Sports Policy Factors Leading to International Sporting Success (SPLISS)

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

 started in 2002

  • 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

Who are we and what do we?

Since 2002 the research group SASO (within sport policy and management) took the lead in the development of an international research network on (elite) sport development, reflected in the name SPLISS: Sports Policy Factors Leading to International Sporting Success (SPLISS).

The mission of the SPLISS is “to create a sustainable international network that coordinates, develops and shares expertise in innovative high performance sport research at the meso-level (policy level) in cooperation with other policy makers, NOCs, national and international organisations, and researchers worldwide”. SPLISS 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. 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 uniqueness of the SPLISS research lies in the specific methods to measure and evaluate effectiveness of elite sport policies of countries in a mixed quantitative and qualitative way, by the comprehensive theory development adopting elements from sport management, strategic management, governance, sport policies and public policies as well as competitiveness studies in an international comparative context; and by it’s close cooperation between researchers from different countries and policy makers.

Apart from enhancing (elite) sport development research at the levels of input (money)-throughput (processes)-output (success), SPLISS also integrates the ‘outcomes’ (value) –or the wider social role of (elite) sport to the inputs and throughputs.

SPLISS has grown to be one of the leading research organisations in elite sport development, involving the cooperation of universities and policy organisations from over 20 countries. The network is widely recognized, as evidenced by the number of national sport organizations and national policies that currently apply the SPLISS model and methods in their policy development and by the number of peer reviewed publications, key note presentations at international scientific conferences and the international cooperation between different universities that signed a memorandum of understanding. In 2008 SPLISS researchers received the Best Paper award at the Sport Management Conference in Perth for their methods used in comparing elite sport policies. In 2015 the group finished the largest benchmark study in Sport in collaboration with 58 researchers and 33 policy makers worldwide, comparing 15 nations. The increasing worldwide recognition of the SPLISS project was confirmed by more than 300 attendants from 45 different countries during the first SPLISS world conference on elite sport policy in Antwerp (2013), successfully continued in Melbourne (2015) and to be planned in Utrecht (2017).

SPLISS – Projects

National Elite Sport Policies

SPLISS 1.0: The global sporting arms race (2008), comparison in 6 nations – free download: readers digest; full book: De Bosscher, V., Bingham, J., Shibli, S., Van Bottenburg, M., De Knop, P. (2008). The global Sporting Arms Race. An international comparative study on sports policy factors leading to international sporting success. Aachen: Meyer & Meyer. ISBN: 978-1-84126-228-4. (173p).

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SPLISS 2.0: De Bosscher, V., Shibli, S., Westerbeek, H., van Bottenburg, M. (2015). Successful elite sport policies: an international comparison in 15 nations. Aachen: Meyer & Meyer. ISBN: 978-1-78255-076-1.

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Why do some countries win more medals than others? How much do countries invest in elite sport? What makes an elite sport policy effective and efficient? These key questions are answered in the book “Successful elite sport policies: an international comparison in 15 nations (SPLISS 2.0)” Read this report now to find out the key issues!

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Sport Specific SPLISS projects

SPLISS Athletics – Dr. Jasper Truyens, SASO, Vrije universiteit Brussel (PhD deended 2016: – Organisational capacity in elite athletics)

SPLISS Tennis – Dr. Jessie Brouwers, Griffith University (Australia) in collaboration with SASO, Vrije universiteit Brussel (PhD defended 2016: The role of elite sport policies, pathways and inter-organisational relationships in developing elite tennis players)

SPLISS Judo – Dr. Leandro Mazzei, University of Sao Paulo (Brazil) in collaboration with SASO, Vrije universiteit Brussel (PhD defended 2016: High-performance judo: organizational factors leading to international sporting success) (PhD in development – Switzerland. Nations’ strategic approach to the Olympic medal market in winter sports)

SPLISS winter sports – Drs. Andreas Weber (PhD), Swiss Federal Institute of Sport Magglingen SFISM in collaboration with Vrije universiteit Brussel (Switzerland)

Other SPLISS projects:

  • Swimming: a comparison of Flanders and the Netherlands (Meyers, masters thesis, Vrije universiteit Brussel 2009), Ice scating (Boogerd, masters thesis, Utrecht University, 2011)
  • Horse riding (Van Laer, masters thesis, Vrije universiteit Brussel, 2012)
  • Canoe (Sotiriadou et al., 2013)
SPLISS in different sporting contexts

PARA-SPLISS: Sport Policy Effectiveness in Paralympic Sports 

  • Jacqueline Patatas, SASO, Vrije universiteit Brussel, The Examination of Sport Policy Factors that Influence Paralympic Athlete Pathways
  • Aurélie Pankowiak. SASO, Vrije universiteit Brussel, National Paralympic Excellence: Developing an elite sport policy framework to assess the effectiveness of national elite sport systems for Paralympic success.

Outcomes: the value of elite sport – Drs. Jens De Rycke. The social value of elite sport. SASO, Vrije universiteit Brussel

Other projects:

  • elite sport in cities (Fenke Van Rossum, masters thesis, Vrije universiteit Brussel, 2012)
  • Elite sport and military participation (under development) (Luiz Fernando Medeiros Nóbrega, Brazilian Army)
  • A network approach to elite sport policies (Susana Rodrigues, PhD, Lisbon University/Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Portugal)

SPLISS – Conferences

Some impressions

SPLISS, together with the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and the SPLISS consortium partners –Utrecht University, Victoria University and Sheffield Hallam University- organised it’s first ‘World conference on elite sport policy’ in Antwerp (Belgium) in 2013, hosting more than 300 people from 43 countries, including the USA, Canada, Australia, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Japan, China and different African and European Countries. Since then, it intends to organise a conference every 2 years.

  • 2013: 1st World conference on elite sport policy’ in Antwerp (Belgium), November 22-23: Elite sport success: society boost or not?
  • 2015: 2nd World conference on elite sport policy’ in Melbourne (Australia), hosted by Victoria University, November 23-24
  • 2017: 3rd World conference on elite sport policy’ in Utrecht (the Netherlands), hosted by Utrecht University, August 31-September 1st (provisional date)


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