The clash between traditional sport structures and new, emerging activities: Sportification of esports and padel in Sweden, through the perspectives of institutionalization and standardization

Erik Demi & Jurgen Aarden
Department of Sport Sciences, Malmö University

The sportification process of esports and padel in Sweden is analysed by using the concepts of institutionalization and standardization, which are closely related elements of sportification. This contributes to mapping, and better understanding the sportification process of emerging activities in Sweden. This is relevant, as there is a lack of research on this topic in Sweden, and previous research has shown that conflicts between different stakeholders may arise. A multiple-case study design is used to draw different perspectives on the topic, where empirical data is collected through online documents and interviews with players and sport managers. 

Padel in Sweden is in the process of sportification and will expand as a sport with an upcoming membership with Riksidrottsförbundet (The Swedish Sports Confederation). Motives for this move are increased accessibility for youth to play padel, and a wish for clearer classifications according to level. On the other hand, a barrier might be the corporate character of the clubs, as they might wish to remain independent and have no incentive to grow towards more traditional sports practices, something that is in line with the commercialization of sports. Moreover, players appreciate the freedom they currently experience in their clubs. For esports, there are currently two national federations. The sport will likely become a member of RF in the future, with the main focus on facilitating grassroots competitions. Standardization is very limited, as competitions are organized by commercial entities that provide what is demanded by the audience. Moreover, the esports community has resistance towards more institutionalization and standardization, even though its importance for grassroots development and competition is acknowledged. Future research with analyses of other, carefully chosen cases will contribute to drawing a more complete picture of the sportification process of emerging activities in Sweden and will enable to further generalize the findings of this study.

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JURGEN AARDEN is a recent graduate of the Master’s programme ‘Sport in Society’ at Malmö University. Jurgen has a background in sport management and is currently working as a representative for elite athletes in Track&Field. During his education, he has focused on the development of sport and sustainability, as well as how sport can be used to create equal opportunities in society.

ERIK DEMI is a recent graduate of the Master’s programme in Sports sciences at Malmö University. Erik’s focus on research of sportification is based on what it is that defines a sport and how important the role of sports governing bodies is in the development of sports. Erik has a background, like Jurgen, in sport management and currently is on paternity leave, however, you may still run into Erik on the floorball field as a referee in Danish league matches


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