Putting Social Inclusion in Sport on European Agenda
More than 100 delegates from 76 different organisations representing 22 different countries came together in Vienna to discuss the widespread exclusion of migrants and ethnic minorities in European sport institutions.
The European conference “Sport and Integration” hosted by the Austrian Ministry of Sport brought together NGO activists, football and sport administrators, ethnic minorities, players, coaches, fans and researchers. International governing bodies contributing to the lively exchange included the European Commission, Council of Europe, UEFA, the players union
FIFPro and ENGSO, the European Non-Governmental Sport Organisation.
William Gaillard, advisor of UEFA president Michel Platini, argued that affirmative action in European sport is needed to achieve more tangible equality. He urged NGO and grass-roots activists to keep up the pressure on sport, since new input is needed otherwise governing bodies would dry up and remain in the 19th century.
The Austrian Member of the European Parliament, Ulrike Lunacek, addressed the participants via a video message from Brussels. She pointed out that structural discrimination remains a fundamental problem in sports, which affects migrants, women and members of an ethnic or sexual minority.
Bart Ooijen of the sport unit of the European Commission highlighted the social inclusion of migrants and vulnerable groups through EU sport actions following the Lisbon treaty of 2009 which is giving the EU a formal competence on sport.
Cracking the Glass Ceiling from Above and Below
Following the morning session three working groups explored the following themes: The role of clubs, associations and public bodies in cracking the glass ceiling for ethnic minorities, innovative approaches, tools and campaigns against exclusion and discrimination in sport and self-organisation & empowerment of migrant groups in sport.
The panel discussions over the one and a half day conference also involved former professional football players including Ex-Austrian International Gilbert Prilasnig, youth coach at SK Strum Graz, FIFPro board member and former Hibernian FC midfielder Tony Higgins, Ex-Fulham FC captain Simon Morgan who is now the Head of Community Development at Premier League and Vladimir Sendrei, ex-player of MSK Rimavska Sobota and Roma human rights activist. The latter established recently his own NGO in Eastern Slovakia to convince Roma parents to send their children to the local football clubs and not wait for the state to provide resources.
Networking for Social Inclusion in Sport
The European Conference held at the Austrian House of Sport on 19-20 September was organised by the Austrian NGO FairPlay-VIDC in the framework of the ongoing project SPIN – Social Inclusion Network.
The SPIN project is one of five social inclusions projects funded by Sport Unit of the European Commission. The partners of SPIN include the Italian Sport for all Association UISP, the Football Association of Ireland (FAI), the migrant-led Mahatma Gandhi Human Rights Organisation from Hungary, Camino from Germany, the Finnish Liikkukaa, the Portuguese Players Union SJPF and FairPlay-VIDC as the lead organsiation.
Following the Vienna conference a SPIN seminar in January 2012 before the opening of the first Winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck addressed for the first time the involvement of young immigrants in winter sports.
In addition to the European Union the conference was supported by the City of Vienna, the Ministry of Sport and the Austrian Football Association.
In a time when social aspects of sport become salient policy areas of the European Union, it is hoped that this report contributes to the ongoing debate on the social inclusion of migrants and ethnic minorities in and through sport. Furthermore, the results and practical recommendations of this conference should help putting social inclusion on the agenda of
European sport policies.
SPIN Project Coordinator,
A full version of the Conference Report you can download here: SPIN Conference Report