chapter  28
10 Pages

Sports policy and social capital

ByEivind Å. Skille

There is a large and increasing interest – among political decision makers as well as among academic scholars – in the relationship between sport and social capital (see for example, Groeneveld, Houlihan and Ohl, 2011; Hoye and Nicholson, 2008). This interest stems mainly from these two points of departure (Houlihan and Groeneveld, 2011): (i) sport’s omnipresence in society linked with the fact that sport is the voluntary organization domain with the most participants by far in many countries; and (ii) it ‘is also the product of the mythology that surrounds sport and which is evident in the policy outputs of many … organizations … which assumes that participation in sport can generate positive outcomes’ (p. 1). There has been a parallel growth in the interest in the governance of sport organizations (Houlihan and Groeneveld, 2011). This interest can be strengthened by the theoretical assumption, as the brief sketch of three influential social capital theorists will show below, that the generation of social capital is taking place outside the bounds of the governance of states. The popularity of the term social capital, its adoption as a policy slogan, and governments’ claims about the role of sport in building social capital is the backdrop for this paper. The aim of this paper is to evaluate attempts to implement social capital through sport. In other words, the interactive process between policy making and implementation will be put under scrutiny. The first part will comprise a discussion of the various understandings of social capital, focusing on the three most influential theorists: Coleman, Bourdieu and Putnam. The second part of the chapter will present a review of articles about sport and social capital. The final part of the chapter comprises a discussion of sport policy and social capital, examining critically the possibilities for implementation of social capital through sport.