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Optimising elite sport systems

SPLISS assesses and advises elite sport policy-makers on optimising their elite sport systems. Thus, we offer our expertise to countries that wish to evaluate and improve their nations’ elite sport system and climate. We make the potential improvements visible using our unique SPLISS methodology. The results will increase insights into the effectiveness and efficiency of a nation’s elite sport policies benchmarked against different nations.


SPLISS (Sports Policy factors Leading to International Sporting Success) is a network for international comparative studies on high performance sport which has the aim to coordinate, develop and share expertise in innovative high performance sport research at the policy level.



The mission of the SPLISS consortium group is “to create a sustainable international network that coordinates research and develops and shares expertise in innovative high performance sport at the meso-level (policy level) in cooperation with policy makers, NOCs, national and international organisations, and researchers worldwide”.

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What research topics does SPLISS cover?

SPLISS has developed and shared innovative research for more than 15 years about elite sport policies in the following topics:

–        Comparing national elite sport policies – SPLISS 1.0 and SPLISS 2.0

–        Developing high performance sport in specific sports: tennis, athletics, judo, winter sports

–        PARA-SPLISS: determine athlete pathways and how policies can influence Paralympic success

–        The societal value of elite sport

SPLISS shares research among interested people, through the following link.

If you would like to get involved with SPLISS research, please contact us for more information.


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What services does SPLISS offer?


How effective is your elite sport system?

Click here to know what a SPLISS assessment is all about

A SPLISS assessment evaluates a nations elite sport system and climate.

SPLISS assessments are characterised by four elements:

1: SPLISS model & its critical success factors
2: Involvement of elite athletes, coaches and performance directors
3: SPLISS Scoring system
4: Collaboration with a local partner/researcher

Key questions are:

What makes an elite sport policy effective and efficient?

How can nations improve their chances of winning medals in international sport?


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How does your country compare to others?

Click here to know what a SPLISS Benchmark is all about

SPLISS has more than 15 years of experience in benchmarking elite sport systems.

A SPLISS benchmark increases insights into the effectiveness and efficiency of a nation’s elite sport policies compared to more than 17 other nations. It makes use of the experience developed during several benchmark studies (see SPLISS 1.0 and SPLISS 2.0) and takes place at the ‘overall’ or national sport policy level.

Key questions are:

Why do some countries win more medals than others? How much do countries invest in elite sport?

How do nations prioritize their elite sport investment decisions?


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Why do countries invest in elite sport?

Click here to know what a SPLISS Outcomes study is all about

An Elite Sport Societal Outcomes (ESSO) study addresses the question ‘What positive and negative outcomes does elite sport lead to for society and for your nation?’ In other words, in what way are successful athletes as role models, elite sport events and all stakeholders involved with elite sport able to inspire a nation towards positive benefits?

Key questions are:

Does elite sport success increase our population’s national pride, happiness, national bonding, well-being… or not?

Are your national athletes as role models inspiring  youngsters to participate in sport?


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Since more than 15 years an international group of researchers joined forces to develop theories, methods and a model on the Sports Policy factors Leading to International Sporting Success (SPLISS).

Two large-scale international SPLISS-projects were conducted that identified, compared and contrasted elite sport policies and strategies in place for the Olympic Games and other events in 15 distinct nations.

With input from over 50 researchers and over 30 policy makers worldwide and the views of over 3000 elite athletes, 1300 high performance coaches and 240 performance directors, this work is the largest benchmarking study of national elite sport policies ever conducted.

This project uses of mixed methods research as a potential solution for reducing problems relating to the comparability of international data and the objective evaluation and measurement of policies in general and of elite sport policies in particular.

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Model: 9 Pillars

9 Pillars

Click on a pillar to learn more about it!

Pillar 1: Financial support


Countries that invest more in (elite) sport create more opportunities for athletes to achieve success. SPLISS research revealed that:


“In terms of input-output analysis, the best predictor of output appears to be the absolute amount of funding allocated to elite sport”


Pillar 2: Governance, organisation and structure of (elite) sport policies, an integrated approach to policy development


The amount of resources devoted to elite sport is important, but it is the organisation and structure of sport and its relationship to (a national) society that enables efficient use of these resources to further the chances of elite sporting success. It is important to have a good national communication system, involve the stakeholders, have a clear distribution and description of roles in the system.


Pillar 3: Participation in sport


Although the (lacking) relationship between sport for all and elite sport is often debated, most top athletes originate from grass roots participation. A broad base of sport participation is not always a condition for success, but it may deliver a foundation for potential success because it provides a supply of young talent and various training and competition opportunities for this talent to hone their skills. 

Pillar 4: Talent identification (ID) and development system


Pillar 4 concerns the discovery and development of talented athletes. Policy makers need to focus their attention on creating monitoring systems to identify talent characteristics, robust talent detection systems that minimise drop out, and well organised scouting systems. Many countries have talent development initiatives to support governing bodies in setting up high level training and competition programmes and to support athletes to combine their academic career with a sport career.

Pillar 5: Athletic and post career support


Many athletes who have the potential to reach the top, drop out of the system before they achieve true success. We look at the different ways in which governments provide financial support for athletes to meet their living costs and have support programmes to provide access to the services required to realise their potential. Finally, athletes also need to be assisted in preparing for life after sport.


Pillar 6: Training facilities


Training facilities are an important success factor in the process of enabling athletes to train in a relevant and high quality sporting environment. Pillar 6 is concerned with a network of high quality national and regional facilities, specifically for elite sport purposes, enabling a close link with sports medics, sports scientists / cooperation with universities and the education of younger athletes.

Pillar 7: Coaching and coach development


The quality and quantity of coaches is important at each level of the sport development continuum. Particularly important in Pillar 7 are the quality and organisation of training certification systems (where certification of coaches is required in sport clubs) and the level of time and resource commitment that (elite) coaches can give to achieving excellence with their athletes. 

Pillar 8: (Inter)national competition


The organisation of international events in the home country has a positive effect on international success. In addition, a well-developed and high-level national competition structure is a significant criterion as frequent exposure to sporting competition is a necessary factor in athlete development.

Pillar 9: Scientific research and innovation in elite sport


Pillar 9 seeks to examine the extent to which nations take a coordinated approach to the development, organisation and dissemination of scientific research and knowledge. It also is concerned with the extent that (technological) innovation plays a role in elite sport success.