Last 2020 Sport Unit Policy Breakfast- a matter of legitimacy
16 December 2020, the Sport Unit of the European Commission held its last Policy Breakfast of 2020, through an online format. The event gathered stakeholders of the European sport sector to discuss the matter hand- ‘Who can speak on behalf of sport at the EU level?”.
European sport governance has changed over the last two decades: the White Paper on Sport (2007) already envisaged the birth of new stakeholders in the European panorama. Today, we experience the effective rise of contemporary actors such as sponsors or right owners, together with new and impellent topics on the European sport agenda: climate change, sustainability, sport diplomacy. This shifts the traditional European sport model from a pyramidal structure to an increasingly horizontal one.
From this incipit the panellists, Annaliza Tsakona (FIFA), Kaisa Larjomaa (ENGSO), Lukas Declercq (EuropeActive), and Folker Hellmund (EOC EU Office), discussed the role of stakeholders in building and transforming European sport governance. Notably, panellists agreed on the need for a shared European legitimacy at the international level and a comprehensive approach that would include different layers of society- from European to local, to achieve concrete results.
Indeed, as underlined by Annaliza Tsakona- considering the organisational and topical shift the European sport movement is presently experiencing, it is crucial to cooperate on a large scale to fulfil the European priorities such as gender equality or tackling climate change. Within this context, Folker Hellmund noticed that the vertical dimension (pyramidal structure) is still in place since national and international federations remain the backbone of the sport movement in Europe. Lukas Declercq reacted that all the actors that provide expertise and knowledge can be part of the sport movement. Furthermore, Kaisa Larjomaa reiterated the fact that new sport actors are welcome in the sport movement as long as “they bring something constructive to contribute to EU policy in the field of sport”.
All these ingredients are supported by the essential need for constant interaction with local-level clubs and sport organisations, and the importance of having an inclusive decision-making process when it comes to supranational actions. Finally, speakers pointed out the importance of taking into account the current pandemic as the main challenge we all need to face, together with the necessity of safeguarding a formal and informal dialogue between stakeholders.
The sport ecosystem has changed somewhat in recent years, legitimising the arrival of new stakeholders to speak on behalf of sport at European level. However, many still share the perspective that some traditions and backgrounds continue to provide more legitimacy to some stakeholders over others.