Untitled Document
23 Jan 2018 Health Club Management Handbook
 

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Health Club Management Handbook - European perspective

Industry insights

European perspective


Details of EU initiatives that will impact the fitness sector in 2014

Cliff Collins, EHFA
The last Eurobarometer report showed fitness to be the largest participation ‘sport’ in Europe photo: shutterstock.com / Andresr
A new classification structure will identify occupations such as personal trainer photo: shutterstock.com / Edyta Pawlowska
New Physical Activity Guidelines will include advice on collecting participation data photo: shutterstock.com / Andresr

Last year saw the conclusion of a new strategic plan for the European Union (EU) that will start to come into effect from 2014 onwards – a new seven-year strategy that combines under the heading of ‘Europe 2020’.

This new European strategy will focus on dealing with the underlying issues of the financial crisis, and in particular improving levels of employment, entrepreneurship, raising skills, transnational business co-operation and research.

The EU Commission has the responsibility of overseeing the delivery of the complex policy areas of Europe 2020, and the sums of money behind it are considerable. For example, for the next seven years the education and training budget will be €14.5bn, while the research budget will be €70bn.

Opportunities and threats for fitness
The education and training element of the Europe 2020 strategy is called Erasmus+ and, for the first time, there’s separate funding for sport and active leisure – including fitness – called the Sport Chapter. A total of €300m will be made available for project work in areas such as promoting health-enhancing physical activity, vocational education and training, and anti-doping in recreational sport and fitness.

The area of anti-doping has been of concern, as new recommendations have been proposed by the EU that could impose controls on fitness centres – including potentially dope-testing customers, as already happens in Denmark. EHFA has worked with the EU expert group and has proposed its own voluntary Code of Conduct in anti-doping, which is being used as an example of best practice and is free to use.

Education and vocational training (VET) is a central piece of EU work and there will be continued development of the EHFA standards for use in the training and qualifications of fitness professionals – both for initial VET and in continuing lifelong learning (CPD), now called C-VET. EHFA’s work translates the main ideas developed by the EU for use in the fitness sector, with over 200 experts now contributing to the development of the EHFA standards. Close co-operation with SkillsActive and ukactive helps drive recognition of qualifications for trainers and assists their movement across Europe and around the world.

Meanwhile, the role of fitness is now much better understood by the EU Commission thanks to the work done by EHFA in Brussels over the past five years. With an increasing emphasis from the EU, WHO and national governments on promoting the benefits of health-enhancing physical activity (HEPA), the opportunity for fitness to develop higher and more specific standards to work in this area, and with other health professionals, is quite apparent.

In 2014, there will be new EU Physical Activity Guidelines and the latest Eurobarometer – a Europe-wide survey of activity habits of citizens. In 2010, the Eurobarometer showed fitness to be the largest participation ‘sport’ (practised by 11 per cent of the EU population); with more accurate ways of measuring attendance, we can expect an even better outcome from the new survey when it’s published in April 2014.

Meanwhile, the new Physical Activity Guidelines will include guidance on collecting participation data, to help us monitor progress and the effectiveness of our interventions in a bid to get more people exercising.

Plan for Growth – Europe Active 2025
The more evidence we collate, the better the position for fitness becomes, and with the support of the Wellness Foundation (Technogym), EHFA is preparing a major piece of work that will be released at the first European Health & Fitness Forum, to be held on 2 April at FIBO in Germany.

Called ‘Plan for Growth / Europe Active 2025’, it will collate research that proves how fitness and structured exercise programmes are cost-effective, realistic interventions when compared to other healthcare regimes. Leading universities will be contributing to the evidence, and the aim is to use the data to help increase the number of people using fitness across Europe, from a current estimate of 44 million to 80 million by the year 2025.

A brand new European Fitness Forum at FIBO will launch the plan and will provide the context, background and information for fitness operators and trainers across Europe, as well as better informing national governments and the EU of the important role that fitness can play – and how we are going to achieve the growth.

Industrial relations: EHFA – Employers
EHFA is at an important stage in its development and now needs to be more organised and structured to improve the exchange of information between and among representatives of governments, employers and workers in fitness, on issues of common interest related to economic policy and industrial relations.

A new employers’ association called EHFA-E – with ukactive’s David Stalker as chair – is starting discussions with employee groups (trades unions) in what is known in the EU as ‘social dialogue’, but also known as industrial relations or employer and employee agreements.

It’s important that employers become engaged with this process, as it will begin to review areas of common interest such as health and safety, qualifications, levels of pay, contracts of employment and so on. It will end with some collective bargain agreements. It’s likely to be a long process, but fitness will be able to join over 40 different sectors – such as manufacturing, tourism and aviation – where social dialogue is already underway.

Classifying fitness workers
A completely new classification system is underway across Europe that’s identifying occupations, rather than the older format of identifying the broader economic activities of sectors such ‘manufacturing’ or ‘leisure’. The EU Commission is inviting sectors to describe their key occupations and, importantly, the qualifications needed to support them.

For the first time, fitness is separately identified, and occupations such as group fitness instructor and personal trainer will be systematically recorded and analysed at an EU level. The fitness occupations are identified using the EHFA standards and those used by the European Register of Exercise Professionals (EREPS).

This may help in the development of a ‘licence to practice’ system for fitness professionals, supporting the work of EREPS and the use of common qualification standards across Europe – further improving workers’ mobility, driving new skills development and encouraging agreements with employers through social dialogue as described above.

The fact that the EU has now recognised fitness as a separate sector also improves its position with national governments, their agencies and policy-makers. It will also ensure we get much better intelligence on the numbers of workers and the current qualification levels.

Self-regulation
Although the EU often tends towards deregulation, there are many other institutions and organisations that can influence fitness businesses – for example, the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN), the major provider of European Standards and technical specifications.

CEN has established a new working group that’s using DIN standards (the German Committee for Standards) to look at all aspects of fitness operations, including environmental controls, minimum staffing levels, and the qualifications staff will need. EHFA is a liaison organisation within the working group.

Self- and co-regulation has been the approach to date for the fitness sector in Europe, and European representation by EHFA within this type of activity is vital so we can proactively create opportunities, as well as safeguard ourselves against potential threats. Without this, the fitness sector will find itself on the receiving end of some potentially expensive and bureaucratic decisions. Continued support of EHFA from its members and stakeholders is essential to maintain this level of monitoring and influencing of EU activities.


For further information
The European Health & Fitness Association (EHFA) is the leading not-for-profit organisation representing national fitness associations and the European health and fitness sector with the EU institutions.
Web www.ehfa.eu.com


Originally published in Health Club Handbook 2014 issue 1

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