Laurent Petrynka

Taking free kicks like Beckham, replicating the France-West Germany 1982 World Cup match in the streets, was my way of showing my passion for football.

The period of lockdown has allowed us to reflect on special sporting memories like this. Beyond that, it has allowed us to take a closer look at the sports industry as a whole, and assess our future needs and desires.

Undeniably, it has become clear during lockdown that sport, for many, is a necessity. We have seen many people go back to sport and also take up sport for the first time during this period.

Sport has the ability to provide a "release" from the family lockdown, with the pleasure of working up a sweat and staying healthy playing a key role in maintaining individuals happiness on a daily basis.

As lockdown has ultimately freed up more time, sport has become a more obvious choice, especially as doctors have emphasised its importance for our psychological and physical wellbeing, as well as boosting our immune systems. We must now ensure that this upsurge in engagement in sport lasts beyond the lockdown.

This is an opportunity for public authorities and private companies to embrace this new culture and inspire a long-term shift in people’s daily routines, for example flexible working hours, infrastructure, membership vouchers and access to sports halls/gyms.

We must also focus on providing support for mothers and parents, who all too often lose sight of their own health to focus on the lives of their children.

During the lockdown, Physical Education teachers have shown ingenuity to keep young people active. Personal trainers have stepped into the spotlight, with virtual online fitness sessions and use of mobile fitness apps becoming the new norm.

Online fitness sessions have become the new normal during the coronavirus lockdown in order to help people stay active ©Getty Images
Online fitness sessions have become the new normal during the coronavirus lockdown in order to help people stay active ©Getty Images

However, the dialogue about sport too often focuses on the organisational structures that govern it. These structures also regularly compete with one another, for example sport in schools, sport in clubs, sport in the private sector, sport as an individual practice etc.

Sometimes it is necessary to criticise the lack of good governance, but too often it is used for opportunistic or political reasons. This detracts from what our focus should be on – the people.

We need to adopt an approach based on what people want, what are their desires, what are their means, what are their constraints? In the end, just one question really matters - how can we make the population play more sport?

There are many unprecedented and effective initiatives that can be applied at a national level. I am campaigning to provide centralised support for these initiatives by proposing the formation of a local sports council. This partnership structure would bring together the key stakeholders that contribute to the sports industry. 

It would be responsible for creating a better understanding of the needs of the population {young, active, seniors} and ensuring the right support is given, for example the creation of associations, development of incubators to support innovative start-ups as in the case of Cluster Grand Paris Sport, ensuring fitness centres/clubs are open 24 hours a day like across the Atlantic.

The easing of lockdown has finally arrived.

The debate is currently focused on the eagerness of fans, TV audiences and professional club leaders to resume sporting competitions in order to relaunch the economy. While this is important, it does reveal one truth, however: sport’s financial model is fragile.

The USA, among others, decided a long time ago to create a closed league structure. This franchise system has been successful in ensuring both the enjoyment of the spectator and the stability of the business model, while at the same time providing support for amateur sport.

Our columnist believes money from professional sport should be used to engage young people in sport and physical activity ©Getty Images
Our columnist believes money from professional sport should be used to engage young people in sport and physical activity ©Getty Images

For my part, I am convinced that there is a need for a solid professional sport, based on sporting enterprises, which is profitable and socially sustainable. The "win-win" equation with amateur sport’s health is possible. We must affirm and reinforce this.

Professional players should be more engaged and encouraged to sign Corporate Social Responsibility charters that lead them to spend more time in schools and local clubs - they should show more empathy and respect towards young people and their sport.

The income generated in professional sports should be better able to benefit sport for young people and sport for health. The world of amateur sport is currently too heavily dependent on the state, whilst the substantial income generated by national and international broadcast and sponsorship rights remains within a tight circle.

However, it is the youth that we must focus on. Instead of speaking about sport in schools, I prefer to speak about time spent per day on the practice of sport.

An hour and a half of sport a day seems to me to be the bare minimum for school aged young people {three to 18 years old} and beyond of course! We must aim to foster better coordination of schools and local sports stakeholders {clubs, associations, local authorities} so that at the end of the day, every child has had an opportunity to be active. 

This is the meaning of the "sport, health, culture, citizenship" programme proposed by the Minister of National Education and Youth which started from the middle of May.

This programme lays some ambitious foundations of a "user" approach to the practice of sport in youth. It is a collaborative and localised approach in which each sport stakeholder will have to focus on a single objective: more physical practice for our young people.

In a way, the spirit of the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games is already reshaping the school system, reinforcing the importance of uniting the Olympic Movement and schools through the common goal of education.

School is the foundation of all possibilities and sport is a key contributor to children building a happy future.  Let us never forget this and let us be worthy of this challenge.