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Creating a lasting sporting legacy in Malta

Malta will host the Games of the Small States of Europe in May.

Earlier this week, MCAST held a two-day sports symposium with the theme ‘Inspiring a Legacy Beyond the 2023 Major Sports Events’.

The symposium consisted of numerous illuminating debates on various sports issues ahead of Malta hosting two major sport events – the Games of the Small States of Europe, between May 29 and June 3 as well as the UEFA U-19 European Championship in July.

Without a doubt, apart from the spotlight being on Malta, these tournaments will provide local athletes with the perfect opportunity to showcase their talents and challenge for the main honours on home soil.

The respective organising committees are running at full steam to ensure a successful running of the tournaments. New facilities have also been inaugurated ahead of the competitions which will no doubt provide athletes with further opportunities to continue practising their respective sports beyond the Games.

However. one must ask the pivotal question; what legacy can be taken from these Games when the tournaments come to a conclusion?

A legacy generated by a sport event can take various forms, amongst them economic, social and political, physical activity/health and wellbeing, cultural/civic pride, skills and education as well as education and future major events.

The success of a tournament is not measured simply by the number of medals that a team/athlete will win or how much revenue the tournament managed to generate for state/private coffers.

But it must also be measured by the impact that the tournament would have beyond the extinguishment of the flame.

Maltese athletes, in different sport categories, are proving that with the right mindset and mentality, success can be achieved.

This is by no means an easy feat to achieve when one takes into consideration the various limitations and obstacles that an athlete faces in their discipline.

Prior to finding themselves on a start line, athletes undergo a rigorous training regime which comes at a great significant financial cost to them, aside from the mental and physical journey that they put themselves through.

Despite the success that has been achieved, Malta still awaits to win its first gold medal at the Olympic Games.

The Maltese government, primarily through SportMalta, has continued to provide various financial assistance schemes to athletes and sport entities.

However this certainly does not cover all costs involved for every single athlete or sport entity, leaving many to fend for themselves and secure personal sponsorships to achieve their dreams.

One has to continue asking the fundamental question – how can Malta continue to strive and improve in the sport industry?

The size of the Maltese islands is what it is. We cannot continue to use our size as a defence towards achieving potential further sporting success.

The fact that Malta has been chosen to host two major sport tournaments is already a testament that Malta has the necessary resources to successfully hold such type of events, which in turn bring about significant sport tourism contributing towards the island’s coffers.

The Maltese government should set up a dedicated sport task force which would be responsible for the implementation of a national sport strategy.

Back in 2017, the Maltese Government launched ‘a national policy for sport in Malta & Gozo 2017-2027’, however not much has been publicly mentioned of such strategy since.

The national sport task force should focus on key fundamental areas of sport such as commercialisation and investment, athletes’ wellbeing, legislation aspects, education as well as legacy from sport events held in Malta.

The task force would in turn set out short, medium and long term goals, paving the way for a concrete way forward on how Malta can continue to excel in sports and reach further aims and goals whilst at the same time ensuring that the sporting legacy from events such as the upcoming GSSE and UEFA U-19 European championships continue to have a long-lasting impact in Maltese society at large.

The task force should be composed of competent individuals coming from all corners of sport; athletes, parents, coaching staff, investors, legislators, practitioners and last but not least representatives from local sport organisations/associations/federations.

In turn, the Government should ensure that the task force is given the necessary tools and resources, including financial backing, to ensure a successful implementation of the national sport strategy.    

With the right mindset and competence, Malta can continue to break barriers and advance further in sport.

To achieve this, we all need to work hand in hand, putting any differences aside and work for one common goal; that of one day proudly seeing a Maltese athlete being presented that eluded gold medal at an Olympic Games. Together we can all achieve gold.

Dr. Robert Dingli is a sports lawyer and Senior Associate at Dingli & Dingli Law Firm

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