Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

An Analysis of Homogeneity and Heterogeneity of Elite Sports Systems in Six Nations

Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

An Analysis of Homogeneity and Heterogeneity of Elite Sports Systems in Six Nations

Article excerpt

Abstract

This study examines the homogeneity and heterogeneity of elite sports development as a consequence of the internationalisation process in six nations (Belgium, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and the UK). Nine policy areas or 'pillars' that were identified as important sports policy factors leading to international sporting success are compared. The findings suggest that elite sports policies are becoming increasingly homogeneous, but that there are considerable variations in each of the nine pillars.

Keywords

elite sports systems

elite sports policies

elite sports development

Executive summary

As a consequence of internationalisation, elite sports systems from different nations have been copied all over the world. Accordingly, in their search for the best pathway to success, elite sports systems and policies of different nations are converging to uniform models of elite sports development. But there is room for diversity. This paper explores to what extent elite sports policies in six nations (Belgium, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and the UK) have become more homogeneous, and where differences emerge.

The study uses a framework of nine policy areas or 'pillars' that are identified as important sports policy factors leading to international sporting success. Data is collected through individual researchers in each nation, using semi-structured written questionnaires. 46 critical success factors are compared in order to detect the main similarities and variations in the sample nations for each pillar.

The results endorse the opinions of other authors that homogeneity has increased, but also show that there are considerable variations in each of the nine pillars, and that large differences emerge in the way elite sports policies are implemented in the different nations. It appears that the best-performing nations in the Olympic Summer Games (Italy, the UK and the Netherlands) also spend the highest amount of money on elite sport. Differences are found in the priorities made by nations for elite sport (like Canada, the Netherlands and Italy) compared to sport for all (Norway, Belgium) and the number of sports that are targeted for elite sport. Furthermore, all nations provide financial support for athletes, but the range of support, the criteria and the purpose vary considerably. Financial support for coaches is still slow in developing in the sample nations. All the nations, except Belgium, have structural coach education systems for the highest level of elite coach and several career development services. Only in Canada and Italy is a coach qualification required in sports clubs.

In conclusion, it was stated that generally little variation was found in the global organisation of elite sports policies, and there is a trend towards institutionalisation and centralisation of elite sport. However, the internationalisation process has also led to increasing distinctions because nations implement policies differently, fitting within their own cultural background and their priorities in elite sport. Finally, it was stated that some questions remain internationally unsolved in elite sports policies, indicating that still no consensus is found on the theory of sports policy factors leading to international sporting success.

Introduction

The discussion of internationalisation is a global one, which certainly also affects elite sports development. As borders have become more porous, as more information is available on elite sports systems and policies through the internet, and as nations strive for the same goal of 'winning more medals', it is an evident consequence that nations imitate and copy elite sports systems from each other. This is related to the increasing competition in high-performance sport and the awareness that standing still means going backwards, because elite sporting success is determined by the velocity of sports developments of rival nations (De Bosscher et al, 2008). …

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