SPLISS Projects

An international comparative study on the effectiveness of elite sport policies

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

The SPLISS 2.0 study deals with the strategic policy planning process that underpins the development of successful national elite sport development systems. Drawing on various international competitiveness studies, it examines how nations develop and implement policies that are based on the critical success factors that may lead to competitive advantage in world sport.

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Key questions about high performance sport policy?

Why do some countries win more medals than others? How much do countries invest in elite sport? How can policy makers influence the success of their athletes? What makes an elite sport policy effective and efficient? How should we measure success? How do nations prioritize their elite sport investment decisions? What is the impact of success in international sports events on society as a whole?

How was this project developed?

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). The book ‘Successful Elite Sport Policies’ presents the results of the large-scale international SPLISS-project. For this book the research team 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 58 researchers and 33 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.

Who’s taking part in SPLISS 2.0?

The nations taking part are: • Americas: Brazil and Canada • Asia: Japan and South Korea • Europe: Belgium (Flanders & Wallonia), Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, The Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland • Oceania: Australia

More information: veerle.de.bosscher@vub.be

Download a summary of the SPLISS 2.0 book here 

To buy the SPLISS 2.0 book: click here 

The global sporting arms race

This book presents an international comparison of elite sport policies in six nations (Belgium, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and United Kingdom). Over 1,400 athletes, coaches and performance directors in these nations have provided information on the climate to perform at the highest level elite sport in their country. Over hundred criteria are evaluated and compared using a scoring system in nine sport policy areas. This book is aimed at sports professionals, academics and politicians seeking a better understanding of the factors that lead to international sporting success and seeking insights in future sport policy developments

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The key points of the 2008 SPLISS-study are characterised by four elements as outlined below.

  1. The specific focus on the relationship between policies and success and, accordingly, insights into the factors that shape elite sport policies and the pathways to success in different nations;
  2. The involvement of the main stakeholders in elite sport as part of our research methodology and as such their insights and opinions. 1090 athletes, 273 coaches and 71 performance directors in the sample nations were asked for their views about the elite sport system in their nation;
  3. The development of a theoretical model of sport policy factors leading to international sporting success, consisting of nine pillars, that have been operationalised in more than 100 critical success factors (CSF);
  4. The development of a methodology to measure the competitive position of nations in elite sport quantitatively by aggregating the CSF as key success drivers into a final percentage score; this was presented as a ‘traffic light’ to indicate the relative performance of each nation for each pillar measured.

More information: veerle.de.bosscher@vub.be

Download a summary of the SPLISS 2008 results here 

More information about this publication: click here 

PhD regarding the Societal Outcomes of Elite Sport

Researcher: Jens De Rycke

Research question: Nations investments in high performance sport is booming, which requests policy makers to justify their use of public taxes. It is predominantly argued – despite a lack of robust empirical evidence – that elite sport will trigger a number benefits for the population. The latter is highly contested among academics. Surprisingly, insights in how the tax-payer perceives the societal outcomes of elite sport is scarce. As the latter could provide valuable knowledge, the research question of this study is: ‘What positive and negative societal outcomes of elite sport are perceived by the Belgian population?’

Research methods: A scale of 73 items was build based on the positive and negative societal outcomes outlined in the Elite Sport Societal Outcomes (ESSO) Model. A representative sample from the Belgian population (n=1102) was obtained. Finally, multilevel analysis was employed to detect to what extend socio-demographic factors mediate the publics’ perception.

Results and Findings: The results indicate that the Belgian population generally perceived more positive than negative societal outcomes of elite sport. The most positively perceived outcomes relate to national pride, the status of athletes and sport industry commercial activities. Negative outcomes relate to excessive spending and effects on the local living conditions when hosting events. Also, Belgians seem to acknowledge the mental and physical destructiveness of an elite sport career.

Implications: Insights in what outcomes are perceived by tax-payers could support evidence-based decision-making regarding governmental investments in elite sport.

Athletics as a case study

The general aim of this project is to develop a model to measure and compare the competitiveness of nations in athletics, focusing on sport policy factors which can be changed or improved. Accordingly, the purpose of the project is the validation of the SPLISS-model (Sport Policy factors Leading to International Sporting Success) in a sport specific context (athletics), based on mixed research methods and the development of an international scoring system on the competitiveness of elite sport policies for athletics. A second objective is to develop a methodology to measure and compare elite sport policies at a sport-specific level. Reflecting recognised principles of economic competitiveness measurement, this study will detail a method for comparing nations’ elite sport systems less descriptively by measuring and comparing determinants of national competitiveness quantitatively.

Provisional timing

Starting in July 2010, the research instruments will be used internationally to measure and compare elite sport policies in athletics.


