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Vous êtes ici : Actualités & Agenda   >   International   >   SITUATION ANALYSIS OF SPORT IN EUROPEAN PROGRAMS



This series of booklets on the topic of Sport in Europe: International Comparisons originates from the successful partnership between a number of European universities offering academic courses in sport and physical education. Among the important benefits of these exchanges has been an increased awareness of the sporting and cultural diversities among the member states and a growing desire for greater knowledge and understanding of these sporting and cultural differences. Clearly not all students and academic staff are able to benefit by personal experience of an exchange to a partner University. As a result, partner universities decided, in 1996, on a more efficient method of providing a “European experience” for those students and academic staff who were not able to take advantage of the mobility programmes, thereby disseminating knowledge and understanding of this sporting and cultural diversity to a wider audience. The result of this deliberation was an application to Socrates for funding to develop curriculum for a European module on Sport in Europe: International Comparisons. The intention was that the module would be adopted by member universities and implemented in the degree programmes. A series of topics were planned, including:

  • Organisation & Structure of Sport in Europe (1997)
  • Organisation of Sport in Schools (1998)
  • Sports Pedagogy: Teaching & Coaching (1999)
  • Development of Youth Sport (2000)

There is little published comparative literature on the topic of Sport in Europe. Since this initiative Worldwide Trends in Youth Sport provides a valuable addition to the database of information on comparative sport.


Sport occupies an important place in contemporary western society. This importance is reflected in the growing participation rates among the general population, the expanding variety of sport forms available, the economic importance of sport, the professionalisation, commodification and privatisation of sport and the relative importance which individual states place on sports performance and sport for all. Sporting events now reach a global market thanks to increased media coverage and sponsorship and for many people sport is an important spectacle and means of entertainment as well as for recreation. Without question the last two decades has seen unprecedented changes in the way in which sport is played, organised and presented.

Whilst some trends in sport are common among most European cultures there are also some differences. Countries are experiencing different influencing factors, which affect the development of sport. A common factor across Europe is the ageing population and the fewer predicted young people engaged in sport. Sport has traditionally targeted youth. A predicted decline in the young population in the coming years (and a predicted increase in the older population) may well have an effect on national sports policies. A concern that is evident in some societies is the continued dropout of sport by young people and the ill-health associated with an inactive lifestyle. How different countries attempt to tackle both the common and the specific concerns which they face are important issues for academic study.

Although we live in a common European Community it is evident that sport is organised and structured in different ways, with greater or lesser extent of centralisation and control. Different “models” of sport have developed. Whilst this richness of ‘difference’ is to be valued (a political move towards a Federal States of Europe should not necessarily result in a common sports structure or sports policies) we can nevertheless learn from the policies adopted by partner countries in their attempt to resolve both common and specific problems facing sport.

In particular a cornerstone of European Community economic policy involves the freedom of movement of labour. An understanding of the sports systems adopted in member states, and a harmonisation of the qualifications of sports teachers and coaches, is more likely to bring about the achievement of this fundamental economic policy.

TRENDS IN YOUTH SPORTS (with acknowledgement to De Knop et al. chapter 23)

There are several trends in the development of youth sport in recent years that are common in several European countries:

1. In recent years sport has become more specialised and differentiated, and this trend is likely to continue into the future. The contemporary requirements of competitive sports performance mean that it is increasingly difficult for children to be successful in more than one sport and requires early specialisation.

2. Sport has become increasingly institutionalised and formalised. Traditional sports are played less spontaneously than previously and are increasingly organised and structured. two distinct groups of children are seen: one group heavily involved in sport on most days, the other hardly involved at all.

3. There has been an increase in individualised and independent sports, mainly using commercial facilities. Many of these new sports activities do not require formal membership of a sports club or even specialist facilities.

4. There is an increasing trend for early specialisation in specific sports, rather than an involvement in many sports.

5. Drop out of sport, particularly among girls and in traditional team sports, is a growing concern.

6. Adult sport influences youth sport both in the rules and in the way in which it is played, particularly with the increasing emphasis on winning and performance.

7. Youth sport has become more serious and organised and less playful. The increased emphasis on winning and on the financial rewards (extrinsic rewards) leads to the increasing temptation to use deviant behaviour, even in youth sport.