Boosting sport’s contribution to regional development: KEA coordinates the SHARE initiative

Boosting sport’s contribution to regional development: KEA coordinates the SHARE initiative


The multi-faceted dimension of sport

What is the reality of sport beyond the entertainment and fame of global sport events?

Most of the time, our first thoughts about sport tend to recreate the excitement of large elite competitions, coupled with the satisfaction of seeing our favourite team or athlete scoring or winning. But very often sport is actually more than overly-sponsored trophies, commercialized idols or body-building pride. It is our evening jogging to stay healthy and relieve stress, our biking itinerary to work to alleviate traffic jams and reduce pollution. It is that hike in the mountains we did last summer to discover and cherish the nature that surrounds us. It is our university research programme to improve the quality of athletic accessories, or the sports complex in our neighbourhood which offers employment and keeps our children busy after school hours. It is the football game on the outskirts of town forging friendships between our children regardless of race or social backgrounds.


A driver of regional development…

The complexity of sport highlights its contribution not only to shaping competitions, elite careers and aesthetic bodies, or as a personal health and well-being agent. Sport is equally a driver of innovation and sustainable development, as well as a cohesion factor that bridges social gaps and creates a sense of belonging to local communities.

Culture and sport both influence social and economic activity, especially at local and regional levels. They are part of the attractiveness and liveability of our cities and they shape the way we interact with public spaces. KEA has extensive expertise in cultural policy at EU, national, regional and local levels, notably through our previous work with cities and regions across Europe to assess cultural investment for social and territorial development. This work provides a fundamental basis to further understand how sport permeates regional development fabric and how could better sport policies for citizens and their communities be developed. KEA is thus closely following the development of sport policy across Europe, being involved in several sport studies and EU initiatives.


…Yet a still rather small presence in EU policy regulations

Sport’s cross-sectorial capacity has made the sector a fast-moving policy area at EU level. EU institutions have been increasingly recognising its high still-untapped potential for regional development. As a result, several policy papers and high-level communications highlight the value of sport as a tool for regional development and invite EU Member States to strengthen the cooperation to harness this potential. (See further: European Commission Communication on ‘Developing the European Dimension of sport 2011‘, the 2011-2014 Work Plan for Sport, the Conclusion of the Council and the Member States’ Representatives on the economic dimension of sport and its socio-economic benefits 2018).

Infographics on the manifold contribution of sport to regional development (KEA, 2018-2020)
Infographics on the manifold contribution of sport to regional development (KEA, 2018-2020) / © Image credits: KEA European Affairs


However, despite the clear contribution sport and physical activity have proven to bring to economic and social activity in any given region, sport has never been specifically mentioned in the regulation underpinning EU’s Cohesion Policy and the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF). This reality has made it hard for stakeholders to unlock these funds for sport-based initiatives at regional and local levels.

The challenge is two-fold:

  • The manifold ways in which sport can contribute to regional development and thus to the policy objectives of Cohesion Policy are still largely unknown by the sport stakeholders and by the public authorities in charge of managing ESIF;
  • There are no specific lines of investment for sport neither in the EU regulations, nor in the national investment programmes of ESIF.


SHARE: the European Commission’s initiative to promote sport’s contribution to regional development

The European Commission DG EAC saw the need to tackle these issues and launched in 2018 the SHARE initiative (SportHub: Alliance for Regional development in Europe). SHARE is a platform which gathers the sport movement, cities, regions, universities, SMEs and business support organisations. Its main role is to promote the role of sport in regional development across Europe.

SHARE specifically aims to:

  • Ensure sport and physical activity are better taken into account for EU, national, regional and local policy-making;
  • Strengthen the cross-sectoral approach of sport in view of the Cohesion Policy 2021-2027 main objectives;
  • Unlock different funding streams for so that it can deliver its full potential for territorial development. The ESIF are especially important in this respect.

Publications of the SHARE initiative

The SHARE initiative has produced two policy papers to illustrate concrete ways in which sport can deliver on the policy objectives of the Cohesion Policy 2021-2027, as well as good practices on how sport’s potential has been harnessed in smart specialisation strategies across Europe.

KEA is the scientific coordinator of SHARE and manages all the activities related to the initiative on behalf of the European Commission. KEA acts as a hub between the Commission, the sport associations and the governing bodies active within SHARE at EU, regional and local levels. KEA also coordinates the awareness-raising efforts of the platform in increasing the visibility of sport in the public policy agenda.

Moreover, KEA supports and harmonises stakeholders’ research and policy work to highlight sport’s contribution to regional development. Our mission includes the development of capacity-building activities at national, regional and local levels to empower stakeholders to build strategic partnerships and unlock EU funding streams for sport initiatives.


How to join SHARE

The SHARE initiative is a partnership-driven organisation. Its strength derives from its supporters’ engagement and a knowledge hub of relevant organisations and networks. It includes primarily the sport movement, cities and regions, but also universities, clusters and industry, which are essential parts of the sport and physical activity tissue across Europe.


To learn more about SHARE and how to join the platform please contact:


Teodora Pletosu
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