22/03/2013 Sean Kelly : To make sport as a priority focus for regional policy"

Passionate about sport, the Irish MEP Sean Kelly is a man of conviction. Sport for all, health promotion, development of sport infrastructures, defending traditional sports… Interview by Sport and Citizenship from the March 2013 journal "Sport in the workplace ".

How far does the European Parliament take the practice of sports in the work place into account? Are there any policy documents in this field?

Sean Kelly : As a result of the Lisbon treaty, the European Union now has a soft competence in the field of sport so there will be a sports program funded by the European Commission under the bigger "Erasmus for all" programme. One of the areas we looked at was encouraging certain sports in the workplace so that employees would have an opportunity to exercise and as a result would probably be more productive.

Structural funds (ERDF and ESF) reform is also a current topic. What role can sport play in this area?

Sean Kelly : I actually took down an amendment as a member of the Committee on Regional Development of the European Parliament to allow sport to be used in terms of drawing down funding from the various funds that you mentioned. That was fairly and heartily contested. Fortunately, I got that past so now that gives an opportunity for sporting bodies and others to apply for funding under those programs. Until that amendment passed (in 2011) it wasn’t allowed, so that opens up a big opportunity for sports bodies.

What were the arguments against that amendment

Sean Kelly :  Many felt that sport is something of a leisure activity and that we should be funding major infrastructural projects like building roads, putting in technology parks, funding research, etc. They wouldn’t have seen sport as being an essential aspect in that regard.

Hopefully it will lead some big projects in sport being funded in the future. It effectively means sport will become a priority focus for regional policy alongside energy, environment, transport and employment and training from 2014 onwards.

On November 2012, the ministers responsible for sport agreed on the creation of a European week of sport. What is your opinion on this initiative?

Sean Kelly : I agree completely because it actually complements what we have passed here in Parliament: a written declaration in which we set our targets for 2020. One of them should be to take a 100.000 people in Europe at the moment to make them active by then. To do that we need to focus on sport and having a week or a few days of activity is going to be very important. That will be popular and beneficial and will in fine benefit sport. I’m certainly looking forward to that happening probably from 2014 onwards, maybe a project next year.

I will also propose that we have festivals of sport in Europe and particularly for indigenous sports that wouldn’t have any high profile that we could bring them together and utilise.


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