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More spectators than practitioners: the paradoxical picture of Italian sport

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More spectators than practitioners: the paradoxical picture of Italian sport

Starting from the paradox of how in Italy sport is more watched than practiced anywhere, the first edition of the “Valore Sport Observatory” Forum provided other food for thought and discussion for the relaunch of the sport sector. The event, organized by The European House-Ambrosetti in the Hall of Authority of the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, was attended by more than 40 speakers. In addition to the managing partner & CEO of The European House – Ambrosetti Valerio De Molli, the president of Coni Giovanni Malagò, the president of Sport and Health Vito Cozzoli, the president of the Istituto Credito Sportivo Antonella Baldino and the president of Cip Luca Pancalli and a notable representation of the current government, made up of undersecretaries Marcello Gemmato (Ministry of Health), Paola Frassinetti (Ministry of Education and Merit) and Tullio Ferrante (Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport).

The postcard of Italian sport

Lots of topics discussed. Starting from the analysis of sport practice in Italy, the Observatory wanted to analyze the phenomenon of sedentary lifestyle and its impact on individual and collective health and well-being, the economic and employment impact of the extended sport chain and the state of infrastructural accessibility and economic to sport throughout the Italian territory. In 2021, the year of competitive sport records with Italy second behind only China and the USA for podiums (283) in official competitions and a great deal of media attention reserved for the Azzurri’s victories, it would have been reasonable to also expect a high level of practice daily sports by the population. The data, on the other hand, shows how sport in Italy is mostly watched rather than practiced.

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According to the census of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Italy ranks as the 4th most sedentary OECD country among adults (44.8% of the population does not meet the physical activity guidelines recommended by the ‘WHO) and 1st among children (94.5% of the total does not reach the recommended levels): the most sedentary are the residents of the South (+23.7 pp compared to the North), women (+4.6 pp compared to men), those who belong to the least well-off economic bracket (+17.2 pp compared to the richest income quintile), those with an elementary school leaving certificate or no educational qualification (+34.4 pp compared to university graduates ) and the over 65s (+30.2 pp compared to the 6-24 age group). A sedentary lifestyle, in turn, determines an impressive health cost due to the pathologies caused (above all, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes), estimated by the analyzes of the Observatory at 3.8 billion euros per year. At an economic level, Italy is the sixteenth country in the EU-27 for public expenditure dedicated to sport per inhabitant, with a value of 73.6 Euros per capita, 38% less than the EU-27 average.

Finally, sport activates a multiplicity of industrial and service chains, producing an added value (i.e. the contribution to the GDP) of 24.5 billion euros (1.4% of the national GDP) and employing 420,000 people. The conditions of the Italian sports infrastructure are not in line with those of the other main European countries and are not adequate to encourage the spread of sporting practice in the population: Italy is third last in the European Union for the incidence of investments dedicated to sport on total public expenditure . The consequence is an obsolete infrastructural heritage, with 60% of the sports facilities built more than 40 years ago, and with a much lower endowment than the European benchmark countries (131 facilities for every 100,000 inhabitants, compared to the 250 facilities on average in the main European countries and almost 600 from Finland, the country, not surprisingly, which also has the best figure for the share of the active population). A reflection that occurs in schools, where 6 out of 10 school buildings in Italy are not equipped with a gym.

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The proposals for the relaunch of the Sport Sector
The Valore Sport Observatory has elaborated six policy macro-proposals: the definition of a long-term vision «2050 – Italy in Movement» with a roadmap of shared objectives to be declined with the guiding principle of Sport in all policies: the increase investments destined for sports facilities, their efficiency and innovation in the sector; the provision of systems for detecting and monitoring the (multi) dimensions of sporting practice and the wider sector; the incentive of the supply and demand of sport through the tax lever and the simplification of bureaucratic procedures; the promotion of an active lifestyle in schools and workplaces; the activation of a multilevel training, awareness and communication strategy on the benefits of sport.

From the analysis of the Valore Sport Observatory it emerges clearly how sport is able to produce significant repercussions in various dimensions of the country-system (economic, health, social) and therefore how a systemic and strategic intervention is necessary which involves all institutional and non-institutional stakeholders to build a holistic vision. “The Sport Observatory’s vision to 2050 is certainly very ambitious – declares Valerio De Molli, Managing Partner & CEO of The European House – Ambrosetti – we believe that with targeted policies, from also involving all the various Ministries that govern aspects directly or indirectly impacted by sport, make it possible to halve the phenomenon of sedentary lifestyle in the next 30 years. The country would benefit from cumulative savings in health expenditure in the period 2022-2050 of 32.5 billion euros thanks to the prevention of diseases and health gains for the population and cumulative GDP growth of 134 billion euros thanks to the revitalization of the sports industry”.

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