Chamber of Local Authorities


    16 October 2007



    Integration through Sport

    Wolfgang SCHUSTER (Germany, EPP/CD)

    Explanatory Memorandum
    Committee on Culture and Education


    The Committee on Culture and Education examines sport activities as a tool for reinforcing social ties and supporting the integration of young people, in particular those from immigrant backgrounds.

    The Committee is convinced that municipal policies for the promotion of sport must take into all sectors of society, with the help of sports associations, who are privileged partners in providing “sport for all”.

    NB : This report could not be examined at the 2007 Autumn Session and has been postponed to the 2008 Spring Session.

    R : Chamber of Regions / L : Chamber of Local Authorities
    ILDG : Independent and Liberal Democrat Group of the Congress
    EPP/CD : Group European People’s Party – Christian Democrats of the Congress
    SOC : Socialist Group of the Congress
    NR : Member not belonging to a Political Group of the Congress

    Physical activity permits the creation of social links. After the family unit and nursery , sport associations offer for the young people the most important structures , where children and young people start to socialise with other members of our society. This is where young people have their first experience of mixing and have their social behaviour shaped by contact with others.

    Looking beyond that socialization dimension, physical activity equally enables the acquisition of social references.

    1. The transmission of values:

    Democratic rules must govern the transmission of values and standards in a society. A community of individuals who pursue a shared interest together in a sports club where the same rules are applied to all members thereby learn that the rules of community life have to be obeyed. At the same time, the values and standards applied in competitive sport are passed on. As the general principles of the game, “fair play”, the rules of the individual sport and the punishments applicable to anyone breaking them.

    2. Sport as a catalyst of social skills:

    Sport seems increasingly to serve as a catalyst for the acquisition of attributes vital to the emergence of social skills, such as team spirit, a willingness to work hard, an ability to deal with adversity, a sense of responsibility and a readiness to co-operate.

    Learning how to forge social ties in this context requires a non-selective broad brush approach based on a pragmatic view. The learning process encompasses "the head, the heart and the hand". While the starting point is sport, that experience invites us to go much further.

    Sport offers a structure within which all are welcome, irrespective of their cultural, religious or ethnic origins or social status. Sport makes a significant contribution to tolerant and democratic community life and fosters social cohesion.

    As it opens up individual and social perspectives, sport offers a significant field of action for integration and participation. Holiday sports camps, clubs and associations and sports activities open to all enable young people to come together in an informal framework.

    Sports clubs, by teaching tolerance and the need to obey the rules of their sport, promote the cohesion of our multicultural society. Sport gives each and every person an opportunity to get to know and understand both his or her own and others' personality, thus opening up a very wide field of social action. Thanks to sport, it is easier for participants to overcome language barriers and set aside cultural prejudices which otherwise seem to hinder friendly relations. This is why integration through sport is so vital where children and young people are concerned.

    The aims of municipal sport promotion policies

    Municipal sport promotion policies encompass the population as a whole, including the members of sports clubs, which are important partners for municipalities wishing to organise sports activities in their cities, and which provide the local basis for all such activities: sport for all, sport as a leisure activity and top-level sport. Municipalities wishing to promote sport need, inter alia, to:

    ● make the necessary infrastructure available;

    ● promote activities for children, young people and older people;

    ● promote and improve voluntary work.

    In the longer term, these priorities are central to the policies pursued by municipalities, which can find a powerful ally in a soundly established civil society. Sports clubs and local sections of national federations which come together in city "sports unions" play an important role in discussions with municipalities on municipal sport policies.

    All the residents and groups with an interest in sport-related issues may approach the municipal authorities responsible for sport. Cities can also offer them advice on any matter relating to sport, and, where possible, they provide assistance with the organisation of specific sports events.

    Sport makes a considerable contribution to social integration and to communication. It increases social cohesion, both in neighbourhoods and city-wide. Sports facilities near residential areas offer residents a wider range of regular activities, open up new scope for ethnic groups and different generations to get together, and foster neighbourly relations in a relaxed context.

    Now that sport has been opened up to all population groups, a large number of associations and networks have been established which serve as centres of social cohesion and stability, so sports organisations, with officials voted into office by members, confirm the democratic principle which underlies the functioning of local authorities. The involvement of ethnically-based sports clubs in these networks, inter alia in the context of championships or youth work, is particularly important in this respect.

    In urban societies, physical exercise, games and sport also have beneficial effects in terms of promoting health and rehabilitation, thereby helping to make cities healthier places.

