EuropeActive hosted its 2021 European Fitness Associations Forum (EFAF) on Thursday 4th November in Cologne, Germany. The hybrid event included national associations representatives joining on-site and virtually to discuss how to professionalise the sector through standards, how to create a better fiscal environment for our sector, the importance of data collection through the European DataHub project and other key issues affecting their daily work.
The Forum began with CEO Andreas Paulsen welcoming participants and addressing 'The Great Transformation' of the fitness and physical activity sector: "I want to thank our national associations partners for joining us today both virtually and on-site in Cologne. I am delighted to see our EFAF community growing and strengthening our mutual collaboration across Europe. I would also like to encourage you all to pledge your support to EuropeActive's sectoral Manifesto and translate it in your respective languages".
EuropeActive Programmes Director Cliff Collins introduced the new FITcert.eu scheme which has been developed by EuropeActive and the Royal Netherlands Standardization Institute (NEN) and deliver a 5-stage scheme for fitness club certification using the EN 17229 standards. The scheme, known as FITcert.eu is the culmination of many technical experts working under the European Standards Organisation CEN direction to develop standards for clubs covering operations, management, customer service, supervision and fitness trainer qualifications.
“The new FITcert.eu scheme will help the fitness sector to better define itself and to build confidence with our millions of users, governments, and health professionals. The standards are based on best practice and we intend to make sure that clubs who meet our assessment criteria can promote themselves through a charter mark of excellence, including on a directory of clubs", he commented.
Technical officer of WHO Europe Stephen Whiting gave a presentation on the main findings and trends from the 3rd edition of WHO physical activity fact sheets to underscore the importance of leading a healthy, active lifestyle: “Our latest research indicates that the pandemic has negatively impacted physical activity levels in Europe, however, the same research also shows that the importance of physical activity is better understood by policy makers now than before the pandemic. Let’s use this momentum created by the pandemic to make a structural and positive change to the physical activity levels in Europe"
4global Director of Projects Ed Hubbard provided an update on the European DataHub project which aims to harness the power of collective data to evidence scale, influence and add value across the European fitness sector. "Data will flow into the European DataHub from technology partners, national associations or directly from club operators. In this regard, the role of national associations is key to engage operators and members across their countries as well as to ensure the public support and sharing of the European DataHub. By 2023, the goal is for us to provide data for the European Health and Fitness Market Report. We need National Associations’ help to get to that point”
A case study was also presented by LSKA CEO Vidmantas Šiugždinis to provide invaluable insights into the VAT rates in Lithuania and the opportunities to get this tax reduced for the fitness and physical activity sector: “The services our sector delivers are contributing to people’s wellbeing and should be supported by governments with the right fiscal framework. Through our work at LSKA, the Lithuanian government has taken the right decision to lower the VAT rates for our sector and we hope other countries will follow this example".
Chair of the EuropeActive Inclusion Advisory Group Catherine Edmunds presented the Sectoral Charter on Inclusivity, Anti-Discrimination and Fair Treatment that was officially launched the day before at the European Health & Fitness Forum (EHFF). She encouraged national associations representatives to pledge their support electronically to ensure fair, non-discriminatory and inclusive treatment across the European fitness and physical activity ecosystem.
EU & Public Affairs Director Lukas Declercq, who moderated the session and delivered the concluding remarks, said: “EFAF has really become the platform for collaboration among national fitness associations in Europe. The fact that nine new associations have joined the EuropeActive EFAF community since the start of the pandemic is a testament to its value for our sector. I think it’s fair to say that our sector is now better represented in Europe than ever before in its history” .