Sports Policy Factors Leading to International Sporting Success (SPLISS)

SPLISS coordinates research in high performance sport policy and its relation to international sporting success. Its purpose is to increase insights into the effectiveness and efficiency of elite sport policies of different nations at an overall and sport specific level. SPLISS involved over 18 countries/60 researchers/40 policy organisations

 Prof. dr. Veerle De Bosscher, Prof. dr. Simon Shibli, Prof. dr. Hans Westerbeek & Prof. dr. Maarten van Bottenburg

Books Journals articles

The Societal Value of Elite Sport (2014-2019)

Drs. Jens De Rycke

 Promotor: Prof. dr. Veerle De Bosscher

The escalating costs needed to achieve elite sport success causes governments to get entangled in an unsustainable, upwardcompetitive spiral leading to excessive spending (Houlihan & Zheng, 2013). When facing the challenge of justifying this prioritization to their public, elite sport policy makers increasingly tend to advocate for elite sport development by stating that it will ‘trickle’ a wide range of societal benefits (e.g. an increase in its population’s sport participation) (De Bosscher, Sotiriadou, & van Bottenburg, 2013). This strategy, however, is being criticized by academics questioning its efficiency and effectiveness and the justification of its investments (Grix & Carmichael, 2012). One could state that elite sport is ‘battling’ with its societal position in light of the uncertain/unproven influence mechanisms and societal benefits. As a result, the aim of this PhD study is to build knowledge related to the question ‘why nations should care about winning medals, and therefore why they should invest in elite sport’.

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A Multiphase Design strategy (Creswell & Clark, 2011), which involves different phases of data collection and analysis will be used. Thus, in a first phase, the elite sport potential societal impact will be identified and a conceptual model and a measurement instrument will be developed. In a second phase the conceptual model and the measurement instrument will be tested and used in an empirical environment. In order to do this, a population study in Belgium will be performed. In the third – and last – phase, the focus will be on only one aspect of the model, namely the elite athletes and their assumed role model function. The project will contribute to theoretical understanding of the societal value of elite sport, furthermore, it can inform elite sport decision makers in judging whether or not elite sport funding can be the answer to a specific goal.



Monetary Valuation of Elite Sport Success: An International Comparison

Dr. Hiroaki Funahashi

Co-promotor: Prof. dr. Veerle De Bosscher

How can we make the value of elite sport policy visible? Many of the benefits of international sporting success (e.g. improved national morale) are such that nobody can be prevented from feeling them (non-excludable), and everyone can enjoy these benefits together with no congestion in consumption (non-rivalrous). In other words, international sporting success is a pure form of public goods (Gratton and Taylor, 2012). Normally, the valuation for public goods cannot be done through market prices, but contingent valuation method (CVM) circumvents the absence of markets for public goods by presenting respondents with hypothetical market in which they have the opportunity to price the good. This is achieved by framing the willingness to pay (WTP) question in the context of a hypothetical market for the goods.

Incorporating the CVM, research to estimate the value of elite sport success in a monetary scale has gradually been advanced in the field of sport management (e.g. Funahashi & Mano, 2015; Humphreys et al., 2016). Meanwhile, it cannot be overlooked that there is a research need to compare the value of sporting success among different countries to investigate culture and international competitiveness related differences (Wicker et al., 2012). The purpose of this research is to present an international comparison of the monetary value of elite sport success and identify the factors associated with the WTP.

Download the flash report of this study

The primary aim of the SPLISS Paralympics projects is to develop global understanding surrounding the factors optimising the successful development of elite Paralympic athletes both at the national elite sport system, as well as at a sport-specific level. 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:

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

Supported by the SPLISS consortium, the Para-SPLISS team was able to launch the project in April 2016. Para-SPLISS is currently supported by two complementary PhD projects.

The Examination of Sport Policy Factors Influencing Paralympic Elite Athletes’ Pathways: developing athletes and creating pathways to success.

Dra. Jacqueline Martins Patatas

 Promotor: Prof. dr. Veerle De Bosscher

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:

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

A conceptual model of “Paralympic Athletes’ Pathways” will be developed focusing on sport and impairment specificity. The model will be validated in an empirical environment using the Brazilian Paralympic sport context.


