Elite Sport Societal Outcomes

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.