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European funding opportunities in the field of sport: everything you need to know about grants

European structural and investment funds, intra-community funds, external cooperation funds… European funding is numerous. But what are they in the sport sector? The European Union has adopted its fourth work plan for sport (2021-2024) in 2020, in which support for sport in Europe is highlighted. European sport policy is evolving and so is public funding in this sector. This article aims to offer an overview of support opportunities for sport projects.

The financing of sport projects in the European Union is done through different programs.

Erasmus + programme

The Erasmus + programme aims to support the actions of project leaders in training, education, youth and sport. The programme is built in several strands called ‘key actions’ and the one dedicated to sport unveils the most sources of funding for sports projects. Its main objective is to promote the mobility of coaches and sports personnel for learning purposes, as well as cooperation, inclusion, creativity and innovation in sports organizations and policies.

The sport strand of the Erasmus + programme (2021-2027) thus funds two kinds of projects: collaborative partnerships and non-profit European events.

Collaborative partnership projects

The Erasmus + programme subsidizes cooperative partnerships, with the objective of promoting the creation of European networks in the field of sport. These partnerships are organized in consortiums, with several stakeholders. They aim to promote physical activity, fight to maintain the integrity of sport (including the threat of doping and the regulation of lotteries and sports betting), and stimulate good governance in the world of high performance sport. Simplified partnerships projects aimed at local organizations to increase access to the program are also funded. Projects combining youth and sport or sport volunteering are appreciated.

Non-profit European events

Non-profit European events are also funded, encouraging the creation of European sports events. Mass sport and sport for all or volunteering in sport are particularly highlighted in the actions carried out.

European structural and investment funds

European structural and investment funds, otherwise known as ESIF funds, can also finance sports projects, especially the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF +). The European Commission assigns the budget of ESIF funds to the Member States, which then are responsible for allocating the budget through Operational Programmes. Those Operational Programmes are produced and handled at the national or regional level.

For instance, in France, the calls for projects are therefore published according to the schedules of the various regions for the 2021-2027 period, as it was programmed in the 2014-2020 period. They are linked to the priorities of the European Commission in terms of economic, social and territorial cohesion policy.

Several socio-economic projects to support the professional integration of young people through sports activities, linking sports and citizenship actions, have been financed by the ESF + or the ERDF. Some sports infrastructure development projects can also be subsidized.

Key points to remember if you are in charge of a European project related to sport

There is not only one “sport program”. Whether you are a company, a sports club, a think tank, a sports federation or organization, or a non-profit organization, you must develop the European dimension of sport in your projects in order to obtain funding.

At the European level, the promotion of sport is strongly linked to the objectives of social cohesion stated by the European Commission. You must therefore rely on the good practices recommended by the programs in order to promote your European projects dedicated to sport. If these projects are intended to extend to several European countries, considering funding from a program like Erasmus + must be privileged. On the other hand, for instance, if your European projects respond to a national sport strategy to practice a physical activity, using ESIF funds is best.

Financing Sport in Europe: perspectives

The role of sport in the EU as a whole is increasingly supported by the European Union: funding for sport varies. For instance, every year the European Sports Week is organized to encourage more active lifestyles among European citizens. This week takes place in the member states, and was organized in Prague, Czech Republic in 2022. The level of participation was excellent, with over 43 partners and 32 events.

The Erasmus + call for projects for the year 2023 is already published and provides new opportunities for European sport, especially in the field of athletes sport activities.

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Cassiopée Dhrami – Marie Cousin


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