On 28 and 29 November, the Council of the European Union and representatives of the Governments of the Member States responsible for Education, Youth, Culture, and Sport met in Brussels. In this meeting, the Council adopted the Council Conclusions on sustainable and accessible sports infrastructures which had previously been addressed at the Czech Presidency Conference on 22 September 2022.
The contribution of ENGSO
The White Paper: The importance of Accessible Sports
Sustainability and accessibility of sports infrastructures are two fundamental topics in ENGSO’s work. Since the start of the Czech Council Presidency in July 2022, the EU Advisory Committee had been the ENGSO body following closely and actively contributing to the work processes of the Presidency.
The Committee focused its work on the collection of academic papers and good practices from different countries and identified relevant data and concrete examples concerning the accessibility of sports infrastructures in Europe. The work done resulted in a White Paper, whose draft was presented for the first time to the team of the Czech Presidency.
Through data and concrete examples, the paper was proposed as a starting point for further debates and represented ENGSO’s main contribution to the finalization of the Council’s Conclusions by bringing experiences coming from the sports field.
The work was based on the assumption that factors such as place of birth, family circumstances, urban versus rural residence may affect sport participation and the possibility to access physical activity. The consequences of that are the decrease of sport opportunities and the following reduction of the physical, social and psychological well-being for individuals and communities associated with sports participation.
The research for the White Paper was focused on three main dimensions related to the topic of accessibility: Physical accessibility, Geographical accessibility, Socio-economic accessibility.
As recognised in the Council conclusions, ENGSO highlights in the White Paper the importance of cooperation between different stakeholders, including local, regional, and central public authorities and sports organisations, working together to promote facilities and programs that foster physical accessibility of sport infrastructures, with particular attention to people with disabilities. Collaboration is also crucial to support access to sport for people with a lower socio-economic status, facilitating their access to sport activities, through measures to decrease economic commitment of people to practice sport.
Another important aspect, underlined in the White Paper, is considering the specific needs of a place. This concept is relevant when talking about sport offers in rural areas, in which an important aspect could be the use of the natural environment for offering sport activities.