Call for articles: Sport and democracy (deadline today, 10th March, 2023)

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Spotlight on sport and democracy

With support from Swedish Postcode Foundation, sportanddev is launching a spotlight on sport and democracy. We aim to increase awareness and knowledge of the topic, and to increase debate and dialogue. 

Along with this call for articles, we will also launch a website section and organise a webinar in the coming weeks. 

Democratising sport and development

Sport and democracy is a critical issue. sportanddev’s Reshaping Sport and Development Campaign focused on democratising the sector toward a more equitable, accessible and inclusive state. Similarly, the concept of democracy focuses on representation and the need for everyone to have an equal voice.

We invite the sportanddev community to explore, identify and discuss the values underpinning democratisation, in particular providing a voice to groups and individuals from underrepresented regions in sport and development. 

Further, sportanddev recognises that the governance of many sporting bodies leaves much to be desired. The need to improve in this area is emphasised by policy documents such as the Kazan Action Plan. Therefore, this spotlight aims to contribute to protecting the integrity of sport and promoting democracy as a core concept in sport for development.

Sport and democracy

Democracy is defined as a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives. Good governance in democracy and human rights in democracy are highly relevant in this conversation. 

The concept of sport and democracy can be explored as democracy in sport, democracy through sport, and the intersectionality across these concepts. For example, sport and democracy may look at sport as an incubator for ideals - including a space where citizens have an equal chance to voice opinions. Team sports can provide an environment that helps create future citizens who are grounded in the values of teamwork, which is essential for advancing democracy. Sport and democracy can see individuals in an undemocratic society advocating for democracy in sport activities or arenas. Finally, sport and democracy can be examined through the concept of good governance and hierarchies in sport. 

Sport and democracy has been discussed in a webinar by UConn’s Neag School of Education,  a Play the Game article about democracy and autocracy, a BBC article about sport and politics, and a Council of Europe article about how to advance human rights through sport, among other sources.

Additionally, to spark further ideation and exploration, below are examples of how and where sport and democracy may take shape:

  • Democratic behaviour and values within a sports activity or sports NGO (intragroup)
  • Physical activity that promotes democracy across various groups (intergroup)
  • Sport as a tool to contribute to democratic societies (grassroots/community level)
  • Governance, government processes, and political elections that affect sports bodies (national level)
  • Sports governing bodies use of high-profile global sports events to promote human rights (international level)
  • Sports venues/spaces to promote participation in election voting 
  • Sports events to promote trust in government institutions
  • Athlete activism to promote human rights and the elevation of underserved people and voices
  • Democratising the sport for development sector (e.g., ensuring different voices are heard, distributing resources in a more equitable way, addressing power imbalances between different parts of the world)

Sports diplomacy

Diplomacy is defined as the profession, activity, or skill of managing international relations, typically by a country's representatives abroad. Diplomacy can contribute to fostering democracy and building strong institutions.

Sports diplomacy refers to the unique power of sport to bring people, nations, and communities closer together via a shared love of physical pursuits. According to the US Embassy in Mexico, sport “provides a pathway to build bridges and enhance people-to-people ties, as the universal passion for sports transcends sociocultural and linguistic barriers, and unites people. Sports are a fun and efficient way to reach out to certain strategic audiences, such as at-risk youth due to violence or extreme poverty; girls and women; indigenous communities, and people with disabilities, among others.”

Similar to sport for development, sports diplomacy can promote values and life skills related to leadership, gender equality, non-violence, and community engagement. The key difference may be that diplomacy often functions across nations or governments, while development may often take place at the community level. 

Examples of sports diplomacy include:

  • Elite athletes positioned as national ambassadors or inspiration (such as athlete Goodwill Ambassadors) in which they leverage their platform to improve relations between two or more different communities/countries
  • Exchange programs where individuals or athletes visit a different country, thereby fostering increased understanding across two or more different communities/countries
  • Mega sports events, such as the Olympic and Paralympic Games, that promote peace across athletes and community members from different countries

Call for articles

We are inviting you to submit articles to sportanddev on the topic of sport and democracy. You can contribute on behalf of an organisation highlighting how you are tackling the issue or as an individual sharing your views on the topic. We are open to receiving articles on a range of subjects, but some questions to consider are below. 

  • How do you define sport and democracy? How have you seen this concept in action? 
  • Is there a piece of literature about sport and democracy or sports diplomacy that you may highlight or respond to? 
  • In what ways have you observed sport provoke a negative impact related to democracy or diplomacy? 
  • How can sport be used to promote SDG 10 (reduce inequality within and among countries) or SDG 16 (a global effort is underway to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels)? Or how has it been leveraged to do so?
  • What is the role of government or governance in sport and democracy? 
  • What role do you feel mega sports events and institutions play in this conversation?
  • How can sports diplomacy improve relations between countries? 
  • What examples of sports diplomacy have you observed? Do you feel these examples sparked a sustained positive impact? 
  • What are two to three challenges that you confront when working in sport and democracy, and how do you seek to overcome these challenges?  
  • What information and resources would you like to see in using sport to promote democracy or diplomacy? What resources already exist?
  • What are your views on the current state of policies related to this topic? What policies from governments or sports federations would lead to more effective sport and democracy or diplomacy efforts?
  • What do you see as future opportunities for using sport to promote democracy?
  • What steps are needed, and by who, in order to democratise the sport for development sector?
  • What are two to three innovative ideas, tips, solutions or recommendations you would like to share and pass on to others with respect to democratising the sport for development and peace sector?
  • Do you think we can learn from any non-sport example of democratisation, which has led to a more equitable, accessible and inclusive state, where representation and voices are supported with equity? 
  • How can we dismantle the unequal power structures that often redistribute sport for development resources to the Global North, over the Global South?

Contributors are free to explore other questions in addition to those listed.


Deadline: 10 March 2023.

Articles should:

  • Be 500-1,000 words long
  • Include a relevant photo in landscape (horizontal) orientation, for which you own the copyright, or is subject to some form of creative commons license. The photo must be accompanied with a credit and caption. If you do not have a picture, we will attempt to source one.
  • Include a 1-2 sentence biography of the author(s)
  • Include links to any websites, Twitter profiles or Facebook accounts you would like associated with the post
  • Not be promotional or press releases, but rather share learning for the broader field

More information:

  • See our article guidelines in English and French
  • There will be a sport and democracy webinar hosted by sportanddev on the week of 6 March 2023
  • Please send any questions about the sport and democracy spotlight or call for articles to Erika Mueller Chen at Erika_Mueller@Alumni.Brown.Edu
Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

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