• David Thibodeau

Sport in the European Union - Erasmus+ 2021-2027

The European Union Erasmus+ programme supports education, training, youth and sport in Europe. Their new budget was recently announced. 26.2 billion EUR over the next seven years (2021-2027), which is nearly double the funding it had over the previous 7 years (2014-2020). The 2021 edition of the annual Erasmus+ Sport Infoday took place on the 23rd and 24th March.


In this article I will try to dig into what this means for sport (with my limited understanding of EU Sport Policy and funding) and the pandemic recovery.


The updated Erasmus+ programme priorities are:

  • Inclusion and diversity;

  • Environment and fight against climate change;

  • Addressing digital transformation through development of digital readiness, resilience and capacity;

  • Common values, civic engagement and participation.

The sport specific priorities closely align with the overarching priorities:

  • Encouraging the participation in sport and physical activity;

  • Promoting integrity and values in sport;

  • Promoting education in and through sport;

  • Combatting violence and tackling racism, discrimination and intolerance in sport.

The total sport budget has been confirmed at 470 million EUR over 7 years (previous budget was 265 million EUR over 7 years). 53 million EUR will be available for the three sport-focused actions in 2021:


Cooperation Partnerships (30.6 million EUR) - Transnational project involving 3 organisations from 3 different programme countries.

“This action offers the opportunity to develop, transfer and implement innovative practices in different areas relating to sport and physical activity between various organisations and actors in and outside sport.


Collaborative Partnerships are innovative projects aiming to:

  • combat doping at grassroots level;

  • fight against match fixing;

  • tackle violence, racism and intolerance in sport.

A particular focus will be put on projects that address grassroots sports.”


Small-Scale Partnerships (7 million EUR) - Transnational project involving minimum 2 organisations from 2 different programme countries (at least one sport club)

“Small Collaborative partnerships involve various organisations including in particular public authorities at local, regional and national levels, sport organisations, sport-related organisations and educational bodies. In particular, projects aimed to:

  • Encourage social inclusion and equal opportunities in sport;

  • Promote European traditional sports and games;

  • Support the mobility of volunteers, coaches, managers and staff;

  • Protect athletes, especially the youngest, from health and safety hazards;

  • Promote education in and through sport with special focus on skills development.

Small Collaborative Partnerships should promote the creation and development of transnational networks in the field of sport.”


Not-for-Profit European Sport Events (4 million EUR) - European wide event of at least 10 organisations from 10 different programme countries OR European local events type 1 participation of 3-5 organisations from 3-5 programme countries, European local events type 2 participation of at least 6 organisations from at least 6 programme countries.

“Not-for-profit European Sport Events aim to support:

  • Volunteering in sport;

  • Social inclusion through sport;

  • Gender equality in sport;

  • Health-enhancing Physical Activity (HEPA).”

The rest of the 53 million budget for 2021 going towards initiatives like the European Week of Sport.

In addition, to the 53 million and sport-focused actions above, there are three pilot funding initiatives available for 2021:

  • Integration of social inclusion of refugees (2 million)

  • Grassroot sport programmes and infrastructure innovation (2 million)

  • Building investigative capacity to better fight doping in sport in Europe (1.5 million)

As an outsider looking in at this programme, I found it a bit confusing of what might be considered a program that can be funded through this. Luckily, there is a full list of Erasmus+ funded projects here. You can see which countries were involved and a brief description of what the project was, it doesn’t provide details on which project was funded under which category, so I still find it hard to conceptualize where they would fit.


Some projects funded through Erasmus+ are:

Lifelong Swimming

The general objective of Swimming Life Long is to spread awareness of the importance of health enhancing physical activity and to increase the participation of senior citizens in swimming and aquatic sports. Swimming is an aerobic activity which can be safely enjoyed by people of all ages. It is one of the best exercises for seniors as it allows people to move their bodies without bearing their weight. The project intends to capitalise on the successful experience of the Grundtvig project 2012 “Healthy Ageing and Master Swimming” and transfer its results to new countries and to a new target.


Prisoners Active Citizenship

The European PAC project (Prisoners’ Active Citizenship) contributes to an important priority of the Erasmus+ programme. It promotes social inclusion as it aims to increase participation and lifelong learning among one of the most disadvantaged groups of society: prisoners. The project also increased empowerment among this population. Concretely, the PAC project realized new knowledge and innovative pathways in prisoners’ participation and involvement in prison life to improve their social inclusion and empowerment. This project is produced against the background of legal and human rights prisoners have to participate in different prison activities (e.g., in education, sport activities, cultural activities), and being actively involved in the organisation of prison life (e.g., democratic participation, involvement in the organisation of prison activities).


Promoting Social Inclusion of Persons with Mental Disabilities through Sport

Insport+ was born with the idea of creating a network of associations across Europe committed to foster the social inclusion of people suffering from mental health problems through sport. The project developed its activities from January 2016 to December 2017 in a partnership including 10 European centres of excellence coming from different European countries: Italy, Spain, Germany, Portugal, Hungary, France, Bulgaria, Belgium and the United Kingdom.


From my perspective, this funding is aimed at increasing grassroot sport diplomacy across the European Union and the countries that are part of the Erasmus+ programme. It is interesting to see how the EU places a focus on cross-border programmes. I think that this is very important from creating a more cohesive society, something that other countries and regional governments can borrow when implementing a strategy for unity. I think that in Canada, we do not have very many programs that cut across provincial/territorial boundaries and that needs to change. We need a greater emphasis on cross border programmes.