Drivers of Paralympic Excellence: Developing a National Elite Sport Policy Framework to Assess Factors Influencing Paralympic Success (2015-2018)

Dra. Aurélie Pankowiak

 Promotors: Prof. Hans Westerbeek, Dr. Camilla Brockett, Prof. dr. Veerle De Bosscher

Little is known about the characteristics of national elite sport policies that can specifically and effectively optimise the development of talented para-sport athletes. In addition, the organisation of para-sport at the national level is fragmented and contextual barriers provide challenges for athletes with a disability to access international competitions. The aim of this project is to develop, validate and empirically test a national framework of elite sport policy factors important for a country’s Paralympic success.

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Competitiveness at the Paralympic Games is increasing and the elite profile of para-sport and athletes with a disability is growing rapidly. As a result, a number of nations are starting to strategically invest in elite para-sport to increase the country’s chances for Paralympic success.

Guided by the realist evaluation framework, key related contextual elements that influence the effectiveness of these policies will be explored. This PhD will follow an inclusive, exploratory mixed-methods research design using the ‘Sport Policy factors Leading to International Sporting Success’ (SPLISS) model as a reference. The study will contribute to theoretical understanding of national elite sport policy effectiveness in the Paralympic domain and the research outcomes will inform elite (para-) sport decision makers.



Predicting elite sporting success: the relationship between international junior and senior success in elite sports

Dra. Li Pingwei

 Promotor: Prof Dr. Veerle De Bosscher

The aim of this project is to understand the relationship between international junior success and international senior success in elite sports, to examine to what extent senior success can be predicted based on junior performance. The intention is to use this knowledge to inform policy makers, high performance managers to develop appropriate policies that facilitate talent identification and development.

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Main research questions are:

To what extent can successful junior players maintain their junior success to a senior age? From what age junior success become a reliable indicator of international senior success?

how should junior success be used in the talent identification and development programs?

The main aim of this project is to examine to what extent senior success can be predicted based on junior performances, from what age junior success becomes important in predicting senior success. The intention is to use this knowledge to inform policy makers, high performance managers to develop appropriate policies that facilitate talent identification and development programmes.

This project has been divided into three phases:

  • Phase one: Qualitative research: analysis of 13 sports of more than 10,000 athletes performance results
  • Phase two: Case study: 30 years longitudinal study in Tennis
  • Phase three: Qualitative research: Interviews with 28 policy makers/ elite coaches in 20 countries



A Cross-Cultural Comparison of the Transition out of Elite Sport- An investigation across the Swiss, Danish, and Polish elite sports contexts (Pillar 5)

Dr. Andreas Küttel

 Promotor: Jørn Hansen (main supervisor), Professor, lic.phil., Institute for Sport Science and Clinical Biomechanics, University of Southern Denmark, Denmark

This PhD thesis investigated the transition out of elite sport from a holistic and ecological perspective. It aims to enhance the understanding of how the national elite sport setting and socio-cultural context influence athletes’ careers and their life after elite sport.

The main question that guided this PhD project was:

How does the socio-cultural context, including the sports systems of different countries, influence athletes’ transition processes out of sport and the quality of the adaptation to the post-sport life?

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To answer this research question, former elite athlete answered a online survey about their sports career and the transition process. Furthermore, interviews with stakeholders involved in athletes’ dual career were conducted in all three countries.

In this mixed-method PhD project, the transition of former elite athletes from Switzerland, Denmark, and Poland was compared in terms of preconditions, adaptation quality, and life situation after finishing the elite sport career. A total of 401 former elite athletes completed an online questionnaire for that purpose. Analyses showed that the transition out of elite sport was easiest for Swiss athletes, while Polish athletes faced adaptation difficulties in several areas (e.g., financial, educational).

To investigate further on the influence of the context on athletes´ careers, interviews with experts in athletic dual career were conducted in all three countries. This information supplemented the detailed information and data about elite sport system that the SPLISS study 2.0 (De Bosscher, Shibli, Westerbeek, van Bottenburg; 2015) had collected. Thanks to the agreement I could make with the Prof. Veerle De Bosscher and the SPLISS group, I was granted access to the data in Switzerland and Denmark which served as a secondary data source. Furthermore, I got the permission to use the Overall Sports Policy Inventory Pillar 5 on athletic (post) career support to collect the relevant data in Poland. Results of the comparison between the three countries showed that there are different programs available for combining an elite sport career with education or work (i.e., dual career), and there are different underlying assumptions embedded in these three national contexts about how to support athletes in their elite sport and dual career endeavors.

Applying a cultural praxis, this thesis emphasizes the importance to consider the socio-cultural context when studying athletes’ careers and transitions. Therefore, context-specific recommendations are provided to improve athletes’ healthy development within elite sport and their life beyond.



