From the fields to the cabinets of power – and vice versa: a cross-section on civic engagement in sport and exercise (2014-2018)

Finnish Youth Research Network & Foundation for Sport and Health Sciences

The Finnish sports movement faces its deepest crisis in history. In 2013, Finnish Sports Federation and field associations merged into Finnish Sports Confederation, a new national umbrella organization (Valo). Drivers of change included pressure to lessen bureaucracy and hierarchy of the sports movement and to channel public funding more efficiently to the grassroots level. The 2013 changes in civic activity in sport and exercise highlighted the internal split of the sports movement, and the organizational conflicts between different levels and actors. In Finland, the birth of civic engagement and the roots of the sports movement can be traced to the 19th century. From that time onwards, all organized sport and exercise have taken place in the framework of sports movement, a union of civic organizations around sport and exercise. The organizational structure of the sports movement has always been hierarchical. The structures of civic engagement in sport and exercise were reformed in the beginning of the 1990’s. Sports movement began to adopt business-like operational models. The sports movement turned complex, bureaucratic and hierarchical, and operational connections between the local level and top structures weakened. The focus of this research project lies on the recent history and current status of the sports movement. A cross-sectional approach from the exercising children to the top management of national sports confederations will be used. All three sub-studies of the project are closely related and have a strong link between them. They open a window to different actors’ divergent points of view, from individual citizens and employees of local sports clubs and national sports federations to the top management of the national umbrella organization. The project as a whole provides a holistic picture of the current state of the Finnish sports movement and an understanding of its institutional contemplation and aspirations. The research focuses on individuals acting in the sports movement and in different social networks in it. Different components of the sports movement will be examined as fields. The joint research question of the project is: what are the tasks of the Finnish sports movement, in different actors’ opinion, and what type of capitals are being aspired on the different levels of the sports movement? Relevance and applicability of the research results in political decision-making in the fields of sport and exercise will be high.

Päivi Berg

Päivi Berg


DrSocSc, Title of Docent (University of Helsinki)

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