How does sport reach different groups in the community?

In 2014, the Swedish Research Council for Sport Science was assigned the task to analyse how far organized sport enables the Swedish population to engage in sport, or other forms of exercise, and also establish how sports organizations involve different groups in the community, with regard to, for example, gender, age, national origin and socio-economic background. In addition, the task was to examine the criteria used by clubs to set membership and training fees.

The study showed that in Sweden sport organized by volunteers reached many people, but that access to sport and exercise varied from group to group.  Slightly more men than women are involved in club sports while more women than men say that they exercise regularly. People of all ages are involved in sport, but participation in sport is highest among young people, and decreases as people get older.

It also emerged that children of parents with a university education are more active than children whose parents do not have this level of education. Participation levels in sport among boys from Swedish or non-Swedish backgrounds are similar, but differ in girls: 43 per cent of girls from non-Swedish backgrounds participate in organized sport compared with 65 per cent of girls with Swedish backgrounds.

An analysis of participation levels in children and young people exposed significant differences between Swedish municipalities. The highest levels of participation could be found in medium-sized, relatively well-off towns and suburbs, particularly in the Stockholm and Skåne regions, while the lowest levels were found in smaller municipalities located primarily in the countryside, or in sparsely populated areas.

The analysis showed that costs involved in sport for children and young people are increasing as a result of increased market pressures, and the professionalization of sport. There is a risk that sports associations respond to market pressures and new, commercial sporting ventures by developing commercial strategies and perspectives themselves. This can undermine the basic principles of non-profit sport such as openness, volunteer involvement and democracy.