15 Nov 2018 Health Club Management Handbook
 

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Health Club Management Handbook - European perspective

Industry insights

European perspective


What challenges, opportunities and considerations lie ahead for the fitness sector across Europe in 2015?

Nathalie Smeeman, EUROPEACTIVE
A Europe-wide recognition of diplomas could help more fitness instructors work overseas photo: www.shutterstock.com/ taramara78
Active ageing is likely to be a key focus for the European Week of Sport, with an emphasis on participation in fitness clubs photo: www.shutterstock.com/ bikeriderlondon
There are already 46 million fitness members in Europe; the aim is to reach 80 million photo: www.shutterstock.com/ antoniodiaz
#BeActive: The first European Week of Sport will take place in September 2015 photo: www.shutterstock.com/ press master

At a political level, 2014 was marked by the European elections and the appointment of the new European Commission, led by Jean-Claude Juncker, the former Prime Minister of Luxembourg.

Among the top priorities for the Union in the coming five years, Juncker has emphasised the need to address the remaining obstacles to a fully functioning single market, including the barriers to the free movement of workers.

The driving forces behind the changes in the European political agenda and the fitness sector are essentially twofold: firstly, the alarming rates of obesity, the worrying levels of physical inactivity and the ageing demographic profile of European citizens; and secondly, the need to deal with the underlying issues of the financial crisis, and in particular improving the levels of employment, entrepreneurship, transnational business co-operation and research. If not addressed, these issues could have devastating consequences for Europe’s social and economic fabric. On a more positive note, both issues present opportunities for the fitness sector to grow its influence and business.

A professional passport
With the mobility of labour and skills an important part of the EU treaties, as well as the need to recognise qualifications at a European level, the recently updated EU Directive on the recognition of professional qualifications (2013/55/EU) is a crucial piece of legislation, encouraging a more automatic recognition of diplomas. The concept includes the development of a European Professional Card, also known as the European professional passport.

Based on the fitness sector qualification framework developed by EuropeActive over the last decade, the fitness sector will continue the dialogue with the EU throughout 2015, with a view to developing a professional card for fitness occupations. Effectively this will mean that all practising fitness professional will need to meet certain standards and hold a ‘licence to practice’.

Meanwhile, off the back of the DIAL Project – the first joint initiative of EuropeActive and the European Confederation of Outdoor Employers, the two members of the Active Leisure Alliance which concluded in October 2014 – there will be continued efforts from the fitness industry to secure a Europe-wide recognition of qualifications. The DIAL Project provided stakeholders across Europe with the opportunity to begin to establish a platform for social dialogue, and there’s now a broad consensus among the key actors that setting up a European sector skills council is a crucial step to build on the strength of the active leisure market, and also help to support entrepreneurship.

At the same time, EuropeActive remains engaged within the European Commission reference group for the classification of skills, competences, qualifications and occupations (ESCO). This process – based on the European Register of Exercise Professionals (EREPS), which was set up to promote a better understanding of fitness occupations and the mobility of its 35,000 members from 32 different European countries – has provided a new agreement on the sector’s definition and recognition of the key occupations. With the recent announcement of the new Level 6 Advanced Health and Exercise Specialist qualification, there’s now an opportunity for graduates to join EREPS and have their degrees fully recognised.

The identification of essential skills for exercise professionals through ESCO has now been supported by the first Human Kinetics’ books based on EuropeActive’s standards, helping ensure that the skills and competencies for fitness trainers are updated and developed to support employers’ and clients’ expectations.

80 million members by 2025
As shown by the 2014 European Health and Fitness Market report, published by EuropeActive in partnership with Deloitte, the European fitness sector continues to grow. In addition to the considerable development of equipment manufacturers, figures show there are currently more than 46,000 fitness facilities across Europe, which help more than 46 million people achieve their fitness goals.

Nevertheless, a lot more can be done and the sector must welcome its responsibilities in promoting the benefits of health enhancing physical activity (HEPA). With this in mind, in April 2014, EuropeActive set out an ambitious goal of 80 million fitness users by 2025.

In order to achieve this target, the fitness sector will need to rethink its model and its offering, challenging received wisdom and finding new ways to reach untapped markets. It must build new partnerships with universities and research centres, focusing on the need for professionalism and the need to show good governance.

Meanwhile, in addition to the use of new digital technologies, fitness operators are also expected to improve their marketing methods and develop programmes to attract people who want to exercise outside of the gym. Moreover, the sector must increase co-operation with the healthcare sector and embrace a more holistic approach to individual wellbeing.

Sharing research, knowledge and ideas will be key, and EuropeActive has therefore launched the EuropeActive Knowledge Centre, designed to drive information sharing across Europe. National associations will also be key actors in getting Europe active by 2025, encouraging the sharing of good practice and new ideas across their respective markets.

A new sporting ambition
With the fitness sector increasingly being recognised for its contribution to promoting HEPA at national and EU levels, it’s worth looking at the emerging political landscape for 2015 and how this will influence and affect our position.

In June 2014, the European Commission (EC) adopted the EU Work Plan for Sport, which is intended to act as a flexible framework capable of responding, when needed, to developments in the field of sport. Its key topics include the integrity of sport, its economic dimension and the relationship between sport and society. It includes good governance, the economic value of the sector, HEPA and training and education. Following its adoption, the EC set up five expert groups to look at particular areas related to sports and fitness. Each group includes experts from the Member States, and EuropeActive will be present as an observer.

The EU Work Plan will focus on enhancing the co-operation around sport in the EU context, strengthening the collaboration between the EU and relevant competent organisations at a national, European and international level.

Finally, to promote the importance of activity, the European Commission has announced that the first European Week of Sport (EWoS) that will take place in September 2015. EuropeActive is a member of the small advisory group and will be involved in the delivery of the programme, which will carry the strapline of #BeActive. This initiative will be accompanied by a broad communication campaign, as well as some funding opportunities for fitness operators and associations. Active ageing is likely to be one of the key areas for EWoS, with an emphasis on participation in fitness clubs and centres for this population group.

Another important piece of work that’s already underway is the European Committee for Standardisation Working Group on Fitness Centres, which is expected to be operative by spring 2015. It has a wide-reaching ambition for standards that will determine how fitness centres should be built and operated, which will be challenging and could potentially add further costs to operators. EuropeActive is following this process closely.


FIND OUT MORE
EuropeActive publishes regular synopses of
EU affairs and events, which are available at
www.europeactive.eu, as well as a weekly Brussels Bulletin.


Originally published in Health Club Handbook 2015 issue 1

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