    The voluntary commitment characteristic of sports clubs and federations encourages personal initiative and enables people to get more involved in community life. The solidarity experienced in sport at every level bolsters the structure of the community in neighbourhoods and in the city as a whole.

    In view of these trends, physical exercise, games and sport are particularly important to urban development. Sport could not be regarded as a separate world, a sub-division of society, for it is an integral part of neighbourhood life, of the activities of young people and their "tribes", of families' and elderly persons' leisure occupations, of festivities and of the voluntary sector. Forward-looking municipal policy to develop sport has to transcend the sectoral approach and cut across all sectors. New challenges are constantly arising for present-day cities, as leisure activities change constantly, new sporting disciplines enjoy popular success and sport becomes increasingly professionalised and commercialised.

    The ambitious policy of integration of young people: the example of Stuttgart

    The example of the German city of Stuttgart affords some indications of how sport can help to build bridges between young people of immigrant origin and the population of the host country. Stuttgart is home to 170 nationalities. Migrants make up over 30% of the population, and over 35% of the city's children and young people. Tolerance and mutual respect among residents of different origins and with different languages and religions are vital to the proper workings of the community in an international city. The city of Stuttgart, which is the capital of one of the 16 regions of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Land of Baden-Württemberg, is well on the way in this respect, as illustrated by its record as one of the safest major cities in Europe. It encourages all residents to get involved in community organisation, in an international context.

    Equality of opportunity and full use of the skills and talents of all members of the community, particularly its many migrants, are important to the success of this effort. In the autumn of 2001, Stuttgart’s municipal council adopted a strategy document called Ein Bündnis für Integration (An Alliance for Integration), explaining among other things how best to organise the peaceful coexistence of highly different population groups and how to facilitate inter-faith and intercultural exchanges, in the best interests of the city as a whole. The Alliance for Integration brings together individuals and entities from three sectors: the public sector (including political bodies, administrative entities and publicly-financed institutions), the private sector and civil society. The integration policy devised by the city of Stuttgart is often cited as an example during international discussions. In May 2004, the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe drew on the fundamental principles of the Alliance for Integration when it set down its own official policy on the subject. Thus the city offers a model for other communities' integration policies. In 2003, UNESCO also gave Stuttgart an honourable mention in its Cities for Peace competition, the first German city ever to be so honoured.

    The city's integration policy has the support of thousands of voluntary and paid workers in every public sphere of action, especially sport. The aim is to ensure that everyone can take his or her opportunities in the fields of training, employment, housing and leisure, take part in political discussions, feel at ease and free to express his or her talents and skills, so that all make every effort to defend community interests.

    Other German cities, such as the capital, Berlin, are pursuing the same objectives. Through sport, men and women from different social and cultural backgrounds are able to meet, co-operate and exchange experience.

    No other kind of organisation enables so many people from different cultural origins to come together voluntarily. Sports clubs are informal structures which open the door to other kinds of contacts. Germany now has increasing numbers of sports clubs and organisations, with a high proportion of members of immigrant origin. As well as conventional sports activities, these clubs and organisations provide extra teaching and assistance with problems in the educational or administrative sphere, as well as helping young people to find training or work experience which will make their search for employment easier.

    Learning to learn means taking oneself in hand, a process of course extending beyond conventional sports activities.

    Instructors and coaches play an important role as trusted persons and reference points for young people. More trust is often placed in them than in social workers and teachers. Enrolment in a sports club is a voluntary step, in a less formal context than the daunting over-hierarchical structures found in other sectors of our society.

    Municipal structures promoting integration through sport in Stuttgart

    Integration is a cross-cutting task for the municipality involving the provision of guidance. It therefore requires co-operation among concerned: municipal departments, non-public supervisory bodies, schools and other educational establishments, firms, cultural associations and sports clubs, migrants' organisations, voluntary associations, religious communities, the media and political bodies, but also individual citizens.

    The municipal council, as the body responsible for political decisions, monitors the implementation of the city's integration objectives. It is at the core of the municipal administration, but needs competent assistance from committees of experts - especially an international commission which functions as an advisory council for foreigners to the municipal council - and from other administrative departments. Close interaction with the mayor of the city or municipality concerned may secure greater efficiency among the departments concerned. The city of Stuttgart's successful experience seems to suggest that this approach is a valid one.

