25/05/2012 Emma McClarkin : “It is unlikely that an agreement will be reached this year”

The future of sport is being shaped right now in the institutions. Overview with Emma McClarkin, Member of the European Parliament "Friends of sport" informal group

On the 2nd of February 2012, the European Parliament adopted its resolution on the European dimension in sport. Is it a new step in the implementation of a European sport policy?

Emma McClarkin : It is the first step in outlining what a European sport policy could look like, but it is a long way from being the first step in the implementation of a policy. It focuses too heavily on what sport can do for the EU and doesn't focus enough on how the EU can help sport, particularly grass roots sport. Any European sports policy should be limited to areas where the EU can add value and whilst I very much welcomed the debate and the very good work that Santiago Fisas MEP did on the report, the overall thrust of the report was too focused on the glamour of professional sport and not focused enough on grassroots sport and volunteering, which is the area where the EU could add value.

Sport and citizenship, think tank created in 2007, deals with role and place of sports in European societies. It edits 1 magazine on those questions every three months.

Can you let us know where we are right now as regard the adoption of the new program "Erasmus for All"? What do you personally think about it?

EMcC: I am in favour of a specific sport budget within the new multiannual financial framework but it must be accompanied by a decrease in other areas of the culture budget. The EU cannot continue to ask for yet more money and to propose yet new programmes without identifying and abolishing those programmes that do not add value. The EU could add value to sport, but only if the focus is on grassroots sport, so I would not support a dedicated budget for sport if it wasn't concentrated on grassroots sport.

Of course even when EU funding is made available the provisos and administrative burden can often mean it is more trouble than it is worth. We need to make sure that any budget given for sport is as easily accessible as possible.
Discussions on the financial framework are ongoing, however it is unlikely that an agreement will be reached this year and there is a possibility that a final agreement will not be reached until the end of 2013, particularly with the ongoing Euro crisis and with the complications of elections in France and Germany which make both countries reluctant to agree to binding decisions on the budget.

We are devoting this quarter a special attention to sport and employment in Europe.  According to you, what is the role of sport (regularly presented as a dynamic sector that can generate growth and jobs) in this context?

EMcC:  Sport has a huge potential for employment, both in professional sport and at grassroots level. At the professional level sport supports many jobs, not solely for professional athletes, but for all the ancillary services that are needed to put on sporting events. The London Olympics alone needs over 70,000 volunteers to run. At grassroots level the opportunity for growth is outstanding. All sports would ideally like a network of local coaches who could teach the sport in schools or in local communities. In addition, encouraging people to take up sport can have a huge positive effect on health levels, self confidence and can ultimately lead to success in the job market.

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