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Moving People deserve organisations that treat them as their first priority
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The vast majority of people who are active in sport – in of all its formats – exercise because it improves their health, their physical, mental and, not least, social wellbeing. They play sport and are physically active for recreational purposes. And they deserve organisations that treat them as their first priority!

Article written by Mogens Kirkeby, ISCA President, and Prof Dr Velibor Srdic, International Dance Organization (IDO) President.

It is important, relevant and natural that there are several sports organisations that prioritise those who are motivated to join sport activities for recreational purposes. These organisations offer recreational activities for all age groups – from toddlers, to children, adolescents, and adults in all life phases, not least senior citizens.

Fortunately, the demand for active recreation coming from large segments of the population has also resulted in the creation of multiple organisations with diverse origins that specifically focus on recreation as their first or even single priority. These organisations have developed over decades and this is fortunately a process that continues. This organisational diversity clearly benefits all those who aim for physical, mental and social health via a diverse spectrum of sport and recreational physical activities – in other words, it benefits society.

On the other side, we have organisations that aim to serve elite sport development, with the view to winning international medals, whilst serving participants with purely recreational interests. Typically, the national single discipline sport federations and their confederations have these types of multiple objectives. This split focus raises some dilemmas among organisations which have to accommodate everything from the pursuit of medals and talent development to the joy of movement, sports games and exercise for children and seniors. Often, they do not look out for the interests of their diverse participants – and recreational and social sports tend to lose out. 

In many cases, the sports federations have given themselves a fixed task in the form of prioritising the elite and international tournament participation, and this naturally leaves recreational sport with less priority. You could say that it is, or should be, possible for sports federations to keep these two different objectives for playing sport balanced in terms of what they offer. But with limited capacity and resources, the first priority tends to win, especially when external actors strive for international competitions and medals. This is exactly what happens in many organisations in the period leading up to major events such as the Olympic Games. They might plan to have a balanced focus, but when the heat is on and the medals are shining, executive boards and leaders may only look in one direction.

Diversity is the reality and the future
This organisational priority dilemma in sports-political environments could be compared with the competing priorities evident in the health sector. Most public health providers have a focus on both cure and prevention. Everybody knows that prevention is very important in the longer term, not least when looking at return on investment. But when it comes to prioritisation, the ‘cure’ always wins over ‘prevention’ in political battles.

Sport is organised in many countries and regions in a quite transparent way. And it is rather obvious what the average citizen wants. We need transparency and a precise description of the sport sector that reflects their reality. This will be the best foundation on which to act and develop the sector in a way that can serve societies and citizens in the most broad-reaching way and with an ever-changing future ahead.

The sport sector in Europe is characterised by its diversity. It consists of multiple not-for-profit organisations with strong connections to civil society, private for-profit companies, community initiatives, self-organised groups, and individual citizens who find time to be active when it suits them. It is therefore counterproductive and uninformed for decision makers to continue to promote a generalised sport model comprising ‘one federation per sport and one multi-sport confederation as the owner’ of sport in each country. The so-called pyramid model. 

We must not confuse a tournament structure organised according to a pyramid model with the diverse reality of sport and recreation in Europe. A pyramid-based structure is an outdated model that won’t keep up with future physical activity trends. 

Decision makers in the sport sector deserve an informed basis on which they make their decisions. Societies deserve a real picture of the reality and Moving People deserve organisations that treat them as their first priority.

Photo: Ian Schneider/Unsplash

Authors

President
ISCA

Tags

Country
All countries
Region
All regions
Sport
All the sports
Sustainable Development Goals
3 – Good health and well-being
Themes
Target Group
All target groups

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