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Although it is difficult to define a “European sport model”, given the specificities of each country, there are nevertheless certain common characteristics. The pyramid structure, where the top (elite and professional sport) and the base (grassroots sport) work together, is the most striking feature.


However, several European studies[1] and the current political and economic situation in Europe raise the possibility that this model is weakening.

Sport funding structures are fairly similar in Europe, split basically between household spending on sport, and investment by local authorities, businesses and the State.

In France, each funding source favours one or two destinations: private funding goes mostly to top-level and professional sport, with most of the funding concentrated on disciplines with the most media coverage. In this context, football comes off best, although there are variations within football, taking into account the economic weight of Paris Saint-Germain and the lack of European harmonisation (fiscal and social), which damages the competitiveness of French football[2].

State funding is also mainly targeted at the top level, even if levelling out unequal access to doing sport (for groups with the greatest difficulty or deprived areas) and promoting physical activity for all are becoming new priorities. At the same time, funding aimed at the base of the pyramid is getting scarcer. Everyday sport relies heavily on voluntary work, the commitment of local authorities and household spending. Volunteering is becoming rarer and new volunteers are not always coming forward. Local authorities are suffering from reductions in state funding and a high level of debt, which limits the available funding; as this is mainly directed at building, renovating and managing sports facilities and supporting clubs, grassroots sport is inevitably affected. Lastly, households are still feeling the effects of the economic crisis, which reduces their use of sporting goods and services.

What then are the possible solutions to make sport funding secure? At the professional level, UEFA’s recent financial fair-play regulations still need to be consolidated, and the European institutions have a role to play in this. As for grassroots sport, the idea of developing its own sources of funding is regularly put forward. The boom in leisure sport, the interest from new sectors of the public (women, senior citizens, and families), the development of sport for health choices, and so on, all offer possibilities. Companies also have a role to play in this field, particularly in the development of CRS policies. Finally, public funding for sport is going to have to change because of budgetary constraints and the current reform of local authorities. Achieving greater consistency in public policy, rationalising investments (particularly at the level of neighbourhood sports facilities), and implementing regional sport governance (with local authorities involved) all seem desirable. Above all, the systems of solidarity between the bottom and top of the pyramid need to be reinforced and made sustainable. The report from the members of parliament Régis Juanico and Guenhaël Huet in 2013[3] suggested several possible lines of thought on this subject. Guaranteeing this solidarity, so emblematic of the European sport model, seems to be a matter of urgency in order to ensure sustainable funding for sport.


For more informations : Sport and Citizenship – Sustainable Financing of Sport

[1] Study on public and private funding for sport in Europe (2008) ; study on the funding of grassroots sport in Europe (2011) ; Study on strengthening financial solidarity mechanisms within sport

[2] Barometer of the economic and social impact of professional football, EY and UCPF, 3rd edition, 2014

[3] Information on support policies for professional sport and solidarity with amateur sport, 11 July 2014

Author :
EurActiv Network