High-performance Judo: organizational factors influencing the international sporting success. (2016)


Promotors: Prof. Dr. Maria Tereza Silveira Böhme and Prof. Dr. Veerle De Bosscher

High-performance Judo: organizational factors influencing the international sporting success

Doctoral dissertation submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor in Physical Education and Movement Sciences

 Judo can be considered a popular sport in the world and is an important Olympic sport. Since Barcelona 1992, 56 Olympic medals have been awarded in judo (one country cannot win more than 14 medals). By consequence, some countries consider judo one of the major investment target for their high-performance sport policies. Following the recently tendency in the Sport Policy research area, which is research that analysing sport systems and success factors at a sport specific level (Brouwers, Sotiriadou, & De Bosscher, 2015), the aim proposed in this PhD study was to identify the organizational factors influencing the international sporting success in international high-performance Judo. Organizational factors were understood as manageable factors present in a system.
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To fulfil the objective of this research, a Sequential Exploratory Design was used, which involves three phases. The initial phase was the collection and analyses of qualitative data, in this case was 33 individuals (athletes, coaches, performance directors and experts) that act in the international high-performance judo and Content Analysis. The second phase was a questionnaire development and the first validation of the qualitative results by Content Validation with six experts. The third and final phase involved the collection and analysis of quantitative, which was the application of one questionnaire in sample of 406 individuals, divided into athletes, coaches, performance directors and experts from Brazilian high-performance judo context and an Exploratory Factor Analysis.
The main results were 11 categories and 44 subcategories were identified which were considered the dimensions and the organizational factors influencing the international sporting success in high-performance judo. The 11 categories were:

  1. Sport system, organization and structure;
  2. Sport participation at all levels;
  3. Athletic career and post career support;
  4. Financial resources;
  5. Quality of Teachers and Coaches;
  6. Tradition, history and cultural aspects;
  7. Competitions;
  8. Training facilities;
  9. Governments (interest), sponsors and media;
  10. Talent identification and development;
  11. Scientific support.

From these results, the “Judo Organizational Factors Influencing the International Sporting Success” (JUDO-OFIISS) model was developed and validated in the second and third phase. Besides that, the results from the third phase also provided interesting findings. In this quantitative phase, one of the main findings was that success in high-performance judo systems depends on the combination and synergy of resources, process and environment, which may be different in each country.

Specifically for judo, the identified results may provide knowledge into the development and management of high-performance judo and it can even be used as a model for the identification and evaluation of key factors in existing judo policies and systems. As to its theoretical contribution this research contributes to the understanding of sport policies and high-performance sport systems considering a sport specific level.



The role of elite sport policies, pathways and inter-organisational relationships in developing elite tennis players. (2016)


Promotors: Prof. dr. Popi Sotiriadou (Griffith University), Prof. dr. Veerle De Bosscher
Co-promotors: Prof. dr. Graham Cuskelly (Griffith University)

Elite athlete development is the result of a combination of elite sport policies, athlete development pathways and interactions between various stakeholders that are involved in the delivery of athlete development pathways. These factors make elite athlete development a complex, multi-layered and multi-faceted field of study that necessitates specific research efforts that focus on how these factors contribute to elite athlete development in specific sports. This thesis used mixed methods and three studies to examine elite sport policies, athlete development pathways and interactions between stakeholders that are involved in the delivery of athlete development pathways in tennis.

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In the first study, 35 international tennis experts participated in an online questionnaire which examined tennis-specific and policy related factors that influence international tennis success. The questionnaire combined (a) open questions on factors that influence elite tennis success of countries, and (b) Likert scale questions based on the Sport Policy factors that Lead to International Sporting Success (SPLISS) model (De Bosscher, De Knop, van Bottenburg, & Shibli, 2006). In the second study, in-depth interviews with 18 tennis experts revealed how sport organisations and stakeholders within these organisations develop, deliver or support tennis player programs and strategies that shape elite player development pathways. The third study examined the ways that inter-organisational relationships between tennis clubs and a tennis federation facilitate player development. Data were collected through document analysis and 14 in-depth interviews with representatives from the tennis federation and clubs in Flanders.

Elite athlete development in a commercialised sport, like tennis, appears to shift away from typical government driven sport policies and development pathways to include the emerging influence of private tennis academies, clubs and third party organisations which sit outside government policy direction. Practical implications of this thesis help athlete development stakeholders to manage and deliver sustainable elite player development programs.



