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Leveling the Playing Field: Investing in Grassroots Sports as the Best Bet for Sustainable Development

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The Palgrave Handbook of Globalization and Sport

Abstract

Sport for Development and Peace (SDP) is an emerging field of development with a growing number of actors worldwide driving the use of sport to contribute to development outcomes beyond the playing field. However, there is a lack of critical analysis of the sport forms used to facilitate development and peace, ever more relevant given the numerous commitments made by governments, international, and local actors. In this chapter, we distinguish between grassroots sports and performance sports, while recognizing the overlap between these forms. Evidence suggests that investments in performance sports are less likely to generate positive development outcomes, more likely to cause harm, exacerbate inequities, exclude others, and reinforce neocolonial and neoliberal ideologies that may work against the very developmental goals of which people and communities are in need. Grassroots sports that are collaboratively created, organized, and sustained are more likely to involve dynamics and structural connections that can be more effectively linked to development and peace-building at the community level. This is often in direct contrast to the funding patterns and priorities of the broader sport sector, which tends to allocate greater resources to performance sport, including sporting infrastructure and events, often at the expense of sport for all initiatives. We, therefore, call for a more egalitarian approach that prioritizes sport forms that serve (all) the people, enable universal and regular participation (with less emphasis on performance), protect and promote human rights and maximize the ways that sport can contribute to sustainable development and peace. It is time to level the playing field.

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Sanders, B., Coakley, J. (2021). Leveling the Playing Field: Investing in Grassroots Sports as the Best Bet for Sustainable Development. In: Maguire, J., Liston, K., Falcous, M. (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of Globalization and Sport . Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-56854-0_24

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-56854-0_24

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