Julian Jappert

In our latest interview, we caught up with Julian Jappert, Director of the Sport and Citizenship Think Tank.

Please tell us a little about yourself

I was born in Marseille and sport has always been a part of my life. I completed my master’s degree in private law in Aix-en-Provence, In the south of France, where I also obtained a DEA (Diploma of Advanced Studies) in Community Law. Thus, I decided to follow my passion for sport and enhance my skills and knowledge in the domain: I completed a University Diploma in Comparative Business Law, specializing in sport law and economics. Since my first step in the professional world, sport has always been a staple in my career: I started as a lawyer at Canal+ Group, in charge of projects and relationships with European institutions and the international sport federation. Thereafter, I worked for four years in the Sport Unit at the European Commission where I oversaw the administrative and financing aspects of the Unit, experiencing for the first time what it is like to work in a European environment. Since 2007, I am the Director of Sport and Citizenship, the first European, apolitical Think Tank in the field of sport. Regarding my interests, I am fascinated by the relation between sport and politics and the role media in the field of sport. Furthermore, I consider the role of citizens paramount, not only for our Think Tank but for the European Union as well; I am therefore passionate about the role that sport can play as facilitator for European sense of belonging

What was the inspiration behind forming Sport and Citizenship and what do you consider to be its key achievements?

Sport and Citizenship was created in Brussels in September 2007, a few weeks after the adoption of the European Commission’s White Paper on Sport. Today, it is the only Think Tank in Europe, whose social objective is the analysis of sporting politics and the study of sport’s societal impact. The idea behind the creation of the Think Tank was the necessity of “filling a European gap” in the field of sport. We realized that to provide a robust narrative about the social role of sport and actively contribute to its realization, concrete actions were needed. This is why we decided to found Sport and Citizenship. Independent and apolitical, Sport and Citizenship has more than ten years of expertise and benefits from recognition by public authorities and stakeholders of European sport. This is what I consider one of our main achievements. The concrete actions carried out by the Think tank include producing publications, organising conferences, advocacy and communication initiatives, developing a tool to measure the social impact of sport, and managing European projects. These have allowed us to gain credibility and recognition at national and European level. Our growing recognition at the European level is well illustrated through our participation and management of European projects financed by the European Commission’s Erasmus+ Programme. Indeed, we are now leading our fourth European project (Football Including REfugees Plus) and thanks to our expertise in the field of social inclusion through sport, we are recognized as an important interlocutor within national and European decision-making processes. I am also very proud to say that due to the European nature of the Think Tank, we can claim to be a connecting point between local, national, and European actors in the field of sport.

Do you think that public authorities, notably states and the EU, have done a good job at engaging with the sports movement? How can the relationship be improved?

Sport in Europe is at a crossroads at the beginning of 2021. The new Work Plan for Sport is finally operative and outlines clear trajectories and priorities for the next three years, such as sustainable development and gender equality. Furthermore, the new Erasmus+ Sport will also open up new possibilities for actors to access EU funds. On the institutional side, we are experiencing a progressive transformation of the European Model of Sport that is becoming increasingly horizontal rather than vertical. Therefore, the decision-making process is marked by constant interactions between a plurality of actors, including institutions, states, federations, and civil society. I think Member States and the EU are aware of this steady change, and that they are coping with it and acting accordingly. Nonetheless, it is also useful to underline how the social and constructive dialogues between public entities and the sport movement may be improved. I believe that to have a full comprehension of the role of sport in our society, we need to measure its social impact. Indeed, this measurement could help to detect the real impact of a project in terms of resources and outcomes. It would pave the way for a more holistic approach to sport and a better understanding of the latter as a driver for change. Moreover, it will allow a more systemic approach to European projects since it would permit to concretely measure, analyse, and monitor the actions carried out throughout projects. Then, data could be used to strengthen future projects in the same field of action. Finally, measuring the social impact of sport could also encourage stakeholders in Europe in working together and deepening their relationship.

What do you consider to be the main challenges facing the sports movement and what solutions would you propose?

I think the sport movement must deal with and find a concrete answer to two main challenges: the inclusion of sport in the post-2020 EU funds, and as mentioned before, a more systematic measurement of the social impact of sport. Regarding the first point, I consider sport and physical activity a unique tool not only to contribute to a healthy lifestyle, but also to attract inward investments, develop sustainable solutions and business, enhance employability by developing skills, bring the community together, promote gender equality, and strengthen social inclusion. Thus, I strongly advocate for the recognition of the role of sport and physical activity in building a resilient and sustainable society. I argue for the inclusion of sport in the recovery of the pandemic support mechanisms not only as a sector that was hard-hit by the pandemic and is in need of reconstruction but also as a strategic sector in the wider economic and social recovery process. Concerning the measurement of the social impact of sport, this is a subject we at Sport and Citizenship, have been working on for a long time. As we mainly deal with the societal role of sport, we truly believe in its social impact and importance. I think it is essential to differentiate the economic and the social impacts of sport, rather than measuring its “socio-economic impact”. The economic impact is much easier to measure and assess, and there is already an impressive number of methodologies/stakeholders able to do so. On the contrary, the social impact of sport and its measurements remains underdeveloped, and lacks support, funding, and studies. In conclusion, using the same tools to measure the “socio-economic impact of sport” will result in having an accurate measure of its economic impact at the detriment of its social impact. Therefore, I argue for a clear division between measuring the economic and the social impact of the sport sector.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to work in sport?

Sport has always been a niche sector, or at least it has been considered as such. For those who want to start a career in sport, I would firstly suggest being passionate and curious about it, and then to gain general knowledge about related areas. Sport is not a lonely island; one of the main features of our sector is its multidisciplinary nature, that is to say that sport is interconnected to multiple and various sectors. Young people must be aware that it is crucial to go beyond sport if they want to work in it. Sport, for instance, is a fundamental tool to facilitate the social inclusion of refugees, to promote a healthy lifestyle, to fight against climate change, among other things. It is therefore essential for those who want to work in sport, and for the sector itself, to be keen to open its doors to related networks and areas.  If sport remains in an ivory tower, it will be impossible to move forward. On the contrary, cooperation with other sectors and open-mindedness are paramount to achieve goals and have a concrete impact on society. These are the reasons why a general knowledge about the sport and related areas is crucial to work in this field.

February 2021