    The international commission referred to is the municipal council's main advisory body on migration and integration policy. It is made up of residents and municipal councillors elected or appointed for their expert skills, and is responsible for backing up the interests and expectations of the city's foreign residents. It strongly encourages, and is strongly encouraged to promote, dialogue between population groups, thereby ensuring that integration and peaceful coexistence within the city are fostered. Members' main fields of expertise are social and sociocultural matters, economic affairs, sport, school education, science, the media and culture.

    The associative structures promoting integration through sport in Stuttgart

    It is Article 9 of the German Constitution that provides a legal framework, stating that all Germans have the right to form associations and societies; hence sport can be organised independently, in the framework of the law relating to clubs and associations.

    There are 440 sports clubs in Stuttgart, with 165,000 members - one resident in every four!

    Under Stuttgart's sport promotion system, sports clubs and their federations are responsible for programme content and organisation and for deciding on their priorities in terms of individual sporting disciplines. As the sociocultural context changes rapidly, entailing new tasks, however, it is important, for the municipality to help clubs and associations with their operating principles, content and organisation. This is why Stuttgart is co-operating with various partners to start new programmes complementing its numerous guidelines on the promotion of sport. These include a sport-for-all programme of courses known as Stuttgarter Sport-Spaß – Kurssportangebote für Alle, a programme catering for older people in their own areas, entitled Aktiv älter werden – Bewegungsangebote im Stadtteil, another for nursery school children (Erlebnis Sport Kindergarten), a talent-spotting programme called Talentsuche/-förderung and a community integration programme entitled Gemeinschaftserlebnis Sport.

    These sport promotion programmes cited as examples are intended to offer activities combining sport with social integration. The aim is to provide children and young people with educational leisure activities with a sport component and to widen the range of sports activities available to children and young people in urban areas.

    This type of programme needs a central office to coordinate and lead it. Stuttgart's sports union (Sportkreis), a federation of sports clubs, plays this role.

    Fifteen districts took part in the programme in 2005, with approximately 3,300 children and young people a year taking part in ongoing activities and tournaments.

    Beyond Stuttgart :a vast variety of experiences

    Stuttgart is not alone in having taken advantage of sport’s potential for fostering integration in our cities and municipalities. An association called Banlieues d’Europe reports to us some positive experiences which we should like to draw to the attention of the members of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe.

    We describe below some examples of cities which, aware of their responsibilities, have successfully taken up the challenge thrown down by sport, thanks to their imagination and to the help of both residents and the voluntary sector.

    A hip-hop dance group known as Accrorap, from Lyon in France, has made outstanding use of the creativity of young dancers from the Lyon suburb of St Priest, transcending the divisions that initially existed in the city's suburbs and ultimately putting on shows at major national venues.

    Hip-hop was also the focus of Alain Lapiower and the Jacques Gueux Foundation’s Brussels initiatives encouraging women, as the all-too-often underrepresented sex in the world of sport, to participate.

    A Romanian association known as PRADA, from Miloud Oukili, has taught social skills to, and integrated, street children from Bucharest through its circus school.

    Similarly, physical expression through circus training has also been successful in Lisbon, in Portugal, under the leadership of Teresa Ricou and the Chapito association, addressed more specifically to young offenders held in prisons.

    Thus forms of associations and activities which foster integration result from this complementary approach, involving voluntary schemes or private initiatives with the support and encouragement of municipalities, taking an open and attentive attitude to the cultural diversity that exists in individual municipalities.


    The experience garnered during various cities' sport promotion programmes has a common denominator, showing that sports activities can make an effective contribution to preventing violence and promoting integration, and thus to peaceful coexistence of all.

    As frustration mounts and violence increases among children and young people in difficult suburbs, municipalities must take specific innovative steps.

    In view of the positive results obtained through sports activities in the broad sense, and the promotion of these to the population as a whole, a decision was taken to step up educational work based on sport and to develop exchanges with youth and child welfare institutions. Success, in the form of improved sporting and social skills among participants, very much depends on factors such as the quality of supervision, the follow-up action taken by municipalities, the ties forged with instructors and the freedom to choose among the activities on offer.

    Sport offers a way of bringing a beneficial influence to bear on society. It is a means of combating social exclusion, improving equality of opportunities between women and men, fostering mobility and lifelong learning and promoting health. It instils values such as tolerance and solidarity, thereby helping to combat racism, xenophobia and intolerance. For all these reasons, sport provides good opportunities for different social groups to integrate.



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