The sessions, organised by ENGSO, the Hungarian Competitive Sport Federation and the European Lotteries, began with introductions and a keynote speech by Peter Mattsson of the Swedish Sports Confederation, bringing the ‘modern day sports club’ into focus and envisioning what the future will bring. The day continued with a range of voices tackling different aspects of modern European sports clubs, including concrete examples of reimagining traditional club setups.
Amid a range of backgrounds and viewpoints, certain themes were repeated throughout the day’s sessions. Multiple presentations shed light on the current trends of active sport clubs throughout Europe. While youth participation in clubs seems to be on the rise, there is a common tendency for children to drop out by early adolescence. The drop occurs for many reasons, but is common across countries for both boys and girls. Mattsson explored one potential reason for this— the simple fact that sports stop being fun:
“If we can learn more about the characteristics of the sport that are really fun in the 21st century, then our chances to meet the needs of participants will increase dramatically,” Mattsson said.
Peter Mattsson (Photo Credit: Nándor Vörös / Hungarian Competitive Sport Federation)
Another potential inhibitor of participation explored in other sessions is the growth of competing activities which draw attention away from sports, particularly for adults.
In order to encourage more participation, many speakers focused on innovative and creative solutions that shift traditional visions of sports clubs. Among these approaches, Ulla Nykänen described a “sports club for health” approach, while Hein Veerman and Maarten Van Yperen spoke about “Open Sports Clubs”, describing an inclusive environment conducive to developing connections with the community.
Also tying in the role of community, the day’s events concluded with an introduction to e-sport. Hans Jagnow of eSport-Bund Deutschland emphasised the importance of defining e-sport and recognising its role in bringing athletes together.
On day two of the European Sport Platform, participants discussed how esports intersect with modern sports clubs.
The day kicked off with a look at esports and grassroots clubs by Martin Fritzen of DGI. He asked the question: Why should sports clubs be interested in esport? Among the reasons were the opportunities to gain more members and new talent groups, taking into account the magnitude and popularity of esports. Fritzen cited a Goldman & Sachs study:
“They were predicting that we will have more people watching esports than the NBA in 2022.”
He also highlighted the similarities that already exist between esports and traditional sports, and the ways in which the structure remains the same.
Martin Fritzen (Photo Credit: Nándor Vörös / Hungarian Competitive Sport Federation)
Discussions with panels of experts followed, focusing on common questions in the emergence of esports – among these are questions of gender equality, violence in esport, social inclusion, and how esports and traditional sports clubs can interact and benefit from collaboration.
On the question of female representation in an often male-dominated environment, Fritzen noted, “It’s all about changing the culture.” He went on to suggest that to encourage girls to engage in esports, we should focus on developing passion and interest.
Fruzsina Eszenyi shared her own journey as a female esport player, citing a number of barriers. It is clear that there remains a long road ahead for esports and gaming to achieve gender inclusion. However, esports are also unique in that they do not separate teams by gender, a common practice in most traditional sports. Renátó Besenczi spoke on the inherent inclusivity of esports, noting that it is a “sport for everyone”.
Renátó Besenczi (Photo Credit: Nándor Vörös / Hungarian Competitive Sport Federation)
Another emerging theme of the day was the importance of finding new ways to engage with potential sports club members, especially youth. In this sense, esports have an important role to play. It was also mentioned that the esports structure, unlike that of traditional sport, is designed for regular communication between the players and creators. Modern sports clubs can look to esports for new such approaches, engaging more directly with the players and harnessing fun to keep them involved in the long term.
Many questions remain about esports and its place in modern sports clubs. To recognise its potential, it is first necessary to put aside biases about what the sport is, understanding its complexity and how it can help create a new kind of sports club in the future.
The read about what happened on day one of the European Sport Platform, click here.
For more photos, click here.