Zagreb, 31 May 2022 - Enthusiasm is no longer enough, in the upcoming period Croatian sports needs systematic solutions with a good development strategy - the unique conclusion of the conference "Croatian Sports 2030", organized by Večernji list and Croatian Olympic Committee in the Crystal Hall of the Westin hotel in Zagreb.
The Conference, dedicated to the current situation and the perspectives and strategy of the development of our sports by the end of this decade, brought together an impressive gathering of around 30 participants, including many prominent officials from the Croatian sports system, as well as scientists, experts in EU funds and public relations, lobbyists, journalists...- The aim of this Conference is to make our athletes even more recognizable, to provide them with finances, that is, conditions for development. Compared to 2015, the budget for sports is higher by HRK 500 million, this being a proof that the state cares deeply about sports. And that is why I believe that Croatian sports will be what it has been in the next 30 years, one of the biggest Croatian brands - said at the beginning of the Conference editor-in-chief of Večernji list Dražen Klarić.
President of the Croatian Olympic Committee Zlatko Mateša expressed his desire for this Conference to result in a clear strategy of where our sports will go by 2030. Croatian Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Zdravko Marić once again showed that he understands the needs of Croatian sports: “I like the message "Enthusiasm is not enough". I am well aware that we have to increase the investment of the state in sports, and we are increasing them year after year. We will further increase them, not only for the top but also for recreational sports. Of course, we should also invest in coaches, sports scientists, all sports staff. In the latest rebalancing, we gave sports additional HRK 60 million. I am glad that one of the panels concerns the connection between the European funds and sports because there is a lot of room for improvement. We need a systematic solution to finance sports, with tax breaks we plan to give boost to companies that will invest in sports. It's the best way.”
Five interesting panels followed, with State Secretary for Sport Tomislav Družak, President of the Croatian Olympic Committee Zlatko Mateša, President of the Croatian Chamber of Economy Mladen Vedriš, President of the Croatian Football Federation Marijan Kustić and Professor at the Faculty of Political Science Božo Skoko participating in the first one on the topic "Croatian Sports today and tomorrow".
To single out are the following messages:
"Our situation is such that we can see sports as an industry or a social activity. The sports industry is more than 2.2% of the GDP of the European Union, and in our country it is 1.6%. The social activity of sports, however, starts from the kindergarten age. But we are faced with a very bad demographic situation. Finances can be easier to get rid of than to increase the population." (Mateša)
"Croatia has a lot of obese children, as many as 38% of boys and 34% of girls. We are having discussions about increasing the number of hours of physical education in schools, and until then we are trying to compensate for this disadvantage through development of school sports." (Družak)
"Croatian Football Federation has been an alliance for a long time, and children in Croatia are very attached to football. We have 120,000 registered players and more than 1300 clubs. But we also have good scouts who bring us diaspora players. Perhaps other federations should take this path." (Kustić)
"As a goal should be set to increase profits from marketing, tickets, but also to provide a model that will motivate various companies to invest in sports. For now, we have a system in which we dive on our breath, and we need to create a system in which we will dive with bottles. We have to give the athletes an extra motive, and with the genetics we have, we will certainly be successful." (Vedriš)
"Before the World Championships and in 1998, only three percent of the world's population heard about Croatia in the world, and after bronze in France as much as 70 percent. In 2018, Germany's Bild declared Croatia the Most Sporting Country in the World. After tourism, Croatia is globally best known for sports. I'm glad sports is now connected to the tourism ministry, it's a very good way." (Skoko)
The second panel, on the topic "National Sports Federations - Challenges", was attended by: Sanda Čorak (Vice President of the Croatian Olympic Committee and Head of the Croatian Judo Federation), Tomislav Grahovac (President of the Croatian Handball Federation), Ante Baković (President of the Croatian Volleyball Federation), Perica Bukić (Croatian Water Polo Federation), Neven Šavora (Director of the Office of National Sports Federations and Research and Development Program Enhancement Department of the Croatian Olympic Committee) and Dražen Brajdić (journalist of Večernji list). Funding of national sports federations has been highlighted as the main problem, and as one of the solutions (for his sport), Ante Baković proposed "a lot of small sponsors, modelled on Italy", and Sanda Čorak - a greater participation of local and city sports communities in financing of sports. Journalist Brajdić initiated the idea of full financing of only a certain number of sports in Croatia and offered a list of the most successful sports at the Olympics.
Prof. Igor Jukić, Director of the newly established Center of Excellence (CIRSP), gave an opening statement to the "Science and Sports" thematic panel, who said that 20% of the available knowledge should be pursued to turn 20% of the available knowledge into 80% success. Professor at the Faculty of Kinesiology Damir Knjaz and world-renowned geneticist Dragan Primorac, fitness coach Pero Kuterovac and the most successful water polo coach Ratko Rudić also participated. I believe that this Center of Excellence should also deal with development of athletes in the pre-pubescent age because then they are most able to receive stimuli, and they will represent us in the world in 2030, Rudić argued, while Kuterovac said that coaches need scientific support offering new methods of developing the abilities of athletes or more effective methods of their recovery. Professor Primorac pointed to medical breakthroughs in the field of genetics, which provides insights into the possibilities of athletes from an early age.
On the eve of the panel on the topic "European Union Funds", guests from the Slovenian Olympic Academy Aleš Šolar and Matic Švab presented the enviable success of our neighbors in withdrawing money from European funds. In addition to Šolar, the panel discussion was then attended by: Secretary General of the Croatian Olympic Committee Siniša Krajač, Director of the Croatian Volleyball Federation Valentina Bifflin, Director of the company Project Equal Development Ana Fresl and longtime lobbyist at the EU Željko Ivančević. After the Secretary-General of the Croatian Olympic Committee claimed that Slovenia can be a role model for us in this area, it was noted that Croatia has twice as much funding as Slovenia had when it was admitted to the EU. One has particularly highlighted Erasmus+ that offers huge opportunities with a clear vision and long-term defined objectives. Željko Ivančević said Croatia has a lot of room for improvement and should target amounts that are at least four times higher than the money Slovenia managed to withdraw.
The panel included: Director of the Office for International Cooperation and Communications at the Croatian Olympic Committee Mia Baćić, public relations expert Ankica Mamić, Večernji list journalist Tomislav Dasović, editor of the Tportal sports section Vlado Radičević and Dejan Gluvačević, Head of the Communications Department at the Edward Bernays University College. Ankica Mamić pointed out that sports managed to get its position in the media, but the athletes did not take the opportunity to become a much larger stakeholder in the general communication sphere. The participants agreed that social networks have long become the most desirable communication tool for athletes, and it could be learned from the journalist Dasović that Dalić's "top 11 footballers" have as many as 34 million followers on Instagram. In the fact that they can create messages to the public themselves, there is also an answer about the distrust of athletes (most notably footballers) towards the media – resulting in media suffering.
In his closing statement, Secretary General of the Croatian Olympic Committee Siniša Krajač thanked the co-organizer Večernji list and all participants of the Conference "which showed the very depth and all the challenges of Croatian sports". He added that sports represents not only a competition but also an emotion, and that it is our task to keep this emotion in the people, and to provide athletes with the best possible conditions for work.
- Croatian sports and Croatian athletes never lose - Krajač optimistically concluded. (NOC of Croatia/VK)