European Union

Sport in the EU

Sport and exercise are an integral part of life for millions of Europeans and a key feature of the EU's new Erasmus+ programme, which promotes cooperation, dialogue and participation

Team spirit, solidarity & fair play

Sport is important because it

  • promotes physical and mental wellbeing
  • is educational and promotes key social values 
  • brings communities together 
  • is a large, fast-growing economic sector
  • contributes to growth and jobs.

However, problems such as doping, match-fixing and violence demand attention.

The EU supports cooperation between policymakers and dialogue with sports organisations, to promote the positive values associated with sport and tackle challenges. 

Sport in Erasmus+

Erasmus+ (2014-2020) focuses on grassroots sport. It can co-fund initiatives, helping to develop, share and implement innovative ideas and practices EU-wide, nationally and at regional and local level.

Erasmus+ Sport will help develop sport's European dimension, boosting cooperation between sports organisations, public authorities and other parties. It focuses on the following areas.

Exercise for health

The EU promotes exercise through the sharing and promotion of good practices between EU countries and with interested parties. The EU Physical Activity Guidelines (2008) show how cross-cutting national policies can encourage this. The 2013 Council Recommendation on health-enhancing physical activity across sectors will 

  • encourage more effective policies in this area
  • help monitor progress on and trends in exercise levels and policies.

EU health policy also promotes exercise. The EU platform for action on diet, physical activity and health provides a forum for tackling adverse trends.

Anti-doping action

Doping is unfair. It discourages people from playing or following sport, and endangers health. The EU fights doping together with

EU countries regularly discuss anti-doping issues at EU level before meeting in more international fora. They cooperate within the EU on athletes' rights, doping in recreational sports and prevention. Erasmus+ Sport funds prevention projects. Employers' organisations and trade unions use EU social dialogue to tackle issues including anti-doping action. 

Social inclusion, integration & equal opportunities

Sport can bridge social divides. It showcases the skills of people living with disabilities and empowers women and girls, providing opportunities to develop leadership skills. EU countries applying for European Social Fund and European Regional Development Fund grants are encouraged to include projects that promote social inclusion through sport. Transnational projects and international events have benefited from funding.

Combating racism & violence at sporting events

The EU encourages the police and sports authorities to share information on supporters who pose a risk and to back preventive initiatives. The Commission supported the launch of the Football against Racism in EEurope (FARE) network and several related projects.

Good governance in sport

While the EU respects sports organisations' autonomy, it promotes compliance with the following principles:

  • democracy
  • transparency
  • accountability in decision-making
  • inclusiveness in the representation of interested parties.

The Commission encourages employers, athletes and sports workers to shape labour relations through European social dialogue. There are social dialogue committees for professional football and for active leisure.

Dual careers for athletes

The EU advocates providing education and vocational or professional training for young sports talents in parallel with intensive sports training, to prepare them for dual careers. The EU Guidelines on Dual Careers of Athletes (2012) show how national and EU policies can promote this. Several projects have benefited from EU support.

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