“Sports commercialization raises concern”

Front Ħarsien ODZ has submitted its feedback on ‘A National Policy for Sport in Malta and Gozo, 2017 – 2027, MEDE’
1. The policy aims to increase public participation in sports and makes some recommendations for its commercialisation.  However many studies show that commercialization is detrimental to participation. For example, Houlihan (1997, p 177) claims that “The increasing commercialisation of sport … has often driven a wedge between elite sports and mass participation.” This conflict should be recognized and addressed at the initial stages of policy-making.
2. It is illogical to aim at making sports “self-sustainable” by promoting tourism. It is analogous to turning the Manoel into a hotel in order to promote music. If an artist rents out her studio as accommodation we cannot say she is making money through art. In the same way, by opening up the land leased to Sports Organisations to commercial activities, that is, by building hotels and shopping centres on the land that is supposed to be used for training purposes, we cannot say that we have made sports self-sufficient.
Although this might seem like a merely academic point, it is important that national policies set clear and straightforward targets and that the recommendations they propose are aimed at reaching these stated targets.
3. In their study of Sports Tourism in Malta, Weed and Bull identify several difficulties, primarily, land and water shortages (2009, 216). They also suggest that Malta might be over-reliant on tourism (2009, 209). These difficulties should also be addressed explicitly in the policy in its initial stages.
Front Harsien ODZ reiterates its view that the carrying capacity of Malta ought to be studied carefully, before tourism is promoted any further.
4. On p. 2, the list of stakeholders is incomplete. Since the policy includes changing use of public land from sports to commercial, other stakeholders include the ministry for environment, lands department, OPM, local councils and general public. Also, since the policy promotes sports tourism, the Tourism Authority ought to be consulted. Finally, academics, especially those specialised in sport, should be involved in the consultation process too.
5. On p. 28. Front Harsien ODZ objects strongly to recommendation 1(i): “Allow public land, granted for sports facilities, to be used for commercial purposes” for the following reasons:
1.       This will result in less open space, less access to public land, more traffic, and water shortages.
2.       If public land leased to Sports Organisations is not used for the purpose it was leased, then all other options ought to be considered before a decision is made regarding a new use. This could include terminating the lease and designating a wholly new purpose for the land, such as recreational public space.
3.       Front Harsien ODZ reiterate their view that a nationwide survey of land use in Malta, especially of vacant buildings, ought to be conducted before any such policies are approved, and any new facilities ought to be planned according to SPED’s sequential approach.
4.       Any such land which is Outside Development Zone must remain undeveloped.
Houlihan, Barrie. 1997. Sport, Policy, and Politics: A comparative analysis. London, Routledge.
Weed, Mike and Chris Bull. 2009. Sports Tourism: Participants, Policy and Providers. Second Edition. London, Elsevier.

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