Organisational capacity in elite athletics. A comparison of resources configurations in four countries. (2016)


Promotors: Prof. dr. Veerle De Bosscher
Co-promotors: Prof. dr. Bruno Heyndels (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Faculty ES)

Sporting success and the competitive advantages of countries are found within individual sports’ contexts. Different authors contributed to the need of research on elite sport practices in specific sports, but so far, no research identified key determinants or evaluated sport practices leading to a competitive advantage in a country-by-country comparison. Therefore, the purpose of this PhD study is to identify how nations develop a competitive advantage in athletics.

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In the first study, 98 key organisational resources and first-order capabilities were identified and categorised in the 10 dimensions of the ORFOC-framework (Organisational Resources and First Order Capabilities), congruent to common dimensions of elite sport development. In the second and third study, a method to evaluate the organisational capacity of countries in athletics has been developed and applied in a five sport system comparison (Canada, Finland, Flanders, the Netherlands and Wallonia). The method represents the development of composite indicators that can be used to evaluate the key organisational resources in athletics. Additionally, the method uses a configuration analysis to review the alignment of resources into specific resource configurations. The results indicate that for six dimensions of the ORFOC framework, Finland obtained the highest composite index score, followed by Canada and the Netherlands. Flanders (talent identification and development), the Netherlands (coach provisions and development) and Canada (training and competition facilities) obtained the highest competitive index score in one of the ORFOC dimensions. The configuration analysis revealed that these sport systems organise their resources differently. The sport systems vary in relation to program centralisation, athlete development, and funding prioritization. In the fourth study, a market based analysis on top 8 and medal success at world championships and Olympic Games provided evidence of a systematic decrease of competitive balance in athletics. Additionally, the international competition is very dynamic as market shares changed significantly between countries.

The comparison of five sport systems helps understand how countries develop strategy from specific resources and capabilities and poses significant implications for high performance managers and policy makers.



Market-based view of Nations on the Medal Market of the Olympic Winter Games (2013-2017)

Drs. Andreas Weber

 Promotors: Prof. Dr. V. De Bosscher & Dr. H. Kempf

The aim of this PhD study is to evaluate the strategic approach applied by successful nations from a market-based view towards increasing their success at the Olympic Winter Games.

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Strategic management is commonly researched in firms. The first step of the strategic management process generally starts with an environmental scanning (Wheelen & Hunger 2010). The environmental scanning consist of an internal analysis from a resource-based view (Barney, 2001; Wernerfelt, 1984) and an external analysis from a market-based view (Hooley, Greenley, Fahy, & Cadogan, 2001; Porter, 2008).The major critic on resource-based view is that it neglects the influence of market dynamism (e.g. Wang & Ahmed 2007). Hence, Hooley, Piercy and Nicloud (2008, p. 149) propose the model of “competitive positioning” to merge the two perspectives.

In sports management, several researchers applied the internal analysis from a resource-based view to research the strategies of nations in elite sport to increase their sporting success (e.g., Robinson & Minikin, 2012; Truyens, De Bosscher, Heyndels, & Westerbeek, 2014). To the best of our knowledge, so far, no research has been conducted analysing the strategic management process applied in nations focusing on the market-based view. In order to conduct meaningful interviews with successful nations, first the tools to conduct a market analysis are deductively derived from economics and applied in the context of the Winter Games. In a second step, the positioning of nations at the Winter Games prioritizing certain sports or disciplines is analysed. Finally, the strategic management process of nations targeting winter sports to increase their success is examined. A strategic management process applied by firms commonly consist of five steps: 1. environmental scanning, 2. strategy formulation, 3. strategy implementation, and 4. evaluation & control (Wheelen & Hunger, 2010).

This PhD contributes to the literature introducing the market-based view in elite sports. Furthermore it offers national policy makers a tool to analyse competition at the Olympic Winter Games.



The Examination of the environment of elite sport in South Africa

Shaundre Jacobs, Joint PhD Candidate

VUB – Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium & SU – Stellenbosch University, South Africa

 Promotors: Prof. Dr. V. De Bosscher & Prof . Dr Ranel Venter (SU)

The main aim is to examine the holistic environment of elite sport and describe the climate of the elite sporting system which plays a role in the nations sporting  success.

Three specific research objectives have been set:

  • To evaluate the quality of the implementation of elite sport policies;
  • To understand if contextual factors influences  an elite sporting system of a particularly ‘emerging ‘ African country, and identify how this shapes elite sport policy;
  • To examine the power relationships between stakeholders within  elite sport.

An holistic methodology will be used to describe the specific environment of elite sport in South Africa  by means of using a mixed methods approach.

For more information about this project, please contact Shaundre Jacobs: OR