MEPs call for EU action plan to address ‘disastrous’ impact health pandemic has had on sport

COVID-19 crisis predicted to have serious long-term impact on both sport and young people’s health and wellbeing.
Adobe Stock 247162863

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

20 Nov 2020

The demand came during a debate by members of the European Parliament’s Culture Committee on Thursday.

The meeting heard of the “devastating” impact COVID-19 has had on Europe’s youth and on sport since the outbreak began earlier this year.

MEPs in the committee agreed on a motion for a resolution calling for an action plan at EU level.

Committee chair Sabine Verheyen, speaking via a video link, told the committee that the pandemic will have “serious long-term effects” on both sport and young people.

The German deputy a member of the centre-right EPP Group in the Parliament, said “There was a problem in this area even before the crisis, but this problem will worsen if urgent action is not taken now.”

Participation in sports and exercise, typically regarded as healthy activities, has also been badly hit.

“The impact on local sporting clubs has been particularly serious because these are usually not-for-profit organisations which have little no financial reserves” Sabine Verheyen MEP, chair of the European Parliament's Culture Committee

Verheyen said this had had a spin-off effect on both the mental and physical well-being of young people.

“Sport has been one of the most affected sectors, but the crisis has impacted on all areas where many young people are active. Studies have shown the harsh reality of this crisis which has had a far-reaching and a systemic effect on young people”.

As a result of the outbreak, the Olympics have been cancelled until July 2021 while the Euro 2020 football tournament has also been postponed until next year.

Former EU commissioner Olli Rehn, who heads the FIFA committee set up to tackle the effects of the pandemic, has said that FIFA, along with financial consultants, had estimated the club game to be worth between $40bn-$45bn worldwide.

FIFA has allocated $1.5bn to help tackle the effects of the pandemic and Rehn has said that 150 of the 211 member associations had so far applied for funds.

FIFA says the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to cost club football $14bn this year worldwide, around one third of its value.

Verheyen said, “The crisis has had an impact on both amateur and professional sport and a lot of sporting events have either been called off or gone ahead without any spectators”.

"This crisis has had major impact on sport and income for many sporting organisations and federations is down. They need financial help to bring the sector back to life and rebuild it in the long term. What is clear is that the current support for the sector is not sufficient” Tomasz Frankowski MEP

“The impact on local sporting clubs has been particularly serious because these are usually not-for-profit organisations which have little no financial reserves”.

“These are the groups that we must protect because sport plays an important role in society in terms of integration and promoting social inclusion. It also helps with mental health, so this is a sector that deserves our help for these reasons alone”.

“Member states should make sure that the money that is made available reaches the sports sector. However, this in itself is not enough. What is also needed is targeted help for the sports sector”.

She added, “We also need to examine the impact the crisis has had on the social economy and I think an EU action plan could help with this”.

Her comments were endorsed by another committee member, retired Polish footballer Tomasz Frankowski.

The EPP group MEP who played for several years in the Polish top-flight, said the issue under debate was of “crucial importance.”

Also appearing remotely, he told the meeting, “Youth organisations and the sports sector generally are all crisis and they expect something to be done to help mitigate the impact of the pandemic”.

“The importance of sport in our lives does not need to be proved but this should not be just about saving big football federations but, rather, supporting those at the local and grassroots level” Christine Anderson MEP

He said, “This crisis has had major impact on sport and income for many sporting organisations and federations is down. They need financial help to bring the sector back to life and rebuild it in the long term”.

“What is clear is that the current support for the sector is not sufficient”.

Further comment came from German Socialist Group member Petra Kammerevert who noted that much of the media’s “focus” so far had been on the professional sports sector while others, such as youth organisations, had been “forgotten”.

She said, “We have to remember that it is these sorts of groups which have been most badly affected by the coronavirus crisis”.

Another MEP, Luxembourg Renew Europe Group member Monica Semedo, said she welcomed the resolution adopted by the committee, saying, “it is necessary because we need to act now”, as, “an entire generation” was at risk due to the pandemic.

Semedo added, “These include socially marginalised groups and young people from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, together with people with disabilities.

“Sport can have a great impact on these people but, currently, many team sports are not possible and have been cancelled. That is why I agree that what is needed is a more targeted approach to help such groups”.

German ID Group member Christine Anderson, also via video link, agreed that EU Member States should be urged to “combat the disastrous effects” of the coronavirus on sport and Europe’s youth.

She said, “The importance of sport in our lives does not need to be proved but this should not be just about saving big football federations but, rather, supporting those at the local and grassroots level”.

Latvian ECR Group member Dace Melbarde told the meeting, “Sports affects everyone, and this health crisis has been devastating, especially for team sports”.

Representing the European Commission, Yves Le Lostecque told members, “We are well aware of the terrible impact the virus has had on young people and their mental health and wellbeing.

“As has been said, sports events have also been badly affected, including at the grassroots level. Indeed, three per cent of all unemployment in the EU at present is in the sport sector”.

“We at the Commission are trying to do our best to address this and help sports organisations and we will cooperate with parliament on the proposals in this resolution”.

Read the most recent articles written by Martin Banks - MEPs and NGOs call for ‘immediate’ ban on ivory imports into EU

Categories

Health
Share this page