Will the municipalities continue to fund sports?

Will cities, struggling with rising energy prices, be able to maintain their commitment to sports? On March 30, during a press conference in Paris, BPCE Observatoire made public its report on “Local authorities, the main public financier of sport”. According to the study, government spending on sports today amounts to 20 billion euros. †About 60% of the budget is borne by local authorities“, emphasizes Alain Tourdjman, director of studies and forecasts at the banking group BPCE.

Of this 12.5 billion – considered a low hypothesis – the essential is borne by the municipalities (8 billion) and the EPCIs (3.1 billion). These amounts are spent on the construction of infrastructures, their management, the supply of materials, the organization of school activities, subsidies for associations and clubs… “There is a complementarity between the contribution of the municipalities and the intercommunity (…). The EPCIs are a way to cut costs in equipment, to gain access to more expensive infrastructures that the municipality could not finance.“Alain Tourdjman analyzes.

This is the case, for example, for swimming pools, ice sports grounds, large stadiums… In fact, in the territory, the lowest expenditure at the municipal level is usually offset by that of the EPCI, leading to one “relative homogeneity of sports expenditure within the municipal bloc“says Alain Tourdjman. Of the other public financiers, the ministries and regions have expenditure of 1.4 billion euros.

The importance that different types of communities attach to sport is also reflected in the proportion of this expenditure in their budgets. The study shows that sport ranks 18th for the regions, fourth for the EPCIs and second for the municipalities. For the latter, it represents 10% of the budget and 15% of the investments. An additional sign of the importance given to the topic by local elected officials was that the decline in sports operating costs in the year 2020 was essentially limited to those that affected the organization of banned sporting events. †Even during the crisis there was no withdrawal» emphasizes Alain Tourdjman.

318,000 sports equipment and deserts?

In total, France has 318,000 sports facilities, the result of a history in which public policy priorities have evolved, with clear territorial specificities as well. From 1945 to the mid-sixtieswe have developed great equipment in a logic of universality, sport for all», says Alain Tourdjman. Stadiums have been built, nature reserves have been developed for nautical activities…

Second phase, from the mid-sixties to 1995, these are “the thirty glorious years of sports equipment‘ continues the expert. The pace of construction is accelerating: half of the current facilities date from this period. The type of projects is diverse. This is followed by a new phase from 2005, which is more aimed at the rehabilitation and reorientation of existing infrastructures towards new sports. The number of orders decreases. In addition, the private sector is becoming increasingly important.

Today, even 83% of sports facilities are owned by local authorities. They manage three quarters of this, compared to 13% for associations and 9% for the private sector. But the latter owns 19% of the infrastructure developed after 2005, when the community share for this park fell to 74%.

Another finding of the study is that of territorial differences in terms of sports infrastructure. At the geographical level of the department, sports expenditure per inhabitant is very diverse. †Behind sports expenditure lies a vision on area development. For some areas, this corresponds to a logic of economic development related to sports tourism“Alain Tourdjman analyzes. This is particularly the case in the West and the Alps, which have invested heavily in water sports or skiing and have maintained their attractiveness through sport.

Other areas have very different combinations of equipment and methods of practicing the sport. In the countryside, for example, an associative practice predominates, with modest equipment. Conversely, in Paris or in the Alpes-Maritimes, the share of the private sector is greater and the infrastructure is diversified. Yet another case, that of the North: the practice of sports is more limited, the equipment less numerous.

Financing the heating of swimming pools

According to the BPCE study, local elected officials today do not intend to deviate from the principles that guide their sports policies. And they were reinforced by the government’s announcement last October of the financing plan (200 million euros) for the construction of 5,000 local sports facilities (city stadiums, skate parks, etc.). , elected officials see necessary changes.

One of their priorities is to continue financial efforts, but also to look for savings. This may involve making infrastructures more agile or reducing energy consumption. In this field, for 25 years,considerable effort has been made, but much remains to be done» emphasizes Alain Tourdjman. The heterogeneous infrastructure stock is not always in good condition. For example, 32% of the sites built before 1985 have not been renovated (more than 80,000 units). Today, more than half of the equipment that is heated (a quarter of the stock) is gas fired. only 5% uses solar energy.

The question is how to finance these projects. †We know how great the financial constraints of local governments remain (…). A very important additional investment in sport can only be made through other actors. One can imagine that this is mainly due to the recovery plan and the measures in favor of the energy transition (…). Another possible way lies in an interaction with private actors, while preserving the local government model“Alain Tourdjman analyzes.

Beyond the issue of funding, elected officials face another critical issue: transforming their offerings to respond to societal changes in sport. More and more, the French practice it “autonomously”, with a view to well-being, and no longer in association, combined with a quest for achievement…