Report from European Sports Development Network (ESDN)

AMPJF, which stands for the Malian Association for the Promotion of Youths and Women (in French), at the Football For Hope centre in Baguinéda. Photo © AMPJF

The purpose of this note is to update you on recent and planned developments with the European Sports Development Network.  This is being sent to those people who responded to the recent consultation, plus others key people who have expressed a genuine interest in the Network in the past and who we hope may  wish to be involved in the future.

Firstly, thanks to those of you who responded to the consultation on the future of the Network. Your responses have certainly influenced our thinking. A small group met recently to consider your comments and to develop our plans for the future. We have emerged with a much clearer vision, purpose, objectives and operating principles for the Network which are summarised in the attached paper. This document will provide a key point of reference and will guide for the work of the ESDN for the foreseeable future.

You will note our intentions to establish a leadership/steering group to coordinate the work of the ESDN. Chris Mackintosh, who has led the ESDN since its formation in 2008, will be standing down from the role of Chair from September 2013, but will continue to be actively involved in various ways. This will provide an opportunity for someone else to lead the next phase of ESDN developments.  We are also developing a web platform which will provide an important interactive tool for the work of ESDN in the future.

I am delighted to confirm that Edge Hill University will be hosting this year’s ESDN Conference on 4/5 September 2013. Professor Andy Smith and his team have some exciting plans for this event – it promises to be even bigger and better than last year’s excellent event which was hosted here at Sheffield Hallam University. Please keep an eye out for more information about this year’s conference in due course.

As part of the Conference there will be at least one session devoted to the future role of the ESDN. We also intend to elect the leadership/steering group during the Conference and discuss future activities. We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at this event.

chris-cutforthI hope you find this update helpful and of interest. Please feel free to share this information with other interested parties. And please do  get in touch with Chris Mackintosh or myself if you would like to discuss anything in more detail.

With best wishes,

Chris Cutforth
On behalf of the ESDN

European Sports Development Network (ESDN)

Statement of Purpose and Operations

Long term goal (vision)

Sport development policies, programmes and practices in the UK and Europe which are positively influenced and informed by innovative, research-informed insight and collaborations between academics and practitioners

Network Purpose (mission)

A network of academics and practitioners committed to knowledge development, knowledge exchange and critical debate which positively influences and informs sports development policy, programme development and practice.

Network Objectives and Key Work Areas
  1. To develop and share knowledge, resources, pedagogical programmes and practices which help to create rounded and critical graduates who meet and exceed the needs of employers.
  2. To facilitate collaborations, shared learning and knowledge transfer between academics, postgraduate students and practitioners.
  3. To facilitate learning from best practice within and between other countries and other sectors.
  4. To develop and submit grant aid bids to facilitate a programme of regular symposia and events and facilitate European collaborations
  5. To challenge traditional thinking, boundaries and practices in the sports development field and offer innovative ideas and solutions.
  6. To initiate, deliver and promote collaborative practically focused research projects relating to sports development policy and practice.
  7. To act as a consultative and advisory body for relevant policy and programme developments.
  8. To build strategic alliances with relevant academic and professional organisations and networks which are of mutual interest and which further the objectives of the ESDN.
ESDN’s conceptualization of sports development

ESDN has adopted a broad and evolving conceptualization of sports development which recognizes its multidisciplinary and contested nature. This approach is intended to be of interest and value to both academics and practitioners. See appendix 1 for more details.

ESDN Operations

The activities of the Network will be led and coordinated by a Leadership/Steering Group   comprising:

  • Chair
  • Vice Chair
  • Policy and Industry Advisors
  • Communications Officer – Webmaster
  • Conference Coordinator
  • Learning and Teaching Coordinator
  • Research and Scholarly Activity Coordinator
  • International Coordinator
  • Graduate Representative
  • Other members

The Leadership Steering Group will meet as and when required as well as working together virtually.

Election of officers will take place annually at the annual conference.

The Leadership/Steering Group will include a balance of academics and practitioners, reflecting the vision and purpose of the Network.

Sub-groups may be established to progress specific projects and/or areas for work, where appropriate.

Secretariat support will be sought to maintain administrative efficiency and effectiveness.

