European institutions discuss extremism in sport, and traditional sports and games during EWoS 2020

During the 6th European Week of Sport, which kicked off in Frankfurt last week, two European institutions organised thematic conference on September 29. The Sport Unit of the European Commission focused on “Traditional Sports and Games, the way ahead”, while the Parliament discussed “Right-wing Extremism & Combat Sports in the EU”. Both events enabled participants to broaden their understanding on such niche topics.


Traditional Sports and Games, the way ahead

“Although they are part of our identity as Member States and as Europeans, too often traditional sports and games are limited to exhibitions and museums,” claimed Torsten Weiden, representative of the German Presidency of the Council. In the same position, Yves Le Lostecque, Head of the Sport Unit, stressed the importance of Traditional Sports and Games (TSGs) for our society, and the role the Commission has given to them in the next Erasmus+ Programme. The introductory part was then opened by Sean Kelly, Irish MEP, who stressed the importance of the European Parliament, especially within the framework of Erasmus+, in exchanging best practices between actors. He concluded by underlining the importance of preserving TSGs as part of our cultural heritage. Guglielmo di Cola, member of Commissioner Gabriel’s Cabinet in charge of Sport, closed the introduction emphasizing the Commission’s priorities in the field of sport- namely Health, Innovation (newly linked to sport), Climate and SustainabilitySkills and Competencies through sport. foreseeing the commitment of the Commission towards the Tartu Call for Health and Physical Activities.

Moderated by Agata Dziarnowska (European Commission) the panel articulated the viewpoints of Jean-François Laurent (TAFISA), Dr. Pere Lavegna Burgués (European Traditional Sports and Games Association), Dr. Celia Marcén Munio (Erasmus+ project Geo-Ludens), and Jonathan Lorcher-Beaudram (UNESCO). Three elements stood out in the discussion:

  • TSGs are an expression of local and national identities and are therefore important assets of national cultural heritages. They epitomise the European motto ‘United in Diversity’, as a baseline of a bottom-up approach aiming to develop a shared knowledge about our European common identity. TSGs rely on the Union to offer them a European platform of visibility
  • TSGs deserve a comprehensive approach towards education and other domains. As a great tool to enhance physical activity or to foster social inclusion, TSGs can play an effective role in shaping or discovering a culture.
  • Unlike other sport, TSGs combine several cultural aspects that identify a specific country or region, making them cultural expressions of European identity and diversity- this is their cross-sectorial nature.


To conclude, speakers agreed on the necessity to preserve and further promote TSGs. Yves Le Lostecque closed the event promoting a future conference planned for 2021, to foster the dialogue about the topic.


Right-wing Extremism & Combat Sports in the EU

Organised by three MEPs, Viola von Cramon-Taubadel (Green/EFA), Tomasz Frankowsi (EPP), and Iban Garcia del Blanco (S&D), the webinar tackled the concerning rise of right-wing networks, the recruitment of militants, and the use of sport as a means to “professionalise violence”. Robert Clause (KoFaS, Germany), Michael Colbourne (Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right), Przemyslaw Witkowski (Collegium Civitas), Pavel Klymenko (Fare Network), Julia Handle (Radicalisation Awareness Network, European Commission), and Stanislas Frossard (EPAS, Council of Europe) were all present to share their expertise on the topic.

The former shed light on German, European and international extreme right-wing movements and groups, how they have modernised, while also explaining their appeal to combat sport “combat sports, militia, and music are strongly linked to one another when it comes to the far-right”. Similarly Julia Handle stated that the sport movement needs external help so as to implement a holistic approach to dismantle infiltrated networks in sport.

Stanislas Frossard referred to the Council of Europe’s future recommendation, which will notably aim to clarify responsibilities, promote health and prevention, and fight against radicalisation within martial arts. Przemyslaw Witkowski interestingly highlighted how far-right governments, especially in Poland and Hungary,  indirectly support, instead of hampering, the rise of violent movements. Finally, Pavel Klymenko closed the panel by demonstrating the link between football hooligans and martial art fighters- the problem not being sport, or combat sports, but rather the violent and toxic far-right ideology that extremists are increasingly putting into action.

In conclusion, speakers underlined the need to elevate this concern at European level instead of relegating it to local and national dimensions. Finally, further cooperation with the Council of Europe, as well as with European institutions should be envisaged.

In accordance with the increased concerns about radicalisation and extremism, both in society and sport, last January Sport and Citizenship started collaborating on the SPEY project (Sport for Prevention of Extremism in Youth), led by UFEC (Union de Federacions Esportives de Catalunya). The project is the first European programme seeking to prevent extremism among young people through the practice of sport.

Sport et citoyenneté