In November 2010, at the occasion of the hearing on Sport at the European Parliament in Brussels, I had the privilege and the opportunity to launch the idea of an Erasmus Sports Programme.
The hearing was held in order to understand the needs of the sports stakeholders at EU level and to explore the ways to better implement Art. 165 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFUE) according to which :
"The Union shall contribute to the promotion of European sporting issues, while taking account of the specific nature of sport, its structures based on voluntary activity and its social and educational function. On this basis the Union aims at developing the European dimension in Sport."
I was an Erasmus student and therefore I will always be - in mind and spirit - an "Erasmus". Such a programme definitely changed my life and I am sure it has had the same strong impact on those who shared my same experience. As a matter of fact, the Erasmus Programme has been recognized as one of the most successful achievements of the European Union.
Over the years, thanks to the contact both with students and athletes, I have kept dreaming of an “Erasmus Sports Programme” conceived on the same basis of the programme that enabled more than two million European university students to study abroad.
Today the Treaty offers the Union the opportunity to focus on amateurs, i.e. the “ones who play for fun”.
Scope and Purposes
In this context the Erasmus Sports Programme aims to allow players to get trained in foreign clubs, sports academies, and sports associations; to ease the exchange of Athletes who are also enrolled at university or sports schools. It will also give them the possibility to learn a language as well as a different culture, a different way to play and to work.
On this basis, taking into due account the specificity of Sport and the autonomy of each sports organization, the Erasmus program could cover both individual and team sports.
Co-operation agreements could be signed among sports Olympic Committees, Federations, Leagues, amateur Clubs, sports Academies but also by local and regional authorities, under the sponsorship of the European Union aiming at – for instance - the Organization of “Erasmus Sports Training Camps” during summer period and school holidays. On those occasions a university, a federation, a league or a club could host clubs and individual athletes from all over Europe. Young athletes could participate to joint training sessions around Europe and take part to trans-national competitions.
In the spirit of the Erasmus values “travel and discover” a tournament can involve young athletes coming from EU Member States.
With a modest economic support (covering travel and/or accommodation expenses) by the relevant Institutions, organizers, but also private sponsors, many students/players will be glad to travel across Europe for several days practicing sport and having fun. The organizing city itself could be an attractive destination, such as it happens for the Olympic Games.
The European Union in general and its Erasmus programme in particular will surely gain in terms of image.
Finally the Erasmus sports programme could foster the involvement of volunteers coming from different States in international sports events. They could be part of the organization and be granted some tickets for international competitions involving national teams and/or European clubs.
Pilot Projects and Coalition
In the beginning, pilot projects could be established (some of them are already in place) by involving universities and schools, amateur clubs (football, basketball, handball, volleyball, swimming, etc) from different countries to take part in summer or winter camps for some weeks. Universities and sports clubs with the support of the relevant municipality could host the athletes. The latter will be participating to a tournament and - at the same time - will follow other educative and training activities such as (i) language courses, (ii) seminars and (iii) workshops which would fit the EU priorities in relation to social inclusion, fight against doping, violence, racism, etc. Most exchanges would have to take place in pre-season / summer, so that normal seasons would not be affected.
Of course, all the above agreements and activities could be concluded under the (political and/or financial) sponsorship of the European Union.
In regard to this point, it is remarkable that in December 2011 the European Commission announced its programme “Erasmus for all” and presented a relevant legislative proposal also in the field of Sport which will examined and hopefully approved by the European Parliament soon.
In the meantime a “coalition” could already be established in order to facilitate the implementation of the Erasmus programme in Sport. Such a coalition would be open to: i) Sports Associations, (ii) Clubs, (iii) institutions, (iv) municipalities, (v) schools and universities, (vi) students, athletes and volunteers, (vii) private and public sponsors.
For these reasons, everybody should play a role according to its possibilities in order to make the dream of millions of EU amateur athletes come true.
The opinion expressed in this publication is that of the author and does not engage EPSO.