Grassroot initiatives can promote social inclusion

On 9 and 10 March, EuropeActive joined leading representatives from international and European sport organisations for the EU Sport Forum in Hague, The Netherlands.

The focus of the summit was to tackle key issues facing European sport sector including how sport can support the integration of migrants and how to ensure good governance for the world of sport.

Among the 350 or so participants were leading representatives from international and European sport federations, the Olympic movement, European and national sport umbrella organisations and other sport-related organisations.

As the co-chair of the high level group on grassroots sports, the President of EuropeActive, Sir Graham Watson, highlighted the positive impact sports can have on many aspects of society.

"We need to continue

breaking down


“Local and amateur initiatives, can encourage more citizens to become active,” he said. “The work of our group has shown the important role we can play in achieving this, but also in promoting tolerance and social inclusion.”

“Grassroot sports can have a positive impact on the high level of youth unemployment and can help address some of the structural mismatches between labour market’s supply and demand,” he continued. “We need to promote the activities on the ground level and support amateur sport infrastructures to help the disadvantaged youth find their place in society.”

Serious challenges

In addition to the problem of social exclusion, Watson also focused on the issue of physical inactivity. “It’s a serious problem that costs Europe more than 80 billion euros a year,” he said. “We need to continue breaking down the barriers that prevent more people from getting involved.”

One way to achieve this, he said, is by educating and training sport instructors and fitness coaches and thus opening ways for people to exercise and be active.

"Grassroot sports

can facilitate


Watson also pointed to the challenges facing Europe in sports and beyond. “We need to figure out how to use our resources to support the inclusion and integration of the huge numbers of refugees trying to find a safe haven in Europe,” he said. “Grassroot sports can facilitate integration and dismantle social barriers. Our values and existing community structures can surely play a role in supporting these people.”

The high level group on grassroot sport was started in 2015 at the initiative of Tibor Navracsics, the European Commissioner on Education, Culture, Youth and Sport. The aim of the group is to evaluate the place and role of grassroots sport in European society and provide ideas on how the EU could better support grassroots sport.

It includes current and former athletes, former ministers and politicians, academics, representatives of sport organisations and other high-profile personalities in the field of sport.

The Commissioner has previously said that grassroot sports have a unique capacity to unite people, irrespective of national, cultural and social differences and can contribute to enhance European values such as tolerance, integration and intercultural dialogue.