Characteristics of voluntary sports clubs with targeted initiatives for underrepresented population groups: The role of organisational goals, resources, structure and context


Karsten Elmose-Østerlund1, Svenja Feiler2, Christoph Breuer2,
Jenny Adler Zwahlen
3,4 & Siegfried Nagel3
1 Centre for Sports, Health and Civil Society; Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics; University of Southern Denmark; 2 Institute of Sport Economics and Sport Management; German Sport University Cologne; 3 Institute of Sport Science; University of Bern, Switzerland; 4 Special Department for Integration and Prevention;
Federal Office for Sport, Switzerland


Even though voluntary sports clubs are expected to play an important role in accomplishing the political goal to deliver ‘sport for all’, a number of population groups remain underrepresented in organised sport. Considering this, the aim of this article is to identify organisational characteristics of sports clubs that work strategically to integrate underrepresented population groups by offering targeted initiatives. Logistic regression analyses were conducted using survey data from more than 30,000 sports clubs in nine European countries. Factors within all the four included aspects of organisational characteristics (goals, resources, structure and context) were found to be relevant for the implementation of targeted initiatives. The results also revealed that it was mainly the same factors that were significantly correlated with the propensity of clubs to offer targeted initiatives across all three examined population groups: people with disabilities, people with a migration or ethnic minority background, and people on a low income. In particular, the existence of integration-related goals and service-oriented goals regarding long-term planning (organisational goals) as well as paid staff and paid management (organisational resources) were positively correlated with the presence of targeted initiatives. Regarding organisational characteristics and context, large, young, multisport clubs located in an urban setting were found to be more inclined to offer targeted initiatives. Having identified a number of club-related factors relevant for the presence of targeted initiatives, our study can inform policy implementation that seek to increase participation of underrepresented population groups in organised sport.


Click here to read this peer reviewed article in Scandinavian Sport Studies Forum, Vol. 13, 2022


KARSTEN ELMOSE-ØSTERLUND is an Associate Professor in sports sociology at the University of Southern Denmark. He has a master’s degree in sports science and political science. Karsten’s primary research topics include sports participation and movement habits; the organisation of sport, including sports clubs; and social integration in sport. He was the project leader for the European research project ‘Social Inclusion and Volunteering in Sports Clubs in Europe’ from which this article originates.

SVENJA FEILER is a researcher at the Institute of Sport Economics and Sport Management at the German Sport University Cologne. She holds a diploma degree in Business Administration and a Master degree in Sport Management (M.Sc.). She is responsible for managing a large-scale panel study on nonprofit sports clubs in Germany, the Sport Development Report. Her main research interests are nonprofit sports organizations, nonprofit sports clubs’ finances, and sport development.

CHRISTOPH BREUER is a Full Professor in sport management at the German Sport University Cologne. He has a master’s degree in sports science, economics and pedagogy. Christoph’s primary research topics include organisation and finance of sport, including sports clubs. He is the project leader for the German Sport Development Report and founding member of the European Sports Economics Association.

JENNY ADLER ZWAHLEN is research assistant at the Special Department for Integration and Prevention of the Federal Office for Sport in Magglingen (Switzerland). She did her doctorate on the topic of ‘Social integration of people with migration background in organized sports’ at the Institute of Sport Science at the University of Bern. During this time, she has been involved in the project ‘Social Inclusion and Volunteering in Sports Clubs in Europe’.

SIEGFRIED NAGEL is a Full Professor at the University of Bern and Director of the Institute of Sport Science. His main fields of interest are sport organisation research, particularly in sports clubs and federations, as well as sport participation research. He is the leader of several research projects in sport sociology and sport management that mainly focus on social integration in organised sport, sport club development, volunteering and professionalisation.


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