Spring has turned into summer and most of Europe is gradually opening up, bringing a breath of fresh air and putting people back on the sports fields and running tracks. However, the constant threat of new COVID-19 outbreaks is forcing us to play it safe – keeping our distances, avoiding crowds and indoors spaces, looking after our hygiene, avoiding travels. Top games are being played to empty, quiet stands. Many indoors sports teams and athletes remain unable to practice. We are not back to normal.
While the role of sport has been emphasised in the recovery from the crisis, clubs and federations are struggling. They need all possible support, and governments must ensure that sport is eligible for any EU recovery funds and national state aid programmes, in line with the Council Conclusions on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the recovery of the sport sector, recently adopted by the sports ministers of EU member states.
While the lockdowns have also restricted our work, ENGSO has been able to maintain and even develop some of its core activities in the online environment. Our Executive Committee has held regular meetings, and ENGSO members have gotten together in a series of online seminars, exchanging information on sport and COVID-19. The latest seminar presented the first outcomes of the ENGSO-led CHAMP project, inspiring sport clubs to adopt innovative approaches in their work. Our SPIRIT project has finished its first six months, and the work to promote mental well-being through sport is underway.
ENGSO has also tapped into the discussions on how to conduct EU sports policy in the coming years. With our position paper, we are proposing recommendations for the next EU Work Plan for Sport, due to take effect in January 2021. Grassroots sport and the societal role of sport should remain priorities in the upcoming EU Work Plan for Sport, with actions that have relevance for organised sport and that ensure the implementation of EU sports policies by actively involving the sports movement in discussions.
European sports policy is also being debated in the Council of Europe, as its Enlarged Partial Agreement on Sport (EPAS) is working on a revised version of the European Sports Charter, first adopted in 1992. ENGSO is actively taking part in the process, with the objective to help create a Charter that is relevant for the development of voluntary-based grassroots sport and the civil society of sport in Europe. The organised sports movement needs to be closely involved in the process in order to have a balanced, credible, and fit for purpose Charter that will have a real impact.
While the near future remains blurry within our vision, we are planning our work for the autumn. The preparations of the 3rd European Sport Platform and the ENGSO General Assembly, to be organised on 13–14 November 2020 in Vilnius, Lithuania, are well underway. The past months have been long without proper human contact and the enjoyable gatherings with ENGSO staff, members and partners. We will of course stay vigilant and follow closely the COVID-19 situation, but the thought of getting together again in November is exhilarating! I hope to see you all in Vilnius – the registration will be open after summer.
In the meantime, I wish you all a much welcome break from responsibilities and a most active and refreshing summertime.