActive!