< Back to previous page


A cross-country examination of the attributed public value of elite sport

Book Contribution - Book Chapter Conference Contribution

Aim and Research Questions This research aims to lay a foundation and develop more in-depth knowledge about public perception of the potential positive and negative societal impact of elite sport across European countries and possible inter-individual differences that may affect the perception of the population. The cross-country examination will create an overview which allows policymakers to compare and learn from other European countries. Theoretical Background and Literature Review Policymakers argue that investing in elite sport not only leads to a greater likelihood of medal success, it would also bring a range of beneficial societal outcomes (De Rycke & De Bosscher, 2019). These societal outcomes are used to justify high investments; nevertheless, much uncertainty remains about the origins of these outcomes. Recently, research emphasized that elite sport will not automatically translate into positive outcomes for society. De Rycke and De Bosscher (2020) highlighted that there is a range of mechanisms in between, such as the correct marketing, financing, management and use of elite sport. It is therefore recommended to focus on how those outcomes can occur rather than ‘if’ elite sport can lead to societal outcomes (De Bosscher et al., 2021). It is here that our research seeks to contribute. Through a comparative study of the perceptions about the positive and negative effects of elite sport on society, we seek to provide a foundation for policymakers and a basis for further research. The research by van der Roest and Bake (2021) emphasizes that mapping the perceptions of the population around these outcomes can be a valuable tool for policymakers. Research Design, Methodology and Data Analysis The research is part of a broader Erasmus+ Sport project 'Athletes4society’. A population study is conducted in seven European countries (Finland, Portugal, Poland, Czechia, The Netherlands, France and Belgium) to assess the expected public value of elite sport. The survey was translated in six languages (Czech, Dutch, Finnish, French, Polish, Portuguese). In each country 1400 people were surveyed via an online survey, with the exception of Belgium where 2000 people were surveyed (Total N = 10404). The samples are representative for each population. For this research, we use the MESSI scale. The MESSI scale is based upon the MESSI framework. De Bosscher and De Rycke (2019) created a comprehensive framework of all the possible positive and negative effects, clustered in 10 dimensions. These dimensions summarise the public value that elite sport can generate. Within the MESSI scale we plotted 70 items on a bipolar 7-point Likert scale. Following De Rycke and De Bosscher (2019) these items were thematically clustered into 10 dimensions: (1) Social equality and inclusion, (2) Collective identity, connection and pride, (3) Ethics and fair play, (4) Happiness and experiences, (5) Fans and media, (6) International image and political power, (7) Athletes quality of life and competences, (8) Sport participation and inspiration, (9) Economic development and partnerships and (10) Local consumption and environment. Results/Findings and Discussion A positive MESSI-score is measured in each country. All countries perceive a positive influence of elite sport on societal outcomes. European citizens are most convinced that elite sport can have a positive impact on ‘Happiness and experiences’ (average = 76%), ‘Collective identity, connection and pride’ (average = 74%) and Economic development and partnerships (average = 73%). On the negative side of the scale negative effects are mostly perceived on ‘Social equality and inclusion’ (average = 26%), ‘Athletes quality of life and competences’ (average = 26%) and ‘Local consumption and environment’ (average = 25%). Comparing countries, the population of Portugal is more convinced that elite sport can generate positive effects than the populations of other countries. Citizens of France are the least convinced of the positive effects and perceive negative effects of elite sport more likely in comparison to other countries. In all countries we see an impact of watching the Olympics. The overall MESSI-score of citizens that (frequently) watched the Olympics is significantly higher than the overall MESSI-score of people who did not (frequently) watch the Olympics (p<0.05). In Belgium, France, The Netherlands, Czechia and Finland a significant difference was found between the overall MESSI-score of female citizens and male citizens (p<0.05). In Belgium, Czechia, Finland, Poland and Portugal having an athlete role model leads to a significantly higher MESSI-score (p<0.05). Conclusion, Contribution and Implication This study aimed at developing a broader understanding of public perception of the potential positive and negative societal impact of elite sport across European countries and possible inter-individual differences that may affect the perception of the population. Research findings might create a foundation for policymakers to compare and learn from other European countries. Additionally, findings might guide organisations in their search for how positive outcomes of elite sport can be fostered and managed. From a research perspective, our study lays the groundwork for further research on ‘how’ elite sport can generate societal value.
Book: Book of Abstracts: Bridging Sport, Tourism & Leisure Management
Pages: 421-422
Number of pages: 2
Publication year:2022
Keywords:Societal value, Public value
  • ORCID: /0000-0002-5401-856X/work/119877710
  • ORCID: /0000-0002-4392-986X/work/119877595