Sport club policies in Europe : a comparison of the public policy context and historical origins of sports clubs across ten European countries

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Bibliographic Details
Title translated into German:Sportklubpolitik in Europa : ein Vergleich des öffentlichen Politikkontexts und der historischen Ursprünge von Sportvereinen in zehn europäischen Ländern
Editor:Ibsen, Bjarne; Nichols, Geoff; Elmose-Østerlund, Karsten
Project staff members:Breuer, Christoph; Claes, Elien; Disch, Jannik; Feiler, Svenja; Llopis-Goig, Ramón; Lucassen, Jo; Nagel, Siegfried; Perényi, Szilvia; Piatkowska, Monika; Scheerder, Jeroen; Seippel, Ørnulf; Vandermeerschen, Hanne; van der Werff, Harold; Adler Zwahlen, Jenny
Published:Odense: 2016, 108 S., Lit.
Editor:Syddansk Universitet
Format: Publications (Database SPOLIT)
Publication Type: Book
Media type: Print resource Electronic resource (online)
Online Access:
Identification number:PU201712010810

Author's abstract

The project, ‘Social Inclusion and Volunteering in Sports Clubs in Europe’ (SIVSCE), is a collaborative partnership co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union. The project has been, and will be, implemented in 2015, 2016 and 2017. This project seeks to provide comparable knowledge across ten European countries, convert it into concrete suggestions for action, and disseminate this knowledge to politicians and sports professionals across Europe. The main aim is to promote social inclusion and volunteering in sports clubs in Europe. The project includes eleven partners from ten countries dispersed across Europe. The project is implemented in seven work packages. This report is the results of the first work package with a collection and analyses of sports club policies in the participating countries with a particular focus on social inclusion and volunteering. The aim of the report is to elucidate potential associations between the conditions that the governmental and political framework establishes on the one hand and social inclusion and volunteering in sports clubs on the other hand. This part of the overall project was conducted in three steps. At the first partner meeting of the project group, where the researchers from all ten countries were gathered, a framework for the analysis was discussed and developed as the basis of each partner’s subsequent description of the country’s sports club policies. Based on this framework, researchers from all ten countries contributed with existing research and available knowledge on sports club policies etc. from their respective countries. Finally, the information from each country was edited into a form that made the descriptions as similar as possible, and then the information was analysed with the aim, firstly, to highlight the similarities and differences between the countries regarding sports club policies, and secondly, to analyse the possible explanations for this. The theoretical inspiration for the comparative analyses is Esping-Andersen’s famous welfare state typology and subsequent developments thereof. Although welfare state typologies are developed in relation to social and welfare policy, we assume that the special characteristics of the various typologies have an impact on sport policies and the relationships between the public sector and sports clubs. The analyses show both significant similarities and significant differences, which is summarized in eight conclusions. 1. Across most of the ten countries ‘sports for all’ or ‘recreational sports’ is the main priority in sports policy, but there are great differences in how strong the practical support for recreational sport is. 2. Sports opportunities provided by volunteers almost has a monopoly position within the ‘sports for all’ policies (especially in terms of public support) in both the universalist welfare states (Norway and Denmark) and the conservative/corporatist welfare states (Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Belgium/Flanders). 3. In all countries, sports clubs receive support from the public sector – indirectly and directly, but there are significant differences as to how much and how it is provided. 4. In all the countries, sports clubs have the opportunity to get financial support from the public sector, but there are big differences as to how clubs can obtain such financial support. The most common type of economic support is ‘targeted subsidy’. 5. In all ten countries, the local level of political administration policies (local authorities, local government, municipalities and the like) is the most important administrative level for sports clubs. 6. In all the countries, local sports clubs are typically members of a national sports fed- eration/organisation and/or a regional organisation, which is a member of the national confederation of sports. 7. In most of the ten countries, it is a political priority to increase participation in sports for inactive groups and to promote social inclusion and integration of socially disadvantaged groups. But, usually, this is expressed in very broad terms – as a general goal to increase participation of underrepresented groups. 8. It seems to be a general trend, a discourse, in Europe that governments aim to strengthen volunteering and civil society in general, along with cooperation between the public and the voluntary sector. However, practical support for this varies. Three theoretical approaches are suggested as potential explanations for the similarities and differences regarding sports club policies between the countries. The first theoretical ap- proach, known as ‘social origins theory’ or ‘path dependence theory’, argues that the differences must be explained historically. Thus, the basic assumption of this theoretical approach is that the past influences the present. For example, the present structure of sports clubs and representative organisations in any one country is a historical legacy. The second theoretical approach seeks to explain the organisational system and policies from the current societal context with a particular focus on the limitations and possibilities that the political system and the public sector in general provide. These societal structures and cultures largely define the ‘space’, or the ‘political opportunity structure’, both practical and ideological, within which different organisational forms must act. The analysis indicates that a significant correlation exists between the welfare state typology and sports club policies. The third theoretical approach builds on insights regarding the relationship between economic inequality and a set of other variables to propose a holistic understanding of societies and differences between them. Analysis has shown that countries with high levels of income equality tend to have higher levels of sports participation, volunteering and generalised trust. However, we conclude that rather than levels of income equality being the sole, or main, determining variable explaining differences, we have to understand the characteristics of society as interacting, and this interaction provides a holistic description of different societies.