Sports budget cut of €30m in France sparks criticism

Mr Rondeau feared that the cost of playing amateur football could rise

The French ministry of sport has announced a €30m cut in its government budget, prompting condemnation from economists, who say it will “destroy the fabric of amateur sports” in this country.

The ministry announced the budget cut at the end of last week, and said the changes would also threaten 1,600 jobs in the sector by 2022.

Sports economist Pierre Rondeau has condemned the actions, calling the situation “tense” and saying that the ministry’s budget has been falling since 2017.

Speaking to France Info, he said: “The government is destroying the fabric of amateur sports...we are destroying what makes France a nation of sporting excellence.”

Mr Rondeau said that all areas of sport risk being affected, including football - the largest sports federation in France.

He said: “Today, many amateur clubs are soundin the alarm, saying that they will not be able to balance their accounts because donations and contracts are dropping. How will we be able to fund these amateur clubs? We will have to raise prices. People will have to pay €200, €300 or €400 just to play football.”

Mr Rondeau said that amateur sport was the reason that France had gone on to shine on the global stage, but emphasised that international sport should not be the only goal.

He said: “We are fifth on the leaderboard for Olympic medals, for a country with just 65 million inhabitants. That is precisely due to the strength of amateur sport, funded primarily by the State. [But] sport for all, beyond French [Olympic] excellence, is a marker of social mobility, wellbeing, and community.”

Mr Rondeau explained the importance of amateur sports in relation to professional funding, saying that high rankings on medal leaderboards should not be the only concern.

He said: “That is the model applied by countries such as Britain since the 1990s. In 1996, Great Britain flopped at the Atlantic Olympic Games, finishing 35th on medals. The government said, let’s stop this; let’s put money solely where we can get medals; let’s finance excellence.

“Today, Great Britain is 3rd or 4th in the Olympic rankings, which is great. But, in deprived neighborhoods in the UK, more than 50% of kids do not know how to ride a bike or swim. The obesity levels in these areas is high and sports practice has practically disappeared. That is what will happen in France.”

Mr Rondeau recommended that the government ringfence sports funding, and “stop seeing sports as a secondary, anodyne leisure activity”.

“We have to consider sport as an essential element of wellbeing. Sport is not only about ‘millionaires in shorts’, or future champions. We estimate that 15m-20m people do sport daily, whether in a proper club or just going for a jog.

“If we forget about sport, we forget about a huge part of the population,” he said.

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