Yet sport is one of those very rare and precious industries in the EU, dynamic, competitive, rapidly growing and a sector in which foreign markets are clamoring to buy our products and indeed invest in.
Throughout the past several years, the sports sector has continued to grow rapidly whilst its economic impact is often overlooked.
As a new
elected member of the European Parliament and as a former
professional cricket player and grassroots coach, I hold a deep passion for how
sports can change lives, bring communities together and crucially be a
successful example of how Europe can lead the world in a highly competitive
industry. Throughout the past several years, the sports sector has continued to
grow rapidly whilst its economic impact is often overlooked. Yet sport is one
of those very rare and precious industries in the EU, dynamic, competitive,
rapidly growing and a sector in which foreign markets are clamoring to buy our
products and indeed invest in.
glance at the economic overview of the sports sector is highly impressive.
Overall it is estimated that the sector makes up 2% of the EU global GDP, while
the total employment generated by sports activities is 7.3 million, which is
equivalent to 3.5% of total EU employment. The Commission itself issued a
report last year highlighting that sport in total produces a massive € 294bn
contribution to EU gross value added, concluding that “the sector is considered
a significant driver of growth.” These are truly remarkable figures and what is
more, huge growth rates are expected in the sector over the coming years.
sports sector itself is booming, the knock-on effects to the wider economy are
also keenly felt. It is estimated that for every new job created within the
industry, a further 0.65 new jobs are made in related industries outside the
supply chain. Construction, tourism and retail sectors especially benefit as a
knock on effect of the sports industries success. Sports stadiums, facilities
and projects are built or maintained every year, such as the 2012 Olympic
Stadium in London which regenerated Stratford and turned it from one of the
poorest areas of London to a place which is now experiencing rapid growth.
Sports tourism is also a lucrative and growing industry. Every year, between 12
to 15 million international trips are made worldwide for the purpose of
watching sport events and with its world leading sports brands, Europe is the
prime destination for foreign visitors. The growth rate of sports tourism alone
is expected to be a minimum of 6 % a year for the coming year, a huge source of
growth and new jobs.
We can also
learn from the sports industry on how it continually innovates and improves. By
its very nature, sports is a ferociously competitive business and it is the
“need to succeed” which drives innovation for new products and designs, often
meaning working closely with other sectors, such as the electronic and
aerospace industries to produce new technologies. Sport has developed
enormously in just thirty years, since the days of Bjorn Borg, who won over a
generation of fans by using a simple wooden racket to the Roger Federer era of
today, who himself uses a racket consisting of technology originally designed
for use on an airplane. This continued dynamism and ability to mix with other
sectors is frankly, in stark contrast to many other EU industries across the
spectrum and we can learn from it.
the effects on how sport benefits both young and old are widely stated but are
worth repeating. Children who are involved in sport are far less likely to be
obese and we know through science that those who start there life actively, are
more likely to grow up living healthier lives, significantly lowering the risks
of serious diseases.
Socially, sports unites people from different backgrounds,
forging lifelong, meaningful friendships and I know firsthand from my time
volunteering with Project Umubano, a charity which works with disadvantaged
children in rural Rwanda how sport unites people of different faiths, cultures
and promotes understanding.
plays a part in our society beyond the benefits of creating a healthier
lifestyle and stronger economy. It is also a huge cultural success - so often a
buzzword across these institutions, and arguably our biggest. People all across
the globe tune in to watch our elite sports teams and if you travel to the
deepest depths of sub-Saharan Africa, cities across Asia, remote villages of
the Amazonia, more than likely you will find young and old wearing the stripes
of Manchester United, Real Madrid, AC Milan and others. This is powerful and
indeed when the word Europe is mentioned in many places around the world, the
image conjured is of fanatical sports spectators supporting their heroes.
the glamour of elite sports, and the successes highlighted above, I know, as a
cricket coach, that the secret to a thriving sports sector is investment in
grassroots sport. It is therefore vital
we continue to invest in the grassroots and help those hardworking, dedicated
local volunteers who are the heartbeat of the sporting success we currently
enjoy in Europe. Supporting and protecting public funding for grassroots sports
is not only the right thing to do because of the health and wellbeing of those
we represent but also because it is a sound investment in our economy and a way
to promote our values across the world. That means ensuring we help local
communities take full advantage of the funding possibilities at national and
European level, promote access to safe and first class facilities whilst also
championing the value of sport, so often forgotten about as a serious global
A fit body
and a fit economy can go hand in hand to create new jobs and growth in the
Daniel Dalton is an MEP (European
Conservatives and Reformists Group) from the United Kingdom.
**First published at Euractiv.com