An annual work programme will be developed and agreed by the leadership/steering group annually, comprising some or all of the following activities:

  • Annual Symposium
  • Seminars and other events
  • Collaborative research projects
  • Responses to consultations
  • Meetings with key partners and stakeholders
  • Published outputs via academic and professional journals and other publications
  • Other activities which contribute to the vision and purpose of the Network

Funding and in-kind support will be secured from a variety of sources including external grants and member organizations contributions (including in-kind support).

ESDN will not be a membership body. Affiliation will be offered free and determined by attendance at events and other expressions of interest. A database will be maintained for this purpose and for online registration.

A web platform will be developed and maintained for promotional, communication and networking purposes, including links to relevant bodies and or agencies and archived materials from past conferences and symposia.

Alliances will be developed with appropriate organizations and networks including:

  • UK Sport and the Home Country Sports Councils (UK, Europe and beyond)
  • National governing bodies of sport
  • County Sports Partnerships Network
  • Youth Sport Trust
  • Sport and Recreation Alliance
  • Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (CIMSPA)
  • Physical activity and health sector bodies
  • Related academic and/or professional networks, e.g. Sports Volunteering Research Network, European Association for Sports Management, Leisure Studies Association
  • Relevant research centres and groups across Europe
  • Academic and professional journals and publishers

The main focus will be on the UK and Europe; however, contributions will be encouraged and welcomed from other parts of the world to enhance the work of the ESDN.

No finances will be handled directly by the ESDN in the foreseeable future until this is deemed necessary, for example receipt of external grants. Any funding generated by ESDN events will be the responsibility of the organizing body, with any surplus funds either retained by the organizing body or reinvested into future ESDN events or activities.  The pricing and formats of the events will be designed to encourage the early career, postgraduate and practitioner engagement in the activities of the Network.

The structure, remit and effectiveness of the Network will be reviewed annually.

These operating principles outlined below are designed to:

  • create a dynamic and responsive network which builds on the previous work of the ESDN
  • secures a focused niche which add value to work undertaken by other organizations and networks
  • provide a flexible organizational structure which recognizes the constraints of individuals and contributing organizations

Appendix 1 – ESDN Conceptualisation of Sport Development

The conceptualisation of Sport Development within the ESDN is both broad and evolving.  This has emerged from the initial Sport for All movement of the 1970s, through the Council of Europe’s definition of sport, and influenced more recently by the European Charter for Sport (2001) and the White Paper (2007), where the particular special features of Sport in the European context have been recognised.

Sport development is thus concerned with the policy and practice of sport; specifically programmes of intervention and policy impacts based in inclusion, equity, social justice and excellence in sport.

King (2012) has defined Sport Development in terms of its Sport for All origins, as it is concerned with local as well as national policy and practice to widen sport participation, where ‘sport’ includes all forms of Physical Activity.

Sport Development therefore engages academics and practitioners to underpin with theory, evidence and research specific interventions; to clarify and critique the presumed theoretical basis of programmes; to examine evidence-based policy or implementation; critique or analyse the mechanisms of change or effectiveness of policy or programmes.

The academic or theoretical study of Sport Development illuminates many contemporary debates in sport:

  • The pursuit of excellence and the challenge of more equitable sport provisions as competing interests in public policy
  • The development and enhancement of sporting experiences for the talented
  • Extending participation in those currently under-represented in all levels of sport, including leadership, coaching or in governance structures

However, an attempt to set out an all-embracing definition of Sport Development needs, as Hooligan (2011) has suggested, ‘a healthy dose of scepticism’, as well as an appreciation of cultural or ideological differences.

Sport development within the ESDN thus encapsulates a critical and multi-disciplinary approach, whilst focusing on work in:

  • The promotion, inclusion and extension of sport participation
  • The promotion of excellence and standards of performance in sport
  • The use of sport as a vehicle for both personal or social development objectives

Sport Development is often but not exclusively state or public funded policy, and may include NGOs or Charitable bodies, or commercial partners.

However, within ESDN we recognise that Sport Development is a contested and emergent field, a niche of sport policy or management, where more critical and innovative solutions to the ‘problems’ of sport policy are examined.


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