Nations (both researchers and policy makers) who want to take part in this study, should contact Jasper Truyens at jasper.truyens@vub.be or 0032 (2)629 27 42.

Tennis as a case study in Australia and Belgium

SPLISS tennis started in January 2010. The project is coordinated by Jessie Brouwers, a PhD student at Bond University (Australia) in cooperation with the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.


This study aims to develop a model to determine, measure and compare the policy factors leading to international success in tennis of different nations. This way we can examine the relationship between sport policy in tennis and international tennis success. The objective is to inform policy makers, researchers and high performance directors in tennis about international policy development in tennis.


Nations (both researchers and policy makers) who want to obtain more information about this study or who want to be involved in this study, please contact jessie.brouwers@griffithuni.edu.au

Para-SPLISS: Sport Policy factors Leading to International Para-Sporting Success

Para-SPLISS project purpose

The primary aim of this research program is to develop global understanding surrounding the factors optimising the successful development of elite Paralympic athletes both at the national elite sport system (research project 1), as well as at a sport-specific level (research project 2). The intention is to use this knowledge to inform national policy makers working towards improving the elite sporting climate in which Paralympic athletes train and develop as well as towards improving the success of their country in international Para-sport competitions.

Through engagement of key para-sport stakeholders, Para-SPLISS aims to develop an international network providing a communication platform that:

  1. Strengthens relationships between governments, researchers and actors of the Paralympic movement.
  2. Encourages knowledge sharing on best management practices towards the development of (elite) para-sport.

Supported by the SPLISS consortium and thanks to the effort of a diverse group of people over the period 2013-2015, the Para-SPLISS team was able to launch the project in April 2016. Para-SPLISS is currently supported by two complementary PhD projects.


PhD Project 1 – Developing a national policy framework for assessing factors influencing a country’s Paralympic success.

The first PhD project commenced in April 2015 at Victoria University in Melbourne (Australia) and is responsible for the development, validation and testing in an empirical environment of the Para-SPLISS framework.

The purpose of this research project is to identify and analyse the key drivers of effective national elite sport systems that contribute to a nation’s overall success in Paralympic competitions.

Two specific research aims have been set:

  1. To identify the key policy success factors which contribute to a nation’s Paralympic success,
  2. To identify the key contextual factors which affect the effectiveness of elite sport policies in the para-sport environment.

The long-term intention of this project (beyond the scope of this 3-year PhD) is to apply the Para-SPLISS framework in different countries to evaluate national sport policies developed and implemented to increase the country’s chances for Paralympic success.

A key aspect of this research is its inclusive methodology, which will be monitored through consultations with the Para-SPLISS advisory committee.

Project 1 research team:

Aurélie Pankowiak, PhD Candidate (Victoria University, Mebourne)

Prof. Dr. Hans Westerbeek, Principlal Supervisor (Victoria University, Mebourne)

Dr. Camilla Brockett, Associate Supervisor (Victoria University, Melbourne)

Prof. Dr. Veerle De Bosscher, External Supervisor (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium)

For more information about this project, please contact Aurélie Pankowiak: aurelie.pankowiak@live.vu.edu.au    


PhD Project 2 – Building Athletes Pathways in Paralympic Sports: explaining individual sporting success.

The second PhD project is being developed at Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Belgium). The main aim is to examine the sport policy factors that influence the Paralympic athlete pathways by identifying the different stages of Paralympic athletes’ attraction, retention, talent ID/development and mastery/perfection stage.

Two specific research aims have been set:

  1. To identify systems and structures to optimise Paralympic athlete development pathways, sport and impairment specific;
  2. To understanding the relationship between macro/meso/micro level influencing factors and sporting success.

A conceptual model “Paralympic Athlete Pathways” will be developed focusing on sport and impairment specificity. The model will be validated and tested in an empirical environment. The implementation of the factors will be examined and compared in a comparative case study to explain individual sporting success in Paralympic sports.

Project 2 research team:

 Jacqueline Patatas, PhD Candidate (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium)

Prof. Dr. Veerle De Bosscher, Supervisor (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium)

For more information about this project, please contact Jacqueline Patatas: 


All SPLISS projects are related to one of the purposes mentioned below:


 To benchmark nations against each other (also on a sport specific level and for able-bodied and disability sports), and to gain insights into the competitiveness of nations. Moreover, SPLISS aims to develop a better understanding of the societal value and the principles of good governance of elite sport. Ultimately projects aim to achieve a win-win situation for all nations involved by learning from good practices from other competitors. 


 To develop theories on the key success factors regarding elite sport policy and to develop methods to compare nations in elite sport and measure the competitiveness of nations in elite sport.


 To develop a collaborative global team of researchers and high performance experts who work on (and meet in regard to) high performance sport policy research matters; and to offer a forum for researchers to disseminate and communicate their high performance research.