Outdoor sports provide social and economic benefits which cannot always be found elsewhere (for example, in the rural setting, or for raising awareness about the environment). However, the low level of participation in these sports which can be observed in EU Member States is unsatisfactory.
As an example, here are two worrying indicators of the way outdoor sports are developing. According to the latest Eurobarometer report published in 2014, participation in outdoor leisure activities on a more or less regular basis fell between 2009 and 2013 in Europe, going from 48% to 40%. Some countries reveal a very low percentage, like Bulgaria with 11%. In Finland, 90% of people who do sport say that they do an outdoor sport, but even this is not wholly satisfactory, because these activities rely on the voluntary sector, which is in crisis. What is more, money for sport in Finland is aimed at “elite sport”, to the detriment of grassroots sport.
Promoting outdoor sports is therefore a necessity, because of the many obstacles, whether real or perceived, to participating. These obstacles include safety, logistics (travel and time), the cost of equipment, technical difficulties, lack of support, lack of sites for doing the activity and the hazards of the weather. Some of these obstacles can easily be avoided by making a wise choice among the range of outdoor sports, which is big enough to make it possible to find an activity suitable for any situation.
Two levers need to be in constant use to encourage everyone to take part in outdoor sport. The first concerns teaching people about outdoor sports, because it appears that doing an activity regularly and well throughout life is the result of starting young. The education environment is therefore the key partner, so ways need to be found for collaboration. The EWoS could be a good meeting place here.
The second lever is to do with raising awareness of the social benefits of outdoor sports, particularly among funding bodies (especially local authorities) so that the range of outdoor activities available to future generations can be improved. To do this, the social consequences of the projects which have been funded need to be measured and evaluated. That is one of the lines taken by the BOSS (Benefits of Outdoor Sports for Society) project proposed by the ENOS (European Network of Outdoor Sports) network, within the framework of the European Commission’s Erasmus+ programme. On that point, EWoS provides the opportunity to promote the positive effects of investment in outdoor sport and the levels of return on that investment.
Denis Boissière, head of Mission, National Outdoor Sport Resource centre at the Ministry of Towns, Youth and Sport
Focus: The 2015 edition of “Nature & Sports Euro’Meet”, the conference for all the stakeholders in outdoor sports in Europe, will be held in Newcastle (Northern Ireland) from 29th September to 2nd October.
Two topics will be on the agenda: increasing participation for all in outdoor sports, and maximising the economic benefits that outdoor sports bring to a region.
 Special Eurobarometer N° 412, “Sport and Physical Activity”, March 2014