In my personal experience, the efforts of the British arm of the project so far appear to have been poor, especially on the promotional side. Public awareness seems to be non-existent; I have mentioned EYES to many people, young and old, at every level of the education system; from my neighbours’ primary school children to my 16 year old brother, to my Mother, (a project manager at the local 6th form college). Neither any of them, nor any of the others I spoke to were previously aware of the EYES. Whilst I am aware that this casual sampling cannot be considered in any way to be indicative of the entire British population, they don’t exactly imply a resounding success of the project in my local area. However, it is important to note that in this, as in all cases, only 4 months of the year have passed and there is still time for awareness to be created.
There are 5 projects currently running here in the UK: The use of sport and education for the social inclusion of asylum seekers and refugees. (Loughborough University) Basic Skills and Education through Sport (Hull City Council) Clean Start programme (UK Sport) Learning Through Football: Euro 2004 (Football Association) Leeds Education Activity Partnership (Leeds City Council) http://www.eyes2004.org/projectnews.htm The first project on the list highlights the poor promotional aspect perfectly. Whilst it is being run here at Loughborough University; the level of awareness of the project itself and of EYES as a whole has been minimal.
Continental Europe, however, may prove to be a different story. Whilst the British Physical Education system is comparatively relaxed in its decentralisation, possibly leading to the aforementioned ineffectiveness in the dissemination of the EYES message, the French political infrastructure, for example, may prove a far more effective and efficient vehicle for the promotion of EYES due to its highly centralised nature.
Another aspect is to promote the value of voluntary work for the young and the benefits it can provide for informal education. An example of this is in Portugal where by The Portuguese Youth Institute supported by the European Voluntary Service are giving children under the age of 16 the opportunity to help out in European Football Championships 2004 as ball boys and holding flags and banners before games. The aim of the scheme is to bring young people from different communities and racial backgrounds together through voluntary participation in sport.
It may also be argued that, whilst 2004 may have initially appeared to be the ideal year for EYES, with 2 internationally prestigious sporting events being hosted in Europe; the reality may be somewhat different in that EYES could well be overshadowed to the point of insignificance by both Euro 2004 and the Athens Olympics. To make a conclusive statement about the success of EYES at this early stage in the year would I feel be somewhat nave. It can be said however, that the right building blocks have been put into place in order to make it a success. The infrastructure and the organisational aspect is far-reaching enough to be of use to the whole continent; whilst remaining centralised enough in key areas to focus on the same goals. The promotional side is again set up right, with representatives from many sports and many countries being involved from the high-profile to the less glamorous.
Whilst the signs of implementation of EYES in schools are encouraging; LEAPS (Learning and education through activity and participation in sports) in Dublin; Basic skills and Education through Sport (Hull); Together in Sport for growing up (Italy); the true results of EYES’ success in schools may take some time due to the enormous amount of feedback required to get a realistic overview of all events and projects.
The apparent lack of continuation in terms of the aims and objectives of the initiative can be put down to one of two things. One is that the EU are banking on the continuing success of a one-off push into sport, ignoring the possibility of a speedy return to the low participation rates of recent years. The more likely explanation is that, whilst the EU realise that the effects of EYES may wear off as the future years go by, it will be more effective, given the comparatively small budget available, to concentrate on getting the message out there to as many people as possible this year than to try to implement long-running programmes with less public awareness.
Ultimately the deciding factor on the success or failure of EYES, as with most things, will be the budget. Even if, as suggested, the money is directed in the correct manner with minimal amounts of wastage, it is still a relatively insignificant sum on an international scale. I would predict that for there to be any lasting impression left by EYES on the future education through sport in this continent, the amount of funding behind the initiative would have to be substantially larger. Whether or not this is the case, only time will tell.