The European Commission has created an expert group of 15 people from various countries to discuss opportunities for the development of grassroots sports. It is chaired by Sir Graham Watson, president of another association, Europe Active, which focuses on fitness activities.
The Commission has also asked all the member governments to come up before the end of the year with a set of policy recommendations for the promotion of sports activities that they intend to implement in their own countries.
In the U.K., Sport England has already started to get in engaged with its recently confirmed commitment to spend £250 million (€280.7m-$305.8m) over a five-year period to combat inactivity. It follows strong lobbying by Andrew Denton, the dynamic chief executive of the Outdoor Industries Association, the British OIA. Some of the money will be spent for the digital mapping of hiking trails, which should appeal to the new generation of smartphone users.
Invited by the EOG to deliver one of the keynote speeches at the latest European Outdoor Summit, held in Barcelona in September, Jens Nymand Christensen, the Danish-born deputy director general for education and culture at the European Commission, stressed that it is making economic sense for it and other stakeholders to invest in sport, which he called “the largest civilized movement” in the world, because of its numerous benefits. His directorate is also responsible for sport, which was included in the Commission's agenda in 2009 through the Lisbon Treaty.
Christensen noted that “billions of euros” are available from a variety of sources in Brussels, including the European Structural Fund, for investment in outdoor and other sports. He proposed helping refugees and their children with sports programs to facilitate their integration. Among other ideas, he praised initiatives to get old and handicapped people to exercise.
The European Outdoor Group (EOG), which organized the convention, and the European Network of Outdoor Sports (ENOS), a group of 22 stakeholders in 11 countries that includes officials of sports associations, national sports-related authorities and universities, are joining forces to promote greater participation in outdoor sports activities all over Europe, with the blessing of the European Commission.
A few weeks ago, both the EOG and ENOS became members of the House of Sport, the lobbying group led by the Federation of the European Sporting Goods Industry (Fesi) in Brussels, of which the EOG is already a member.
Both will participate along with national organizations in seven European countries in a major new project, called BOSS, which has received the support of the Erasmus+ program of the European Commission.
BOSS stands for Benefits of Outdoor Sport for Society. It's going to be a three-year research program intended to monetize the non-economic benefits of people's participation in outdoor sports activities on physical and mental wellbeing, social inclusion and behavioral change. It will be led by the Sheffield Hallam University in England, which has already studied the economic benefits of outdoor sports. The Technical University of Munich will develop the test model.
Among other goals, the BOSS project is expected to help better understand the motivations of people who practice outdoor sports.
The Erasmus+ fund, which has a budget of €200 million for similar projects over a five-year period, sponsored earlier this year Get Wet, a program conducted under ENOS' banner to enhance access by communities to watersports such as swimming, canoeing, rowing and sailing.
It served as a prelude to last month's European Week of Sport, where the governments of 31 European countries helped to organize about 14,000 events, double as many as in the previous year. Outdoor activities got the highest rate of participation, followed by educational institutions, sports clubs and fitness centers, and activities in the workplace.
The EOS attracted more than 250 high-level delegates to Barcelona from all over Europe. This annual event will be held next year in Venice, with the participation of the Italian sporting goods industry association, Assosport, and the Italian Outdoor Group
More on the EOS and other topics in the Outdoor Industry Compass.