Over one hundred forty people, representing both sport as well as the world of politics, scientific circles, cultural institutions, representatives of business and several dozen accompanying them advisers, arrived on 6th of March at the John Paul II Olympic Center in Warsaw, to take part in the inaugural debate of the "Polish Sport Round Table".
Janusz Piechociński, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy, was one of the honorable guests. Already at the beginning of the meeting, he asked the participants to point the government out "issues to deal with" - those which are most essential for the development of our sport and which, sometimes, can be quickly taken care of.
Let us remind that the meeting arranged on 6th of March was called on the initiative of the Council of Patrons of the Polish Olympic Committee and its Chairman, Dr. Jan Kulczyk. In its assumptions, the meeting was supposed to highlight main topics for discussion about the future of Polish sport. Conclusions from debates, which will subsequently take place in expert workgroups, shall be presented in form of recommendations both to state and self-government authorities as well as the entire sports community and the media.
Opening of the Meeting
POC President Andrzej Kraśnicki opened the debate, comparing the "round table" meeting to a historical event. "Until now, there wasn't such a situation in our sport which would bring together representatives of social backgrounds seemingly distant from each other and who truly care about the well-being of Polish sport for a debate", he said. Dr. Jan Kulczyk shared this opinion, assuring that "as a man of business" he perfectly knows what rivalry means and what kind of emotions does success bring with itself. Therefore, Polish sport needs a precise business plan, taking into account the needs and conditions of both professional and mass sport. "Globalization has dominated the world and we must take part in it. Sport and culture are two areas which allow for thinking in national categories such as patriotism, and for showing that Poles and Poland are present on the global arena, and can be proud of their citizenship and nationality", he said.
Statement of the Minister of Sport and Tourism
Minister of Sport and Tourism, Joanna Mucha, announced that system changes initiated by her department in the area of sport wouldn't have a revolutionary character. The desired aims are to be reached through an evolutionary process, which would consist of, among others, a new specification of the role and tasks of the Ministry and the Polish Olympic Committee. She pointed out that sport federations must move towards a different, more modern, work model, announcing at the same time that their relations with the Ministry would soon be less bureaucratic than now. She also promised the introduction of a different mode of signing agreements with sports federations, for the implementation of tasks commissioned in the area of sport. This should enable the federations to obtain at least the first installment payment of the budget subsidy already in the first days of the New Year, rather than - as the case is now - after a period of 2-3 months.
Defects of Legal Provisions
The issue of defects of legal provisions governing sports activity was raised by subsequent speakers: President of the POC Court of Arbitration for Sport, former Justice Minister and Public Prosecutor General - Prof. Zbigniew Ćwiąkalski and Chairperson of the Polish Sejm Physical Education, Sport and Tourism Committee, Deputy to the Sejm, Ireneusz Raś. The former announced that the Committee had already been working on amendment proposals to the Act on sport of 25 June 2010 and would certainly consult those amendments with the widely understood sports community until the end.
The Role of Sport in Everyday Life
The role which sport should play in everyday social life was also discussed by: Jan Krzysztof Bielecki, Chairman of the Economic Council of the Prime Minister and Mateusz Kusznierewicz, two-time Olympic medalist in sailing. The latter encouraged not to be afraid to take example from the experiences of other countries, which once decided to commit themselves to sport and are now gaining profit from such decision. In a similar tone spoke the former President of Polish Football Association, Michał Listkiewicz, who at the same time pointed to certain fiscal solutions implemented by Hungarians in their country, which would be worth transferring (at least partially) to the Polish reality. These solutions facilitate and, actually, encourage economic entities to provide long-term sport sponsorship in exchange for tax benefits. He also mentioned the possibilities of financing physical education from the sources of bookmakers, who organize sports betting. In his view, financial means of considerable size could be acquired from this source and transferred particularly to sport. President of Poznań, Ryszard Grobelny, talked with anxiety about the fact of "financial shrinking" of local government budgets. Presently, they are more and more often faced with the choice whether to spend money on sport or other immediate needs. He also mentioned the highly important issue of rational sports base usage. "We already have quite a lot of beautiful venues. The problem is, they should be in constant use. They cannot stay empty because it is an evident waste", said host of the capital of Greater Poland region.
Problems with Financing
The problems of financing sport were raised, among others, by the following speakers: Wojciech Szpil, President of Totalizator Sportowy Ltd (POC General Sponsor), Irena Szewińska, winner of 7 Olympic medals (including three gold), Member of the IOC and POC Vice-President, Robert Korzeniowski, 4-time Olympic champion in race walk, Tomasz Redwan, marketing specialist and Prof. Zbigniew Waśkiewicz, POC Vice-President, President of Polish Biathlon Association. The latter presented the assembly the most important conclusions from consultation with federations - POC members - which preceded the "Round Table" debates. Conclusions showed the sometimes unsatisfactory level of the Ministry's services, too late, as compared to needs, transfers of subsidies and the lack of possibility to plan in the long term. The demand for a four-year-long, compatible with the Olympic one, cycle of planning sports activities, funds for their implementation and reporting effects, were just some of the issues he raised. "Sport isn't a nail factory", Waśkiewicz stressed with emphasis.
Promotion, Media and Legal Defects
At the plenary discussion, which was full of authentic concern about Polish sport, the issue of a greater need of support, from the side of the state, of federations, which host in Poland great sports events, was also discussed. "It is an excellent way to promote Poland", stressed the speakers.
President of Warsaw's "Legia" football team - Bogusław Leśnodorski - pointed to several errors and flaws in the legally binding documents and tax regulations, whereas Deputy to the Polish Sejm Zbigniew Pacelt - a former athlete, participant in three Olympic Games (in swimming) and coach (modern pentathlon) - emphasized the need for a review of the system of youth sport. The current one, run since the year... 1994 doesn't fit to contemporary reality. "The world is changing, so let's try to keep up with it", he appealed.
The role of media in promoting sport as well as presenting its most important problems was stressed by the Head of the TV Polsat sports channel, Marian Kmita, and the President of the Polskie Radio SA Management Board, Andrzej Siezieniewski. "Polsat, similarly to TVP, is a serious sponsor of sport", stated M. Kmita, while the head of the public radio broadcaster informed about the preparation of a set of conclusions resulting from studio debates on sport, which could be then used in the works of the "Round Table's" specialized workgroups. Those of them chaired, among others, by Joanna Mucha (Sport Strategy Development), Prof. Zbigniew Ćwiąkalski (Legislation) and Orange Corporation President, Maciej Witucki, (Financing Sport) started their work right after the completion of the plenary debate. Their first sittings had an organizational character. The follow-up proceedings will, most probably, be scheduled for the few upcoming months.
It All Begins at School
"It was a useful meeting", stated Dr. Jan Kulczyk recapitulating the debate. "The discussion had a creative and educative character. I cannot, however, resist the feeling, that when talking about sport we enter a kind of "vicious circle". On one hand we talk about money, whereas on the other - about lack of results. There is no money - so there aren't results. There aren't results, so there isn't money. It's impossible to say where the beginning of this is. However, it all begins at school. It isn't at all a coincidence that in international rivalry, for instance during the Olympic Games, most medals are won by athletes from the USA, China or Great Britain. Sport is part of the school, part of education in those countries. Therefore, it is so important to search for funds for sport of children and the youth. Without them, we certainly won't solve the problems of 'adult' sport", said the Chairman of the POC Council of Patrons.